OU Board of Regents hires new dean of students, discusses next steps for diversity

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – For the first time since two blackface incidents in less than a week, the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents held a meeting and met with President Jim Gallogly.

The meetings, marches, racism, and work left to do dominated the conversation.

“We can’t look past those things,” said Gallogly. “There’s something going on that makes people think it’s okay to do these kinds of activities, it’s simply not acceptable.”

Gallogly says his plan is to create a more inclusive OU, listing plans to prioritize diversity when hiring staff, recruiting future students, and training the pupils for the world beyond the campus.

The board expressed full confidence in Gallogly’s leadership, and reiterated their commitment to rectify what they all describe as a problematic climate.

“We are not without blame as a board, as a president, as a state, as a citizen for finding ourselves in this place again,” said C. Renzi Stone with the board. “Our university, our regents and our president are committed to this incident not defining us, nor future incidents.”

Leslie Rainbolt-Forbes, now the chair of the board, following the prompt resignation of Clay Bennett due to health issues, said the student response is worth applauding.

“I really just want to thank the students for not allowing complacency,” the chairwoman said. “We’re not allowed to be a bystander. Hold our feet to the fire, continue to ask us questions. I want to assure you of our and President Gallogly’s commitment to a proactive long term plan for change, not a reactive optic for change.”

The meeting included the formal removal of Dr. Suzette Grillot as Dean of the College of International Studies, as well as the approval of the hire of the incoming dean of students, OU alumus Dr. David Surratt, who has worked in higher education for a number of years.

“This is a moment when we really need his great counsel,” said Gallogly.

Surratt sat in the front row and watched the meeting, and tells News 4 he spoke with some OU students the day before the meeting.

“I am focused on the tangible things we can do,” Dr. Surratt explained. “There’s no such thing as being voiceless. There are those who are silenced and those who are preferably unheard and for our students to voice their opinions and concerns, they want to see action.”

According to OU Daily, Dr. Surratt thanked OU officials for revising the initial statement about his hire that focused on his race. President Gallogly’s initial statement outlining his plans to address racism on campus mentioned that Surratt was a person of color. OU later sent out a statement noting it was not appropriate to point out Dr. Surratt’s race, prompting his Tweet of gratitude.

Dr. Surratt returns to his alma mater after working as Assistant Vice Chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley.

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