Tuesday, September 22, 2020

OCPA column: A courageous leader in challenging times


 A courageous leader in challenging times
By Jonathan Small

In his remarkable tenure as president of the University of Oklahoma, James Gallogly focused the university on its core mission of providing a quality education to the average student, not catering to distractions, special interests and wasteful spending. His success in achieving that goal is why the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs recently presented Gallogly with our citizenship award.

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt noted Winston Churchill once said, “This is no time for ease and comfort. It is time to dare and endure,” and, “Courage is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for upon it all others depend.” Stitt noted of Gallogly, “When I think of courage, I think of my friend Jim Gallogly.”

Because of Gallogly’s success, it’s easy to forget how bad things were at OU when Gallogly took over. The university was a financial mess, on its way to not being able to make payroll, headed for default on obligations, and had a broken culture.

The school continually raised tuition and fees with combined increases totaling more than 150% over a 15-year period, yet the school still spent more than it took in.

Contrary to political spin, the losses were not because of cuts in state appropriations. While OU’s state appropriation had been reduced $51 million since 2000, the school had increased revenue from tuition and fees by $228 million during that period, or about $6,620 per student.

As a result, students of modest means were being priced out of an education and graduates faced ever-larger debt burdens, yet the university was still losing money and many staff had not received raises in years.

Rather than continue the ways of the good ol’ boys, Gallogly applied his private-sector expertise and identified $31 million in savings within his first few months in office. When Gallogly retired as president just over a year later, he had trimmed $51 million annually in costs. There were no tuition and fee increases imposed on students, and faculty members still received raises.

He achieved those savings in ways big and small. On his first day in the office, Gallogly fired six non-performing high-ranking administrators before lunchtime. He also asked sensible questions. Why did the personal computers at OU cost twice as much as the PCs he used at a private company? Did OU need a fleet of 450 vehicles? Why did the university use paper timesheets for employees?

Gallogly understood that Oklahoma’s colleges exist so citizens can ultimately provide for their own lives and livelihoods and improve their economic status (as well as the lives of their families). That Gallogly did so much to further that cause is why he remains a great Oklahoma leader and a model for future generations.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

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