Saturday, December 18, 2021

OCPA column: OU football coach’s hiring a model for other jobs

OU football coach’s hiring a model for other jobs
By Jonathan Small

New OU Football Coach Brent Venables may be the most fortunate man working in a prominent position in Oklahoma higher education.

Venables is blessed to have been hired based on merit, free from the “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI) mania imposed on applicants for nearly every other job at OU.

In 2019, OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. told the school’s student newspaper that the “absolute most important thing to me” is to “get it right around diversity and inclusion.”

“Race and ethnicity have to be—we have to get that right,” Harroz said. “If we don't get that right, nothing else matters. I mean, period.”

OU job postings indicate Harroz wasn’t kidding. A posting for an assistant professor in math education said applicants should contribute to “mathematics for equity and social justice.” Those applying for an assistant professor of performance position at the school of musical theatre were expected to equip students to “explore and expose oppressive structures and power dynamics within our culture.” The college of architecture issued a report calling for “an anonymous, online reporting mechanism” to “allow the documentation of faculty and staff practices that contribute to white supremacy” and said white students should be taught “cultural humility.”

Job applicants at OU, for a wide range of positions, are now required to submit a “diversity, equity and inclusion” statement along with their job qualifications.

But it appears the nationwide coaching search involved no DEI deadweight. There were no reports of Venables, or any other candidate, having to file a DEI statement. In fact, it appears all candidates considered for the job were straight white males (or, as they like to say at OU, “cis” white males).

At his introductory press conference, Venables was allowed to openly note his religious faith, quoting scripture (    ) and declaring, “Only God can do this. Those that know my background, having grown up in a very dysfunctional way, and to put me here as I stand before you as a head football coach at the University of Oklahoma, only God can do this, so I just want to take this opportunity to thank the Lord.”

Yet OU Professor Brian McCall resigned as dean of the college of law—reportedly forced out because he espoused Catholic beliefs in a private publication, despite a stellar record as dean and as a professor. When McCall sued, OU quickly settled. Harroz, who was among those applauding Venables, played a prominent role in the McCall incident.

Venables’ hiring suggests a process divorced from DEI mania and anti-Christian prejudice can produce good results. The question for Oklahoma parents is why OU administrators don’t place a similar emphasis on merit when it comes to hiring professors in the classroom.

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


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