OU's President Says University's Finances Are A Mess
NORMAN, Oklahoma - The University of Oklahoma's new president, James Gallogly, has been blunt in his assessment of the school's financial standing:
"The university has spent more money than it was bringing in for several years," Gallogly said, "[causing] its cash position to shrink to levels that are not acceptable."
President Gallogly says the accounting processes that were in place prior to his arrival were inadequate and those in charge of the accounting "did not have a good grasp of what was going on."
In short, he says, OU's finances are a mess.
A News 9 investigation recently detailed some of the spending that helped create that mess.
Mr. Gallogly did not dispute any of those findings and says he has initiated his own investigation into possible inappropriate uses of school resources.
But President Gallogly says his mission involves much more than cracking down on questionable expenditures -- it requires a change in the culture, which, he says, will start with him.
"As you know, we've spent a lot of time in the past complaining about the amount of money that our state hasn't given us," said Gallogly, referring to criticisms from the Regents and from former President David Boren leveled in recent years at the Legislature. "I'm going to change that dialogue."
Gallogly says, before he's willing to ask lawmakers to invest more in the University of Oklahoma, the university has to get its financial house in order.
On July 2, his first official day on the job, President Gallogly dismissed a half dozen senior staff members, including the chief financial officer and the auditor. While he didn't provide any details, Gallogly says there will be additional personnel moves.
"There will be some layoffs that are necessary," Gallogly stated.
Creating a leaner workforce is just one of the lessons Gallogly learned in more than three decades as an executive in the private sector, much of that spent at Phillips Petroleum and Conoco-Phillips. Most recently, Gallogly was the CEO of LyondellBassell, where he successfully brought the petrochemical giant out of bankruptcy and back to the industry's pinnacle.
He understands that some people don't believe you should try to run an educational institution like a business, but he says fiscal conservatism and academic freedom are not mutually exclusive.
"Most of the savings that we're trying to achieve are over here, on this back-room portion, running the university more efficiently," Gallogly noted.
On the academic side of things, Gallogly says he wants OU to expand: double the amount of research, give faculty raises, and hold tuition down.
"Those are things that we're putting as our priority," said Gallogly. "How do we afford that? By running our operation in a better way."
The new president says his ideas have been well-received on campus. His decision to change course and not raise tuition this year has earned him, he says, a couple of standing ovations from students, who had seen tuition go up eight of the previous ten years.
Faculty have also welcomed him warmly, he says, as many of them haven't had a raise in five years.
"We have not taken care of our faculty," Gallogly said, "that's unacceptable."
President Gallogly says he is not blaming his predecessor for anything -- he says David Boren is owed a great debt of gratitude. But he also says, in recent years, the school has racked up too much debt, eroded its cash position, and generally done a poor job of accounting.
"All of those things are solveable," insisted Gallogly, "but we have to change the culture and we have to take action now."
Gallogly says they've already found more than $12 million in savings, and that was just in his first two months. Efforts are underway to hire new financial officers and Gallogly says he's confident OU can become, what he calls, "the absolute growth engine of the state of Oklahoma."