NORMAN — University of Oklahoma President James Gallogly has denied ever sending a threatening message to his predecessor David Boren.
Speaking to The Transcript at the OU Board of Regents meeting shortly after a story on the matter broke Tuesday, Gallogly denied telling Boren to never cross him again, and that if he did, he would destroy him.
“I have never threatened David Boren,” Gallogly said. “That is false.”
In response to the original request for comment from Gallogly about the message Monday night, OU interim vice president of public affairs Erin Yarbrough sent a statement that “the situation described and message to President Boren is inaccurate.”
That message, which was confirmed by multiple sources who spoke to the Transcript on a condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from Gallogly, followed an op-ed piece written by Boren and sent to multiple Oklahoma media outlets in June. In the op-ed, Boren countered some statements made by then President-designate Gallogly to the Board of Regents about the financial situation at OU.
Speaking to the Transcript Tuesday, Gallogly said there was a message at that time to Boren to stop reporting incomplete information regarding OU’s finances. In a meeting about that issue, Gallogly said there was some “strong language,” but again denied that he said anything like what has been reported.
“He was informed by the head of the Board of Regents to stop putting out incomplete information,” Gallogly said.
Gallogly also referred to the report as “silly,” and asked a Transcript reporter if they wondered why people were making such accusations now since the event happened six months ago.
“Why does this come up now?” he asked. “Apparently that was just before I took office, why does that come up now. Did you ever ask yourself that? I wonder why they made that up now?”
Clayton Bennett, chair of the OU Board of Regents, said Tuesday he had not yet had a chance to read the Transcript’s story about the relationship between Gallogly and Boren, who is still on campus and teaches a class. One of the sources who confirmed Gallogly’s message to the Transcript said Boren reached out to Bennett about it.
But when asked about his knowledge of that message, Bennett replied “I don’t recall that.”
Bennett said he “really can’t” comment on if Gallogly and Boren’s relationship had deteriorated, but to the extent of his knowledge their relationship has been cordial and friendly. When it comes to changing leadership, Bennett said that process can sometimes be difficult.
“Transitions are hard. When you follow a long-tenured executive in any business, university, institution, transitions are difficult, unless they are really well planned,” Bennett said. “Some are, and some aren’t. It’s just the nature of succession. I don’t know the [Transcript’s] story, but I feel like things are normalizing. I feel like Jim is getting on his feet, understanding the business, understanding the difference between business and the academy and learning.”
As to Boren’s op-ed and financial information he provided, Bennett said there was a concern that it offered an incomplete picture.
“It wasn’t complete,” Bennett said. “It did not present the full picture, and it was not complete. Now, I don’t have a major problem with all of that. All I want us to do is get along as Oklahomans and move forward. We have a small state, we have this great university; let’s take care of it and let’s move things ahead.”
Gallogly said one thing that had been left out of Boren’s op-ed and the reporting at the time was that OU’s debt to student ratio put it in the top 5-10 percent of universities in the nation. Boren’s op-ed seemed to downplay Gallogly’s concern about OU’s level of debt, which he reported was close to $1 billion.
Gallogly also pointed to personnel changes that were approved by the regents while Boren was still president. This was in response to a portion of the Transcript story in which sources said those the changes were due to a vendetta Gallogly has against Boren.
Bennett described the personnel changes since Gallogly has been president — specifically the departures of Tripp Hall, JP Audas and Paul Massad from the alumni and development office in November — as a natural part of transition.
“You’re going to see that in any corporate structure when you have new leadership,” Bennett said. “A lot of those guys were long-tenured guys, some of them were my friends and I wish them the best. Institutions change course and you need different talent sometimes. I will say they were responsible for good work and I think donors will continue to be supportive of the University of Oklahoma.”
In the Transcript’s original story, multiple sources confirmed that a plaque that was meant to be placed in the Stephenson Cancer Center in memory Dr. A. H. Shi V, Boren’s brother-in-law, was prevented from being put up at the direction of Gallogly. The plaque had been the result of a gift from the Borens, which has since been returned.
Charlie Stephenson, co-trustee of the Stephenson Family Foundation, said he had heard about something like that but had no direct knowledge and could not make any comment. Stephenson said as a donor he is confident in the leadership and direction of the university under Gallogly.
“I’m satisfied with what’s gone on at the university, and the change in leadership,” Stephenson said. “The guy in charge needs to have the people he wants running the university. I’m not in a position to second guess any of that.”