This from a current ORU employee who wishes to remain anonymous:
As an alumni and current employee of ORU, I have come to learn that the culture on campus is unlike any other I have experienced. It isn’t a surprise to hear of great success by alumni on the same day you hear that the University is on the brink of financial ruin. Recently it is a place where I saw the worst of human corruption, followed by the best of God’s provision.
Much has been made of the lawsuit and allegations of financial impropriety filed in October, which most alumni and ORU veterans met with an attitude of “what took you so long.” Let’s be serious, most knew that something fishy was going on at the top for a long time. While it is hard to fathom a culture of corruption becoming the norm, it’s important to note that a lack of accountability resonated even through the Board of Regents, a majority of which were ministerial cronies, and not experienced educators. This mentality has become so ingrained in our population that only 6% of our alumni give to the school. I myself do not give to the general fund since there is no way to tell whether that money would be used for scholarships or to funding another perk for the Roberts family.
Additionally, ORU was carrying the massive weight of Oral Roberts Ministries on its back, as the two had never been separated. While this arrangement was idea during the golden years of televangelism, the slowdown in giving had forced ORU to support a ministry that was no longer financially viable. This obligation not only served to drown ORU financially but brought up serious questions about conflicts of interest and accounting abnormalities that are still surfacing.
ORU has teetered on the brink of extinction for the past several years, with changes desperately needed but snuffed out by the Roberts and their powerful friends. However, in light of the wrongful termination suit filed this October, George Pearsons, a newly elected chairman of our Board of Regents, seized the opportunity. He ordered an independent investigation into the allegations, placed our President on a leave of absence and assured everyone that he would do what was right.
Alumni past and present agreed on the only course of action the university had left: remove the Roberts family, separate the university and the ministry, and evaluate the oversight policies in place. Not many had the faith in our board or our leadership to propagate such unprecedented change at ORU, a place run by a single family since its inception. The board met and called a 5:30pm informational meeting on Tuesday to disclose their decisions, which I attended along with a number of current students and faculty. Suffice to say, the news was shocking.
The regents had separated the university from the ministry, removed the Roberts family from any real power and announced the implementation of recommendations provided by an D.C. law firm hired to audit the university. It is impossible to underestimate the magnitude of these changes for ORU. Oral Roberts and his family no longer have any say in matters concerning the University. There will be no allegations Richard or his wife of running things at ORU from behind the scenes, since his organization (ORM) has been severed from ORU.
Then we saw evidence of God’s provision: A Tulsa businessman has pledged $70 million for the school, provided the board fulfills the commitments they have made. This is more than enough to erase our debt and provide operating costs for the next year. Overnight we went from fearing closure, staff layoffs, hiring freezes, tuition hikes or the like to celebrating the largest cash influx in university history!
Since the announcements, more alumni are lining up to give, in large part because the integrity of those in power is no longer in question. The alumni and staff finally have what they have been craving for all these years–financial stability and a renewed trust in our administration to do the right thing.
So what of the old guard? One could think that I am blaming the old hierarchy for all the problems ORU faced, and I guess in some ways I am. They say that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that is what our former president enjoyed. Richard Roberts put himself in a position doomed to failure, and no one was really surprised when evidence of his corruption surfaced. It wouldn’t be inconceivable to think that everyone would be glad to see the back of him, but that simply isn’t the case.
He was invited to speak in chapel service on Wednesday. The man has given 13 years of service to ORU. Good things happened; bad things happened. He oversaw them all. Students like him, and he has touched many lives here. In a statement befitting the situation, he professed his love for the school and his difficulty in leaving. His farewell chapel was a truly surreal experience. One of the bastions of ORU was speaking for the last time. You expected to be excited for the change, but ended up feeling sad with him. The man has been brought face to face with his failures over the past two months. That takes its toll. He could easily have avoided it in this instance, but he stood up there and took his lumps like a man. He stated that he truly believed that his best and ORU’s best are yet to come. I can’t say that I disagree.
The feeling on campus could best be described as peaceful hope. A man we always knew and mostly loved was gone. Richard Roberts is like your grandfather who you loved being around and couldn’t imagine him ever being gone, but he would embarrass you from time to time. You dealt with that because you couldn’t see things any other way. Now that he is gone, a new view has taken over. A culture of positive change is taking place at a school that hasn’t seen changes since the Nixon administration. I am excited for this brand new day.