OU Faculty Senate’s Monday night meeting featured President Roderick McDavis, who spoke about finding solutions to the graffiti wall controversy, and Board of Trustees members David Wolfort and Janetta King, who moderated a discussion on the search for the university’s next president.
The campus graffiti wall is an open space that allows students to freely and anonymously share their opinions and promote their causes. However, certain messages that appeared on it have sparked a debate regarding the line between free speech and dangerous bigotry.
McDavis proposed assembling a small task force that would engage staff in a joint effort with concerned students.
“Instead of sending out a message, I decided, you know, words are important. But actions speak louder than words. So I tried to think — what action steps could we participate in?” McDavis said.
He explained a new program he plans to implement called Cultural Awareness Training for Students (CATS). The voluntary initiative will inform students about acceptance and promote sensitivity on cultural issues. McDavis also voiced the possibility of establishing required classes that would encourage diversity inclusion.
Wolfort, Board of Trustees Chair, and King, Vice Chair, thanked Faculty Senate members for their active participation in the presidential search and opened the floor to questions or discussion. They also shared their personal experiences with the university.
As a 1974 graduate of OU, Wolfort described his long love affair with the school. Though he now works in the steel industry, when he was asked to return for a trustee position, he happily accepted. He was nominated by McDavis and appointed by former Gov. Ted Strickland.
King grew up near Athens and said the school was a big part of her childhood. Eager to see a different part of the country, she attended college in California, but eventually realized she was “an Ohio girl.” After working on Capitol Hill and with various politicians, she took her position on the board seven years ago.
“All the board members bring a different perspective to the board. It’s what makes us, quite frankly, function as well as we do, because we all come from different backgrounds,” King said.
When the two encouraged faculty to raise issues on any topic, Wolfort began by describing the 21-member presidential search committee, of which Faculty Senate Chair Joe McLaughlin is a member.
“We worked very hard to make sure we have the right composition, and that we have many voices on this search committee, and we do. We’re very confident,” Wolfort said. He said the board had a broad, deliberately formed range in gender and overall diversity.
Senate also briefly discussed the significance of competition for state resources in Ohio, particularly financially, and what makes OU an attractive candidate for receiving funding. The trustee members agreed that the Ohio Guarantee, a plan focused on affordability and graduating students in four years, is a draw.
“Fifty percent of our funding is based on graduation rate. We’re third best in the state right now; if we stay there, we should be in good shape,” McDavis said.
The board unanimously passed one resolution on revising university naming policy and practices.
The next Faculty Senate meeting will be Nov. 7.