The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents met today to approve the adoption of the Chicago Statement of Principles on Freedom of Speech, changes to the School of Aviation Studies, new degree programs and other items.
During the meeting, held on the Norman campus, the Regents approved the adoption of the Chicago Statement – an overarching set of guiding principles that reinforce the importance of safeguarding freedom of expression on college campuses.
The Chicago Statement coincides with OU’s existing policies on free expression and academic freedom, and its adoption indicates the university’s continued commitment to upholding these constitutional rights while nurturing an inclusive campus community. The adoption followed an assessment and recommendation from the university’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Freedom of Speech and Inquiry Committee.
“Widely revered as the ‘gold standard’ declaration of the importance of freedom of speech and inquiry in higher education, the Chicago Statement cuts to the core of who we are as a flagship research university,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “Its adoption at OU further affirms the value we place on these essential rights while instilling a culture of dignity and respect for all.”
First developed at the University of Chicago in 2014, more than 80 universities have since adopted the statement or crafted similar statements, including 14 public institutions in the exclusive Association of American Universities.
In his remarks during the meeting, Harroz noted that as the university lives up to its promise to be a place that champions constructive discourse and the robust search for truth, inevitable controversies around viewpoint differences will arise – and the Chicago Statement will offer a touchstone for such times.
“The social and political divides in today’s culture often give the illusion that free speech and diversity are at war with each other, but at OU, this could not be further from the truth,” Harroz said. “We recognize they must coexist in ways that are necessary for the very purpose of our university, which is to change lives in the kind of environment where people, ideas, innovations and creativity thrive.”
Also during the meeting, the board approved several items that support OU’s efforts to strategically enhance Oklahoma’s economic and workforce development.
The Regents approved two measures related to OU’s top-ranked aviation program: the purchase of 25 airplanes for the expansion and replacement of the university’s aircraft fleet, and altering the name of the School of Aviation Studies to become the School of Aviation, pending State Regents’ approval.
This follows OU’s recent announcement that it is implementing a plan to more than double enrollment in its aviation programs – growing from 250 total students to potentially 600 students over the next four years – while also increasing the size of its fleet and replacing all current aging aircraft.
“Ensuring the prosperity of our state and its people is one of our most important responsibilities at the University of Oklahoma, and by channeling the excellence of our No. 1 ranked aviation program, we can serve this critical workforce area and improve the lives of many,” Harroz said.
Among the academic program modifications considered during this month’s Regents meeting were the addition of five new degree programs, each of which is intentionally designed to meet an economic and societal need: a master of science in applied statistics, a master of science in applied computer science, a master of science in engineering leadership and management, a master of science in sustainability: energy and materials management, and a bachelor of arts in interdisciplinary studies.
The new degree programs are aimed at working professionals looking to advance their careers, with the new bachelor’s degree being developed to explicitly address adult undergraduate degree completion. The B.A. in interdisciplinary studies will offer four majors that connect to career fields with strong demand in the workforce, specifically to Oklahoma’s top 100 critical occupations.
The proposed degree offerings will now go before the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education for final approval.
The Board of Regents also voted to appoint James J. Sluss Jr. as interim director of the OU Polytechnic Institute, which will serve as a workforce solution to the increasing demand for credentialed workers in critical STEM fields. Sluss will continue to serve as interim president of OU-Tulsa as he takes on the added role while a national search for a permanent director is underway.
The Regents also approved the formation of two search committees to fill the positions of the vice president for research at the Health Sciences Center and the executive dean of the College of Medicine.
Harroz explained that each of these measures can be traced to OU’s ambition to become a nationally leading public research university while moving Oklahoma forward.
“Positioning our state for a prosperous future relies on all of us doing our part,” Harroz said. “At OU, we have eagerly embraced the challenge of aligning our educational and research capabilities with Oklahoma’s workforce needs and opportunities, creating generational impacts that will be felt for many years to come.”
The board is set to next meet in January 2023.
About the University of Oklahoma
Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma is a public research university located in Norman, Oklahoma. OU serves the educational, cultural, economic and health care needs of the state, region and nation. For more information visit ou.edu.