David Boren is retiring in a couple of months as the President of the University of Oklahoma. He said that things need to be done to secure the strong future of the institution.
David Boren sees something of a paradox as his time as president of the University of Oklahoma comes to an end. The school is probably the healthiest it’s ever been, he says, and yet also under imminent threat.
“As I leave this job, I really feel good about the university’s strength,” Boren said last week. “I think we have the strongest faculty, strongest student body, strongest staff ... the strongest possible position, but I think we’re standing on the edge of a cliff.”
That cliff, he said, is the state’s declining financial support of public higher education and denial of the basic reality that, as Boren put it, “There is no free lunch.”
“Politicians should be ashamed of themselves (when they) go around saying, ‘Yes, we need better education, yes we need better health care, yes we need other things in our state, we need better mental health, we need to invest.’ But they don’t want to pay for it. (They will) cut your taxes, because that’s popular to do. But we need to be telling the people the truth. ... A business doesn’t have a future if it doesn’t invest in itself. A state doesn’t have a future if it doesn’t invest in itself,” Boren said.
At 77, Boren’s long public career likely will end with his retirement from the OU presidency on June 30. He has been a legislator, a governor and a U.S. senator, all with more than modest success.
During his more than two decades at OU, private donations to the university have totaled $3 billion. Those contributions paid for buildings, including a campus in Italy and the transformation of an old oil research facility into the Schusterman campus in Tulsa. The money also endowed teaching positions, which allowed OU to recruit better faculty, and provided scholarships, which allowed for a better and more diverse student body.