I am a student journalist at the University of Tulsa. I have been for four years. As I near graduation, I realize I have spent four years of my life reporting on this school while knowing basically nothing about how it operates.
The powerful institutions that govern our lives ought to be transparent and open to criticism. If there is any doubt about the importance of transparency, you can check out any one of the 699 books on the subject housed in McFarlin Library.
As students, we want to see TU advance too. Whether it’s our school pride or our pragmatic interest in the University’s name recognition, continued self-improvement of the university is a goal we all share. Transparency is how we get there.
Four thousand students. 300 teaching professionals. 50 executives and trustees. And over a billion in assets. With such a complex organizational system, how does anything get done? And who makes the decisions?
The University of Tulsa’s moving parts and influential figures make it complex. The mix of multilayered, rigid hierarchies, to which students get no comprehensive introduction, and fluid social networks, to which the majority of TU’s population are only loosely connected, deter students and faculty from fully grasping the institution to which they belong.
Magnifying TU’s administrative structure, Board of Trustees and informal/influential connections grants students and faculty the opportunity to see their roles more clearly.
TU President Gerard Clancy, atop his sandstone tower, is much more open with his executive staff, students and faculty than one might expect from the president of a private university.
Strolling across campus and attending student events seem to be his hobbies, as the Instagram account clancyspotted can attest.
Theoretically, Clancy maintains an open-door policy for faculty, students and staff, though catching the man with even ten minutes of free time is a miracle.
Clancy said he has worked 61 of the first 63 days of 2018, often logging 14-hour days, 80 hours a week.
From the moment Clancy arrives on campus at 7:30 a.m. to when he leaves at 6 p.m., he meets with students, donors, trustees and his executive staff and responds to countless emails in the spaces between. He also teaches two courses: one for incoming freshmen and one for second-year medical students at the OU-TU School of Community Medicine. He and his wife spend most evenings after work at one TU event or another.
“The academic calendar is filled with hundreds of events — day and night, on-campus and off — but that comes with the job,” Clancy said. “For example, Paula and I just finished up 15 nights in a row of events.”
Luckily, his support system, colloquially called “P-SES” (President’s Small Executive Staff), is highly qualified and diversely astute.
Currently, the executive staff includes:
-Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Roger N. Blais,
-Executive Vice President and Treasurer Kevan C. Buck,
-Vice President for Diversity and Engagement and Director of the Presidential Scholars Program Jacqueline Higgs Caldwell,
-Vice President and Director of Athletics Derrick Gragg,
-Vice President for Institutional Advancement Kayla Hale,
-Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Services Earl Johnson,
-Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Janet Levit* and
-Vice President for Public Affairs, Research and Economic Development and Chief Executive Officer of Gilcrease Museum Susan Neal
*Levit will replace Blais as Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs on May 7. According to President Clancy TU is finalizing Levit’s salary and benefits to be “commensurate to her experience and duties.” We are currently in a transition period and have not made a decision,” Clancy said, about what will happen to the position of the vice president for strategic initiatives.
Descriptions of each of their jobs and the positions which fall under them can be found on page 8. With the exception of the vice president of strategic initiatives, each position oversees a number of departments.
“I meet with my executive team weekly,” Clancy said. “I also meet with the academic deans as a group once a month. I have regularly scheduled meetings with each of TU’s vice presidents but meet with most of them daily as needed to discuss various university issues.”
Meetings with the executive staff are designed to set an agenda and address extreme issues that arise, but the majority of student and faculty interactions with the university never reach that height.
Barring dire circumstances, if a student called campus security, they would meet with a regular patrol officer, who would report to Captain Zac Livingston, who would report to Director Joe Timmons, who would report to Vice President Buck. Buck might never hear about that accident that occurred in Mayo Lot unless he is an avid reader of the “Campus Crime Watch.”
The same is true for a student’s trips to visit the housing department, the bursar’s office, their academic advisor or any other department.
This isn’t to say students are powerless when it comes to university decision-making. Student groups have successfully pushed for small changes across campus for years.
SA President Andrew Hansen provided a list of Student Association accomplishments in the last four years, including the pool table in the Hut, resurfacing the racquetball courts, getting commuter lockers, better lighting along Delaware, having spicy chicken sandwiches at Chick fil-A, switching the hours of Benvenuto and Pizza Hut, having higher point beer in the Hurricane Hut, the creation of new positions in administration and establishing gender-neutral restrooms across campus.
Hansen said that when the Student Association identifies a problem on campus, they have never had to work too hard to get what they want from university administration. “Essentially, if it’s a big problem for us, it’s a big problem for them,” Hansen said.
If a student was so inclined, they are also relatively free to bypass Student Association and speak directly to TU’s administrators. Students are also free to air their grievances in The Collegian.
Most crucial decisions, however, about the day-to-day functions of the university are made in a multitude of closed door meetings. Either for reasons of student privacy per the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) or employee privacy, students have been denied access to examination of TU’s yearly budget, call logs and body camera footage of Campus Security, or employee salaries beyond what can be found on public records and information on disciplinary actions or ongoing lawsuits.
For the most part, this information would be readily available at a public institution. Each of these, which I know from experience as a student journalist, has the potential for greater impact on a student’s life than spicy chicken sandwiches. (No offense).
The Board of Trustees
The university’s long-term health and plans for institutional advancement are discussed in quarterly meetings with the Board of Trustees and more frequent meetings with the Chairman of the Board and standing issue committees.
Membership to the Board begins with nominations sent to the Nominating and Governance Committee that is housed within the Board and includes Vice President Hale. Members of that committee review candidates based on a variety of factors they feel would enhance the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the board.
“Prospective trustees are evaluated to ensure TU has a talented, diverse and influential national governing board,” Clancy said.
Chairman of the Board Duane Wilson has the most prominent position and meets with Clancy on a weekly basis.
The Board has standing committees for just about everything one might expect: executive, finance, investment, audit and risk management, building and grounds, compensation, nominating and governance, athletics, faculty and curriculum affairs, advancement, student life and the Gilcrease Museum. Committees are chaired and staffed by trustees. Clancy attends these meetings as they occur.
“Those trustees will have a larger role in board governance by virtue of their status on their individual committees,” Clancy said.
Clancy declined to name the trustees on each committee because “we don’t want our trustees lobbied for work and projects at TU by outside vendors.”
In addition, working groups convene to study issues the trustees or the president determine require additional focus or temporary projects. Clancy attends those meetings as well.
Clancy’s interactions with trustees do not begin and end in the workplace.
“I regularly visit with trustees at TU events or community events in Tulsa,” he said.
The SA President also has a seat at quarterly Board of Trustee meetings, where he or she presents a report as part of the Student Life Committee and has the freedom to speak on any issue or ask questions as necessary.
“We sign a confidentiality agreement, so we can’t talk about what is discussed in the meeting, but there are often times when we talk about similar things on the student level,” Hansen said.
However, Hansen said this has never been a problem for him because he has generally agreed with the university’s actions. When the Student Association has come forward with an issue, it is typically addressed.
The human connections that bind TU, and bind it to Tulsa at large, make up much too vast a network for any map to feasibly capture. The relationships graphed here are a small sample of only the most obvious connections found in public records.
Relationships between people and institutions in this section should only be read as the existence of a connection between two points where there is a theoretical potential for influence to exist.
This article makes no statement about the actual existence of influence, let alone its measure or directionality.
The relationships highlighted here are significant because the central entity, whether a person or organization, has several connections to other points on the map. The choice to highlight a relationship should not be read with any implication of wrongdoing.
1. The Chapman Legacy Society
Engraved in the stones of the McFarlin Library courtyard are the names of the hundreds of people and institutions that have given significant donations to the University of Tulsa. There are currently 694 engraved stones representing more than 1,000 endowments and planned gifts, so for simplification, this graph highlights only those individuals and institutions with other connections to TU.
The Chapman Legacy Society is named for James and Leta Chapman, who established the first of their family’s several charitable trusts in 1949 at nearly 70 years old. James was the son-in-law and business partner of Robert McFarlin (yes, THAT McFarlin).
In addition to providing a significant portion of the university’s operating budget, James and Leta’s donations continuously fund the Dean John Rogers Scholarship for Law, the Chapman Social Science Development Fund and the Chapman Distinguished PhD Fellowships.
Leta’s sister Pauline McFarlin Walter created a trust that funds the Chapman NEH Challenge Scholarship.
The legacy continued with James and Leta’s son H. Allen and his wife Mary K. Chapman, herself a University of Tulsa graduate. H. A. and Mary K. created foundations to ensure their gifts to the University of Tulsa were perpetual after their deaths in 1979 and 2002.
According to the plaque that decorates the plaza’s wall, “Such giving reflects a special confidence in the University’s mission and plays a singular role in its realization.” Donations exceeding a $25,000 endowment are considered a part of Chapman’s legacy.
Notably engraved in sandstone are the names of at least 39 current and former members of the Board of Trustees, two donations from Former Mayor Kathy Taylor, the Bank of Oklahoma, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, 11 oil and natural gas corporations, former TU Presidents Steadman Upham, Robert Lawless and J. Paschal Twyman, Vice Presidents Kayla Hale and Janet Levit and TU’s own athletics department.
Neither Mayor Taylor nor her husband Bill Lobeck attended TU. However, between personal donations and a gift from the Lobeck Taylor Foundation, their support created the Elizabeth Frame Ellison Scholarship for the University School in 2014 and the Lobeck Taylor Family Advocacy Clinic in TU’s College of Law.
A 2010 donation from the Bank of Oklahoma created the Bank of Oklahoma Atrium at McFarlin Library. Their endowment maintains support for McFarlin Library and is used for the acquisition of materials in McFarlin Library’s general collections.
The George Kaiser Family Foundation made a sizable contribution to the university in 2010 to honor TU Trustee and GKFF President Frederic Dorwart creating the Frederic Dorwart Endowed Chair in Energy Law, a faculty position “focusing on sustainable energy and emerging trends in the energy sector,” according to the TU website.
In 2016, Dr. Steadman “Stead” Upham, who served as the 17th and 19th president of TU, established an endowment fund to support the university’s general operations. This fund is formally recognized as The Steadman and Peggy Upham Chapman Legacy Society Endowment and now serves as a reminder of the late president’s tenure and concern for the long-term health of the university.
Vice President Kayla Hale created the Connor Alexander Acebo Endowment Fund for the Center for Student Academic Support in 2013 to honor her son. Her donation contributes to CSAS, which provides resources to increase student retention through tutoring, individual academic counseling, academic skills workshops and accommodations for students with disabilities.
The Janet K. Levit Endowed Scholarship in Law was created by VP Levit’s family, friends and colleagues in 2015. The scholarship is intended to honor her tenure as dean of the law school. TU Law alumnae Sharon Bell, the Honorable Jane Wiseman, the Honorable Mary Fitzgerald and Mary Quinn Cooper organized fundraising efforts and made their own gifts to establish the scholarship.
Last, the Athletic Legacy Scholarship Endowment Fund established in 2009 was created or the family and friends of now deceased TU athletes to provide a memorial gift to the university as a tribute to their loved one. The donations made in the names of student athletes by their survivors pays for a scholarship of around $2,500 a year. Since its establishment in 2009, it has provided eight scholarships. The names of the Legacy Athletes are prominently displayed on a plaque in the Donald W. Reynolds Center.
These charitable gifts are crucial because of the university’s non-profit status.
2. The Gilcrease Museum
The late TU President Steadman Upham once called the Gilcrease “Tulsa’s greatest asset.”
Whether you agree with that statement, the sentiment is certainly reflected by the funding the museum receives and its connections to Tulsa’s most powerful organizations.
The museum was created by and named for the renowned Creek oilman Thomas Gilcrease in 1949. Gilcrease deeded the museum to the City of Tulsa in 1955. The University of Tulsa then formed a public-private partnership with the city in 2010 to take over control of the museum’s day-to-day management.
Major decisions about the Gilcrease from TU’s perspective fall under the purview of Vice President Neal and President Clancy. TU’s board of trustees also has a committee which focuses on the long-term health of the museum.
Several members of the Chapman Legacy Society at TU specifically targeted their donations toward the management of the museum. In 2013, the Museum Association reciprocated the support by funding a graduate assistantship in museum science and management.
Notably, the Gilcrease Founders Council includes Tulsa’s other powerful institutions like the Mervin Bovaird Foundation, the H.A. and Mary K. Chapman Charitable Trust, the Helmerich Trust, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation and the Maxine and Jack Zarrow Family Foundation. Nearly all of these organizations have also contributed to the University of Tulsa in some capacity.
3. BOK Financial
The University of Tulsa and BOK Financial have much more in common than their home city.
As previously mentioned, the Bank of Oklahoma is a member of the Chapman Legacy Society and has been “a steadfast partner to TU in various initiatives through the years, funding programs in both academics and athletics. Their support encompasses the Michael D. Case Tennis Center, the Donald W. Reynolds Center, the Golden Hurricane Club and the TU Annual Fund, among other initiatives,” according to the University of Tulsa website.
As of 2015 the Bank of Oklahoma and TU Trustee Sharon Bell were listed as the trustees and director of the Chapman Charitable Trusts, of which the University of Tulsa is a beneficiary.
The TU Alumni Association Tulsa Chapter President is Jackie Griffin, the VP Corporate Compliance Manager of BOK.
Five of the university’s trustees and President Clancy have direct connections to the bank. Trustee Steven G. Bradshaw is the President and CEO of BOK. Trustee Sharon Bell served on the BOK board of directors from 1993 until 2016. Trustee Frederic Dorwart is general counsel for BOK. Additionally, Trustees Chet Cadieux and Steven Malcolm are beneficial owners and directors as well, according to the company’s February 2018 10-K SEC filing.
Clancy currently serves on BOK’s Board of Directors, as did former TU President Upham before him. OSU President Burns Hargis is on BOK’s Board too.
“I am also a director for the Tulsa Area United Way and the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce,” Clancy said. “Those duties from those boards help me inform the BOK board of economic development and needs of the underserved in the Tulsa area.”
BOK Financials directors are compensated with a retainer of 75 shares in the company per quarter, $750 in cash for each Board of Directors meeting attended, $500 in cash for each committee meeting attended, and $1,500 in cash for each committee meeting chaired, according to their March 2018 DEF 14A SEC filing.
In addition, a University of Tulsa employee confirmed that the majority of TU’s banking, though not all, is done through BOK. Some banking is handled at other local banks, and TU is required to utilize a separate bank as custodian of endowment assets. That bank is BNY Mellon. TU assets total approximately $1.5 billion.
4. The City of Tulsa
The University of Tulsa began as the Presbyterian School for Indian Girls, a small boarding school in Muskogee, Indian Territory, which was founded in 1882.
In 1894 the academy was re-chartered as Henry Kendall College.
In the years following, financial difficulties prompted school officials to seek a new location. Successfully courted by the business and professional community of Tulsa, which was booming after the discovery of oil at Glenpool, Henry Kendall College moved to Tulsa in 1907.
Several years later, the city of Tulsa proposed a new college, to be named after oilman Robert M. McFarlin. Aware that Tulsa was not large enough to support two competing colleges, the Henry Kendall College trustees proposed in 1920 that the envisioned McFarlin College and Kendall College affiliate under the common name “The University of Tulsa.”
Connections between the city and the university continue today.
Notably, there are connections to those who have served as Tulsa’s mayor. As previously mentioned, Tulsa’s 38th mayor, Kathy Taylor, made significant financial contributions to the university, as has Tulsa’s 31st mayor, Robert LaFortune, who attended TU for a few years in the late 1940s.
David Inhofe, cousin of former Tulsa Mayor Jim Inhofe, created a scholarship at TU in the name of his wife, famous Tulsa novelist S. E. Hinton.
Other than those explicit financial connections, TU Vice President Susan Neal served two terms on Tulsa’s City Council, after which she served on both Mayor Taylor’s and Mayor Dewey Bartlett’s management teams as the director of community development and education.
5. George Kaiser Family Foundation
Connections between the George Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Tulsa have already been teased in many of the other connections, but it is worth revisiting these connections as another story.
On the GKFF website is a quote from Kaiser that says, “No child is responsible for the circumstances of his or her birth.”
The quote reflects the mission of the George Kaiser Family Foundation well. GKFF is a charitable organization committed to the idea that every child deserves equal opportunities for success.
According to their website, the organization does this by employing “evidence-based practices to tackle the most pressing problems in our community, often through importing proven national programs.”
The institution relies on public-private partnerships and the financial backing of George Kaiser and the Bank of Oklahoma to support early childhood education, improve community health, reduce the cycle of incarceration and facilitate civic enhancement.
While there is nominally no overlap between the goals of GKFF and the University of Tulsa, they both fit within the broad umbrella of education and have a shared desire to see the city of Tulsa grow.
Beyond their shared interests, George Kaiser is the principal owner of BOK with well over 50 percent of the company’s shares, according to a recent BOK securities report. The relationship between the University and BOK has been established previously.
Also as stated above, GKFF made an endowment gift to the university in excess of $25,000 for the Frederic Dorwart Endowed Chair in Energy Law.
Fred Dorwart is both a trustee at TU and GKFF president. QuikTrip CEO Chet Cadieux also sits on the Boards of both institutions.
TU and GKFF both support the Gilcrease Museum; TU VP Janet Levit is married to GKFF Executive Director Ken Levit.
6. Oil and Natural Gas Industry
Currently there are 516 TU students enrolled in petroleum engineering, chemical engineering or geosciences at the undergraduates, masters and doctoral levels.
TU’s petroleum and petroleum related fields are a popular draw for both domestic and international students.
Of TU’s active 42 active trustees, at least seven, and possibly more, have direct connections to the Oil and Natural Gas Industry by virtue of owning or working for a company that produces or supports the production of fuel.
In darker colors are the oil and natural gas companies that are members of the Chapman Legacy Society.
There are so many more connections and institutional facts about the University of Tulsa to uncover and explore. Transparency is the first, necessary step to accountability.
TU should consider willingly subjecting themselves to the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Barring that, they should make it so that articles like this are pointless.
As students and faculty, your livelihood depends in one way or another on the decisions made in unseen places.
I am graduating now. It is your turn to take up the mantel and magnify TU.