UCO campus and Paycom CEO react to Lamb presidential hire
Lack of transparency and higher ed experience cited in Faculty Senate letter criticizing RUSO
Susan Winchester, incoming UCO President Lamb’s former chief of staff as lieutenant governor, serves as the chair of the presidential search committee on the board of regents that appointed him as president of UCO.
In an interview with Fox News Channel on April 2, 2018, Lamb decried opaque decision-making practices.
“Right now the budget is decided by about five legislators in a smoke-filled room with the door closed with two months to go or, excuse me, two weeks to go in our legislative session and the door opens up and the rest of the legislature is forced to vote on the budget. So we need serious budget reforms in Oklahoma,” Lamb said.
The Board of Regents’ presidential search is also private. They deliberate among themselves and then open for public session at meetings.
UCO’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee expressed concerns over a lack of transparency in the firing process in a letter to RUSO May 19.
“One of the fundamental principles of shared governance is the involvement of faculty, who possess valuable insights and expertise accumulated through years of dedicated service to our university,” they wrote, highlighting that “the disregard of the faculty’s recommendations as outlined in FSR-2022/2023-020 has undermined the integrity of the crucial principle of shared governance.”
The faculty senate wrote that it believes “the neglect of the faculty’s voice not only overlooks the expertise we possess in fostering a vibrant intellectual community, but also disregards our commitment to the academic welfare of our students and the prosperity of our campus.”
The letter also expressed that the executive committee felt “deeply troubled by the lack of transparency surrounding the past two selection processes” for UCO presidents.
The senate emphasized that “open communication and access to relevant information are essential to maintaining the trust and confidence of the university community.”
“While we understand that information about the candidates may not be public, vital information regarding the selection criteria, evaluation methods, and progress updates were not adequately shared. The process employed by RUSO in those instances failed to uphold the principles of fairness, transparency, and impartiality that are crucial for a successful search. And regrettably, the opacity surrounding the selection process has eroded our confidence in the decision-making apparatus, leaving us questioning the integrity and fairness of the outcome,” the letter said.
They requested that “the Regents consider revisiting the selection process and to provide the university community with essential information throughout the search process in future administrative searches. We also encourage the RUSO to be more transparent about their higher education values and how they see University of Central Oklahoma fulfilling those values.”
Chad Richison, founder of Paycom, sent a formal letter to RUSO on May 19 that objected to the hiring choice.
He wrote that UCO deserved a scholar: “not someone who leveraged connections with RUSO board members as a repayment of political favors.”
RUSO’s official statement rebutted Richison, the largest single donor to UCO. “While we disagree with his opinion, we will defend his right to say it,” the statement read.
“Lamb’s track record of federal service directly related to our premiere W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute, his deep understanding of the legislative process, and his widespread connections across Oklahoma will be crucial in propelling the university towards a bright future,” RUSO wrote.
“As an alumnus and someone who hires approximately 15% of UCO graduates every year, I find it disappointing that the board put so little stock in conducting a standard national job search for the most qualified candidate and instead was comfortable risking the prosperity of UCO for years to come,” he wrote.
Comments on an official Instagram post announcing the new president were largely negative. Out of 88 total comments, there were 87 negative and one positive comment that has now been removed.
“You good, UCO? A huge college for future educators and we put a guy in who hates teachers?” the top-liked comment read.
The second top-liked comment read, “Dude refused to talk to educators at the teacher walkout (wasn’t there at all) and now wants to be a college president.”
On Facebook, there were 14 comments, six negative and eight positive.
Recent higher education decisions in Florida that were perceived as politically motivated received pushback from students and faculty. After graduates from the New College of Florida recently wore masks and turned their backs to protest leadership appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis, the faculty voted to censure their board of trustees. This formal step comes after students posted a list demanding the resignation of the DeSantis-appointed trustees May 7.
This bears some similarities to the protests at UCO last year. In April 2022, protests on campus erupted in response to proposed faculty cuts due to budget concerns that were later found to be inflated. Former president Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar announced her departure from the university on Oct. 31, 2022.
One student on campus who was involved in the 2022 protests, Logan Boyd, shared his view.
“From what I’ve been told and from the article talking about Chad Richison’s reaction, it seems like a political appointment,” Boyd said. “However, I could see an appointment like this generating money for the school. While I know our biggest donor is upset, he has donated a majority to athletics which is not UCO’s bread and butter.”
“If anything, someone more business-oriented could be a benefit to the university in this particular season,” Boyd said. “We all agree something must be done to right the course that won’t jeopardize the educational quality that UCO provides. I would encourage the students, faculty, staff, and alumni to be hopeful for the future.
“Having hope for someone does not mean you can’t be critical of their work, if President Lamb does not meet the needs of this university, we will know in due time, but we should not judge someone on a job they’ve yet to perform. I would think this uproar would light a fire under Lamb, driving him to do the best he can for all parties.”
Lamb told The Vista that the most important thing a university president can do is listen.