Fresh start sought for ORU leader

Oral Roberts University President Richard Roberts asked for a second chance in front of faculty members who days earlier cast a “no confidence” vote against him.

Televangelist Oral Roberts, who recently returned from semiretirement in California to the 5,700-student school he founded, called the emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon with tenured faculty members, sources told The Associated Press.

Richard Roberts told faculty members that he did not want to be president of the university forever but that if he would step down now, the public would think he was admitting to wrongdoing, said Donald Vance, a professor of biblical languages and literature who attended the meeting.

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Richard Roberts has been on temporary leave, fighting accusations that he misspent university funds to bankroll a lavish lifestyle.

Toward the end of the hours-long meeting, sources told the AP, Oral Roberts asked the faculty who were willing to forgive and start fresh to stand up.

When a few faculty members wouldn’t stand, Oral Roberts asked one of them, ” ‘Are you not ready to start over?’ ” Vance said.

“The faculty member said, “I don’t know what that means — to start over,” Vance recalled.

Oral Roberts responded, ” ‘I would think that would be obvious.’ ”

After that, Vance said, the professor stood up and said, ” ‘No, Chancellor Roberts, it’s not clear. Are you asking us to rescind our three motions?’ ”

Vance said Oral Roberts dropped the matter and asked the faculty to sit down.

An ORU spokesman declined to comment on the meeting late Wednesday.

The “no confidence” resolution, passed Monday, stated that faculty approved the motion “without regard to the outcome of the current lawsuit against the university.”

The faculty passed two other motions: a vote of “confidence” in Mark Lewandowski, the school’s executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, “with regard to his call for greater faculty governance and transparency of university finances” and the desire of the faculty to have a greater role on how university leadership is selected.

Accusations of lavish spending by Richard Roberts and his family are detailed in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed Oct. 2 by three former ORU professors.

Richard Roberts and his wife, Lindsay Roberts, have denied wrongdoing, and Richard Roberts has said the lawsuit amounts to “intimidation, blackmail and extortion.”

A court challenge

Also on Wednesday, ORU and four administrators sued by the former professors asked the court to either throw out three subpoenas that the professors delivered last week or review the documents that the subpoenas re quest and then give any documents relevant to the case to the professors.

ORU and the administrators also want the court to ban the professors from publicly disseminating any documents uncovered by the subpoenas, the court filing says.

The professors asked for documents that might substantiate the report that they claim lost them their jobs.

ORU and the administrators also want the court to ban the professors from seeking further information about “the irrelevant allegations of wrongdoing” by ORU and the administrators.

The professors “are using the guise of this lawsuit to attempt to uncover information in hopes to further their public smear campaign against” ORU and the administrators, the court filing says.

ORU accreditation

Meanwhile, ORU’s liaison at a regional accrediting corporation said a recommendation by peer reviewers for a follow-up accreditation visit to ORU in two years is not precedent-setting.

Follow-up visits and reports for reaccreditation usually are due within two to three years, said John Taylor, the director of the Higher Learning Commission’s Program to Evaluate and Advance Quality.

The review of ORU’s leadership, governance and finances would not, by itself, determine whether ORU keeps its accreditation, he said.

Peer reviewers who visited ORU last week recommended that the school be reaccredited through 2012-13, beyond the two-year mark, he said.

“When the team goes back in, it will look to find progress,” Taylor said. He declined to explain how the reviewers want ORU to improve its leadership, governance and finances — areas brought into question by the wrongful-termination lawsuit.

Beyond the plaintiffs’ claim that they lost their jobs for handing over the report to regents, the lawsuit alleges that the ORU and Oral Roberts Ministries boards were negligent in overseeing the university and its administrators.

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