Fired TU president issues statement

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Reported by: Ian Silver
Updated: 9/14/2012 9:33 am Published: 9/13/2012 5:13 pm

Dr. Geoffrey Orsak, the University of Tulsa president, that was abruptly fired this week has now issued a statement to students:

"My family and I made significant professional and personal sacrifices when we uprooted from Dallas, so that I would have the special opportunity to lead the University of Tulsa.  I am very disappointed given the lengthy due diligence process for the position, that within such a short period of time, the board has decided to go in a different direction."

The University of Tulsa campus was buzzing Thursday, a day after the school president was fired. Geoffrey Orsak was just 74 days into his job, and was fired one day after he was granted a leave of absence because of family issues.

The university has not said why Orsak was fired. A TU spokeswoman said the school will not comment on personnel issues.

But students on campus Thursday said they deserved some answers.

Lee Bailey is in his senior year at TU and got to know Dr. Orsak during student orientation. Based on first impressions, he really liked Orsak.

"Very ambitious, very disciplined guy," Bailey said. "So, I guess with not knowing a lot of information, there definitely is a lot of confusion of, like, what's going on behind the scenes."

Bailey said news of the firing was a big shock to students and alumni.

"It's hard to see that... I guess the guy I knew for 70 days would have done something so controversial that it would have led to something," Bailey said.

Like everyone affiliated with the university, Bailey was dying to know what really happened, but wasn't ready to feed into the speculation circulating online.

"I've heard ridiculous rumors," he said.

So had Nick Coyle, also in his senior year at TU.

"I've heard a few rumors, but I don't put any stock in them," Coyle said. "I'm not going to pay attention to them until I hear the real story."

The problem is Coyle doesn't know if or when he might get the real story.

"I believe that it is an upstanding institution," Coyle said. "But whenever something like this happens so suddenly without any explanation, then questions are raised, and it's really cause for concern."

His concern was that a scandal could be brewing.

Meanwhile, Bailey was trying to stay optimistic that the university was just taking its time and being tactful in handling the situation.

"I'm hoping that we do get more information, but that this is just a time where they're trying to work out the kinks so that no one gets burnt in the long run," Bailey said.

The chairman of the board of trustees for the University of Tulsa has released a statement about the recent firing of the University of Tulsa president, Dr. Geoffrey Orsak.

Dear TU Family and Friends,

The news of the university’s decision to release Dr. Geoffrey Orsak from his duties as president has occasioned intense interest and many questions from members of the TU family and the general public. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I want to tell you as much as I am permitted and to assure you that The University of Tulsa has the governance and administration in place to ensure a smooth course forward.

As already announced, the board has authorized Executive Vice President Kevan Buck to handle the day-to-day administrative affairs of the university. Kevan has a wealth of experience overseeing the university’s business functions and core operating units. We are moving forward with business as usual and foresee no problems with our interim arrangement.

The board is discussing next steps as we work toward identifying TU’s 19th president. We will keep you informed as this process moves forward.

Discretion and university policy dictate that I not discuss the specific circumstances surrounding the decision, except to underscore my confidence in the collective wisdom of The University of Tulsa Board of Trustees. Our board comprises some of the most experienced leaders of our community, who have successfully managed through a wide range of challenges. I appreciate and applaud the serious and thoughtful insight that each trustee brought to these deliberations, and I am confident that the board reached the conclusion that best serves our students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and many partners.

Although unavoidable, the timing of this decision was particularly unfortunate, given the additional challenges that the Orsak family faces with the care of Dr. Orsak’s ailing father. We wish all of them well during this difficult time and in their future endeavors.

We recognize the public’s significant interest in this development, but in accordance with our personnel policies and status as a private institution, we will not discuss the details behind the board’s decision.

Finally, on behalf of the board, I thank each of you for the part you play in the success of The University of Tulsa. Our shared dedication to the power of learning and the duty of service will continue to keep us moving forward.


Duane Wilson

Chairman, Board of Trustees

TU officials announced Orsak's termination on Wednesday, no reason for his dismissal was given.  Orsak was named president of the university in May of 2012. He replaced Steadman Upham on July 1st, 2012. Prior to that, Orsak was the Dean of Engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. 

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

Jolie - 9/19/2012 10:47 AM
0 Votes
The logical explanation for the withholding of information is because it is a personnel matter and the fired employee's privacy is being respected. Revealing the cause could also open the university up to the potential for a lawsuit to be filed by Mr. Orsak. Unless this was due to criminal misconduct (which I don't think it was, based on comments posted on other articles), revelation of the reason for letting Mr. Orsak go could damage his chances of employment elsewhere.

golfguy - 9/14/2012 10:06 AM
0 Votes
They wouldn't have removed him without good cause. Perhaps it was a personal matter that neither party would like to bring out in public. Don't know for sure but can't imagine letting him go without good cause. TU is a great University and am sure it will remain so with or without any one individual.

Bulwark - 9/14/2012 4:18 AM
2 Votes
Definitely a solid blow to the credibility of TU. 74 days? Really? Such a short time, either one hell of a scandal is being covered up, or the termination is ridiculous.

MarkPlus - 9/13/2012 11:25 PM
0 Votes
I attended the University of Tulsa in the early 1980's, when that fool and charlatan J. Paschal Twyman ran the place. I could tell that Twyman treated TU's academic functions almost as a nuisance, and I suspect little in TU's "culture" has changed in the past 30 years. Perhaps Orsak ran into opposition from the trustees who don't consider TU broken in the first place, and didn't like what he proposed as repairs. Or else he lost the job for the usual moral turpitude, but my search for plausible rumors hasn't turned up anything concrete yet.

clemente21 - 9/13/2012 11:05 PM
0 Votes
This doesn't add up at all. If he was fired because he needed time to be with his ailing father that's beyond ridiculous. I have a feeling it was more than that but only way any of us will POSSIBLY get the real scoop is via rumors coming out of some of the offices at 11th and Harvard...

Simtown56 - 9/13/2012 8:28 PM
5 Votes
The biggest problem with the secrecy is it reflects a deeper issue: a problem with the board of trustees. Like CEO's who provide insincere apologies for actions "outside of their control" yet falling under their watch, the insincerity of the board's explanation, assertion of their so-called "collective experience," and assurance of their capability is anything but comforting. They hired this man, then they let him go. Failure to disclose why undermines their credibility and, more deeply, betrays the fact they really have any control or power whatsoever. When a CEO sincerely apologies for a grievous error (oil spill, bad employee, whatever), they are acknowledging to the populous the state of the matters, recognizing what went wrong, and then providing assurance such an issue will not happen again. When power holders hide such information, however, it reflects the fact they are trying to prevent something to spin out of control, trying to collect the shattered pieces, and implicitly hoping the problem will go away. Merely idling by is a poor excuse for true leadership, which reflects a good rationalized answer to the public with corresponding solutions. Such a statement let's us know you, the collective board of trustees, have control over this issue. A non-statement, however, only allows misinformation to spread unfettered. Isn't ironic we refer to you as a "trustee," implying we entrust the care of a major institution to your collective wisdom. What do we get in exchange? A collective shadow.
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