In less than three weeks, Kirk Humphreys will no longer serve as a member of the University of Oklahoma Board of Regents, a position he has held since his appointment by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2012. The former mayor of Oklahoma City announced his intent to resign during a specially called regents meeting Dec. 21 after his fellow regents shared his presence was “a problem.”
“These are good days for the University of Oklahoma,” Humphreys told reporters after the meeting. “I am happy to have contributed to the extent that I have. I am saddened that I have made life difficult for a number of people. I fully support the actions the regents have asked me to take. I feel good about it. I look forward to working with everyone at OU to help move OU forward.”
The board of regents meeting and its two-hour executive session to discuss the vice chair’s leadership came in the wake of concerns raised by students, alumni, faculty and staff and the community after homophobic remarks made by Humphreys on a local public affairs show were broadcasted. In the Dec. 10 episode of Flashpoint, Humphreys made a reference equating gay men to pedophiles, which is a myth with no backing.
Despite Humphreys issuing an apology days later, he faced calls for his resignation from the board of regents and other positions. Two days before the regents meeting, Humphreys appeared before the press offering a public apology. His “argument went off the rails,” he said while standing beside Troy Stevenson, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma. The state’s LGBT rights advocacy organization was the first to call upon Humphreys for an apology and later his resignation from OU, the John Rex Charter Elementary School Board and the board of OGE Energy Corp.
“I think this was the right move for the University of Oklahoma, especially as they are going into choosing the next president,” Stevenson said moments after the meeting. OU President David Boren is retiring at the end of the school year on June 30.
“We had people come together to make adult decisions and to set an example for the next generation of Oklahomans,” he said. “You can have civil discourse. We can get to the right resolution without anger and hatred.”
Humphreys said he plans to submit his resignation prior to the start of the spring semester, which is slated to begin Jan. 16. The resignation is not immediate, as Humphreys will join Boren, university administration and other regents as a member of the official party cheering on the school’s football team in Monday’s Rose Bowl game played in Pasadena, California.
Humphreys’ resignation from the board of regents was just one of the calls made by concerned members of the public. At the Dec. 12 rally, Homophobia Has No Place on OUr Campus: Protest Kirk Humphreys, speakers cited a need for the university to expand its nondiscrimination policy to regents, who are currently exempt.
“The harm that was done cannot be retracted,” said Kay Holladay, a Norman resident and regional director of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) National.
Holladay attended the Dec. 21 regents meeting.
“I have spent lots of time reading the University of Oklahoma’s nondiscrimination policy as well as its ethics policy,” she said. “I think every single regent should square up with those policies. If one does not, that person should resign.”
J.D. Baker, OU Student Government Association president, said he appreciated the apology made by Humphreys and believed it to be vital for the university community. Students want university leaders, including regents, who are inclusive and understand the unique needs of students, he said.
Humphreys serves as one of two OU representatives on the board of John Rex, which is a public charter school in downtown Oklahoma City authorized by OU and serving Oklahoma City Public School (OKCPS) students. Humphreys’ comments were met with calls from parents for his resignation from the school board. Parents stated his words had harmed the school’s LGBT families and their allies and were not in line with the character lessons taught to students.
OU, OKCPS and Oklahoma City Quality Schools appoint John Rex board members, who select three additional board members. Humphreys serves as chair.
Humphreys, who served as mayor from 1998 through 2003, led OKC through approval of MAPS for Kids, the $700 million school program funded by the MAPS tax. John Rex was constructed through MAPS for Kids funding as well as other city funding streams and private donations. Humphreys stated he serves on the John Rex board at the “pleasure of OU.”
“OU is not my only path onto that board,” Humphreys said.
As the Flashpoint episode aired, Humphreys was away from Oklahoma City on an out-of-the-country vacation. Following his return to Oklahoma City, Humphreys said he phoned regent chair Clayton Bennett, who had issued a statement disagreeing with the comments made by Humphreys on Flashpoint.
According to Humphreys, during the phone conversation, he shared his willingness to step aside as the next chairman. Further, he stated that if his presence on the board was “a problem,” he would resign. Ultimately, the regents indicated that Humphreys should resign from the board, which also governs Rogers State University and Cameron University.
“Be careful what you say,” Humphreys said when asked what message he had for students. “The OU student body is large and diverse. I would say be gracious in what you say. Find the value in people no matter who they are and what they are. …I think we’ve all had times where we’ve thought, ‘I wished I wouldn’t have said that.’ Mine just happened to be on local television.”
Prior to the announcement of his intent to resign, Humphreys agreed to participate in an open forum Jan. 18 at OU. The forum would serve as a time for university students and the greater community to hear from Humphreys and ask him questions. It was unclear whether the forum will continue given Humphreys’ plans to resign.
“We want to make it clear that horrible things are said sometimes but we have to find a way to move forward as a community,” Stevenson said after Humphrey’s apology before the media. “We have to find a way to heal wounds. We have to find a way we can all work together and get past all the vitriol in society.”
Print headline: Stepping down; Kirk Humphreys will resign from OU Board of Regents in January because his presence is ‘a problem.’