Senator Crain takes Questions on the Senate Floor
Maintaining a rich heritage and providing quality higher education in Northeast Oklahoma are issues niggling at one Senate Interim Study hanging at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City.
Tulsa Republican Sen. Brian Crain is the man behind Interim Study 11-02. He told CapitolBeatOK, “This arises from a problem of what is it that we want Langston-Tulsa to do and what is it that we — as a state of Oklahoma — what we want OSU-Tulsa to do in providing education programs.”
Sen. Crain said the state Legislature needs to step up for those in the region who want better opportunities for higher education.
“Tulsa is the largest community in Oklahoma without a public four year higher education program. What we have done in the past is we started out using the university center at Tulsa which was ‘UCAT’ which was a cooperative effort between several universities – Rogers State, Langston, OSU and OU — to provide various courses.”
From “UCAT” in the late 1990s, more specific programming developed for OSU-Tulsa and Langston-Tulsa. Tulsa students run into transportation problems when they want courses which are only offered on the OSU campus in Stillwater. Many students don’t want to travel by “BOB”, the big orange bus that transports round-trip between Tulsa and Stillwater.
It’s just one issue prompting Crain’s call for the interim study. “There are three programs that OSU-Tulsa is specifically limited from offering and that are exclusive to Langston University in their Tulsa campus. They are psychology, sociology and accounting. Surprisingly, OSU gets more requests for enrollment information in their accounting program than they do anything else.” Crain said OSU has been known for generations as having one of the top accounting programs in the state.
“I don’t think right now that the people of Tulsa are being properly served, that we can do a better job if we want to see what is it that the needs are and how do we fulfill those needs with OSU and with Langston,” he said.
What Crain calls a “wrinkle” in the process came with a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Justice. “There’s been a complaint filed with the office of Civil Rights by the Alumni Association of Langston University that we are not abiding by a 1978 agreement to help expand and fulfill the original mission of Langston University as an historically black college and university.”
Crain said that filing creates challenges. “Not only are we trying to work within the Board of Regents of OSU-Tulsa and Langston-Tulsa, but also working with the federal government, specifically the Department of Justice, on how to meet all of the requirements that everyone has for the programs.”
Crain said yet another issue comes into play in his efforts for higher education in Tulsa. “Just who do you talk to right now? Langston University is in the process of changing their president. They just recently appointed an interim president. But, by definition, he’s not a permanent president, he’s interim. We’re talking about making some decisions with the input of Langston-Tulsa as to how do we proceed?”
(Note: Langston President Joanne Haysbert has accepted the position of Executive Vice President at Hampton University in Virginia. Langston Regents named Alum Henry Ponder interim President at their Friday, September 9, meeting.)
“I think we’re all recognizing in Oklahoma that Langston has a very special place in our history and that we need to build on that history and make Langston-Tulsa and its main campus Langston in Oklahoma City great institutions. I think we’re also recognizing that we need to do what we can to expand OSU-Tulsa OSU-Oklahoma City to provide quality educations for people in their specific communities,” Crain said.
Crain said he appreciates this interim study because of all of those who are at the table. “Look at all the people that are involved in it. You’re talking about representatives of Langston-Tulsa, you talk about representatives of OSU-Tulsa, you talk about the Board of Regents, you talk about Senator Judy Eason- McIntyre (a Tulsa Democrat) and every one of them has the same goal which is: What can we do to provide a quality education to the people of northeastern Oklahoma in those areas that they want to provide?”
Crain said he can appreciate the Langston Alumni Association’s obvious desire to maintain the school’s deep roots and heritage in Oklahoma. He also appreciates the need for improvement of higher education opportunities in the northeast.
“You can tell that everyone is truly interested in what is best for Oklahoma and they just come at it from different perspectives.”
Editor’s Note: An award-winning reporter and a member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, Billie Rodely writes frequently for CapitolBeatOK and for The City Sentinel, a weekly newspaper in Oklahoma City.