Budget cuts turns springtime OU into sad dirtpile

I remember being a child and walking along the University of Oklahoma south oval during springtime. Red and white roses cascaded colors like an Alice in Wonderland portrait while the birds chirped a hymn. As late winter melted to spring, the groundskeepers at OU begun to plant their seasonal floral selection for students, faculty, and bystanders alike.

But that was under older, traditional management. That was during a time when beauty was held to the same standards as practicality. Now the times have changed; much like the internal affairs of the current administration, the outside is beginning to wither away.

Via the OU Daily:

University of Oklahoma President James Gallogly said most of the landscaping employees terminated in the Feb. 7 round of layoffs were seasonal workers.

Five personnel positions assigned to the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center (HSC) landscaping turf management were eliminated due to changes in the campus’ landscaping requirements, a university spokesperson said. The reduction accounts for 29 percent of the HSC’s landscaping department.

Gallogly said the landscaping department previously had landscapers year-round, although during the winter there was not much work to be done.

Since former President David Boren’s departure, President Jim Gallogly has taken the initiative to gut funding from the backbone forward. Where the money is being allocated to is still up for debate. Meanwhile, programs like landscaping are being thinned down to the bare minimum.

For those not familiar with how the formal south oval used to look like, here is a promotional photo for the University of Oklahoma freely used by students during school projects.

Here’s another photo from May of last year:

Here’s what it looks like today. If ever there were an emblematic look at how Gallogly’s administration is handling the university, this photo should do the trick:

Near the end of 2018, the landscaping department lost over 26 utility vehicles including a pick-up truck and a backhoe tractor. These budget cuts dished out by Gallogly’s administration has left the university’s south oval looking less like a fine-arts garden and more like the dirt pile cluttered with colorful weeds. This, of course, is not to the fault of the landscaping crews – the employees can only do what they can while rubbing two nickels together and hoping for a miracle.

He’s no gardener but he enjoys a walk through the flowers. Follow Brandon on Twitter @notshabbywriter.

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55 Responses

  1. This is actually a pretty good picture to use. There are many other parts of campus, especially anywhere they’ve done construction in the last year or so, where it’s literally just big fields of mud and dead sod. Campus looks terrible these days.

  2. Whenever I ask a student from out of state what attracted them to OU one of their reasons is always “the campus was so beautiful”. Myself, a student, and all of my alumni friends took pride in OU’s beauty. I’m paying the same in tuition, I expect OU to keep those same standards of beauty. This is unacceptable.

    1. So pay for flowers under Boren instead of covering fees of lower and middle income Oklahomans under this program https://www.ou.edu/admissions/affordability/crimson-commitment ? Seems smart!

      1. How much different is the Crimson Commitment program than the Oklahoma Promise program?

        OK Promise covered tuition (the major expense in obtaining a degree).
        Crimson Commitment piggybacked on this program and covers fees up to $8000/yr.

        Better yes, but you seem to be arguing there wasn’t a program for low income Oklahoman’s during the Boren years and this is disingenuous at best.

      2. Hey Sara! I’m a student who receives Crimson Commitment and I can confirm that it’s an extension of the Sooner Promise program. The program covers tuition for students who receive Oklahoma’s Promise, just like SP did. It also offers guaranteed scholarships for students who do not receive additional money from the University. It covers up to $8,000 in student fees per semester, up from $5,500 from before. However, that money only kicks in if a student does not have sufficient scholarships covering fees/living expenses equaling at least $8,000. For instance, if a student receives $3,000 in assistance for fees during a semester outside the program, they’ll receive $5,000 from Crimson Commitment.

        It’s a great step, but nowhere near the increase in scholarships that many think it is, because the Sooner Promise program wasn’t really advertised extensively. Also, it’s overall a small portion of scholarships given by OU, and a very small portion of OU’s total expenses (as was landscaping). We can both fund students’ education and also have flowers a couple of times a year.

  3. I think this man needs to go!! Why in the world was he appointed president. He didnt have the qualifications

  4. maybe you are forgetting Boren left OU with nearly 1 billion USD in debt…buying flowers is not the way to solve this problem

    1. “How much debt are we carrying?” is not among the top ten questions that a newly-appointed university president should ask. As an inveterate bean-counter, of course it is the first thing that Chainsaw Gallogly (and his supporters) would raise.

      1. no way should OU owe 1 billion bucks..I woould think it would be very high on the top 10 questions unless school policy is “debt is no object”…

        1. Most of that debt is bond debt which was, and is, being retired on time. A good discussion could be had regarding the building of facilities at the University but the board of regents had to sign off on those bonded projects. Much public display was made over the firing of administration that were removed to save money and nearly all of those administrators were replaced. Again, ok, need to get my people in. However, I’m sure that those people were hired at the same or greater salary of their predecessors. Is that savings? It’s interesting that any discussion of massive debt has disappeared. Maybe the current administration should get its ass on the phone and start raising money.

          1. Lee Davis you are totally right. I have worked at OU for close to 13 years. The board of regents approved everything Boren did and yes those that replaced the old regime are in some cases making MORE.

      2. Yet for low income Oklahoman’s, the post Boren years have been better, its all about priorities: https://www.ou.edu/admissions/affordability/crimson-commitment

        1. How much different is the Crimson Commitment program than the Oklahoma Promise program?

          OK Promise covered tuition (the major expense in obtaining a degree).
          Crimson Commitment piggybacked on this program and covers fees up to $8000/yr.

          Better yes, but you seem to be arguing there wasn’t a program for low income Oklahoman’s during the Boren years and this is disingenuous at best.

    2. Somehow, miraculously, we’re “in the black” 9 months after the hatchet man was put in place, made symbolic cuts at the top (which have been replaced with even higher-paid execs), and some REAl cuts at the bottom. AMAZING that a “$1billion” debt can just disappear, almost overnight……

  5. Pampered college kids! If portable classrooms made of half an old trailer house and playgrounds with broken swings are good enough for them in grade school they ought to be good enough for them in grad school!

    1. Good one. Pithy and humorous!

  6. Good idea. During the Boren years middle income families on Oklahoma’s promise had to pay thousands in fees, now they are covered because of the new administration shifting resources to Crimson Commitment.

  7. Bet they use the old photo for marketing purposes though…

    1. +1

  8. Guess you haven’t driven through OUHSC campus. The beautiful landscaping still stands; for now at least.

  9. https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwj27bi-zvrhAhWK3lQKHV-8AzEQjRx6BAgBEAU&url=https%3A%2F%2Fosugiving.com%2Fyour-passion%2Fcampus-beautification&psig=AOvVaw3eDjKCQcQBlX8NIKmQqWFP&ust=1556809771349835

    Real college beauty…

    1. I’m an OU alum and I go to Stillwater for my Eskimo Joe’s fix from time to time. I’m really impressed with the way OSU looks these days. New construction looks nice and the landscaping looks great as well. Those impressions make a difference when choosing a college for my kiddos to go to. It’s really a shame what has happened to OU the past few years. The worse part is that it is mostly self inflicted.

      1. Steve Dobbs is head of landscaping at OSU and has the support and backing off the administration. They GET it–that how a campus looks is vitally important to both attracting new students, but also the morale of those who live and work there.

  10. If you have not looked recently at the fees (decades in the making and such a slippery slope) for students you will be surprised-higher than tuition by a good amount. That said I would support an optional landscaping fee to help supplement the budget. Maybe 1/2 would pay but that would be a good start to come back to “the way it was” which I loved. But Gallogly in a very tough position to cut costs. I also think there a number of long time supporters that would fund a landscaping endowment…

    1. There IS a landscaping endowment…..

      1. That endowment is for the Fall mums not everyday landscaping.

  11. This just makes me sad !!!!!!

  12. That “flower budget” was used for goolilly yacht payments…you just can’t afford a good yacht on a prez salary alone.

  13. Although his administration was far from perfect, David Boren did an amazing job of building and advancing the University of Oklahoma during his 24 years of leadership. Borrowing money to advance the University’s objectives more quickly than would otherwise be possible is NOT irresponsible management.

    So of course the Clay Bennett-led Board of Trustees hired a self-styled “turnaround expert” to “fix things at OU.

    I didn’t get it at the time. I still don’t.

  14. As an OU alumna, this is sad. I understand the importance of being fiscally responsible; however, allowing the beautiful landscaping of the university deteriorate due to cutting its funds only decreases the value of the university in my view. There is so much pride of the beauty surrounding the Palace on the Prairie.

  15. A few comments on this subject.

    1. I remember what the campus looked like before Boren’s beautification projects. It was old and dirty. He transformed the campus to make it look more vibrant. This was a good thing. As is often the case, it became a good thing that went to far and became too extravagent. Spending on groundskeeping was passed on to the students through increased costs and fees.

    2. Gallogly’s goal so far is to make tuition more affordable to Oklahomans, not families from north Dallas. He kept tuition flat last year and has indicated no increases for next year. This is a good thing. Anytime we can make higher education more accessible to Oklahomans is a good thing. If eliminating some of the fluff does this, then I’m okay with it. I mean they replanted flowers every two weeks.

    3. Although he did a lot of good for OU, Boren also did a lot of bad things. Whether you like it or not, he significantly over built and spent. If you want proof, look at the housing facilties. Students shouldnt have to pay for vanity projects. He also failed to hire the best and brightest. Look at the backgorunds adn decisions made by many of the individuals that are no longer at OU. The only qualifying experience: they were friends with a Boren. That is no way to run a university.

    4. This website used to skewer Boren and his connections to oil and gas, responses to students, selling out to athletics, and everything else. No it seems to hold him up as the paragon of all that is good .He has been accussed of some signifant sexual misconduct. If proven true, this should change his legacy and may validate the current adminstration’s view of him.

    As I’ve written before, with both of these guys, you’ve got to take the good with the bad with both of them.

    1. Yes! The priority should be for average income Oklahomans and the crimson commitment program does just that https://www.ou.edu/admissions/affordability/crimson-commitment

      1. We get it. Actually we got it after the first three comments saying the same damned thing accompanied by the same damned link. I’d accuse you of working for the butcher, but he’s not hiring it seems.

        Also you frame this as an either or provision. It isn’t. It is possible to have affordable tuition AND a beautiful campus. Let’s see how the middle class initiative pans out when enrollment declines because no one wants to attend college in a shantytown.

  16. But those flowers in the bottom picture havent bloomed yet. Come back when they are bloomed and see if there’s still a story.

    1. Agree, give it some time, and maybe by replacing annuals that were swapped out 3-4 times per year they will have some lower-maintenance perennials that will still look good year ’round. I have mixed feelings about all the blooms, yes it looked good and was nice for moral/recruiting/schmoozing donors, but seemed like a waste of funds when tuition and fees were climbing skyward. I think Molly Shi Boren had some donors lined-up who were supposedly funding campus beautification, but apparently, according to chainsaw Gallogly, it was a still a drain on the budget. Also courting donors is typically a zero-sum game. The people ponying-up for flowers are going to have less available funds to pony-up for academic and/or research programs. This is why when people say “athletics pays for itself” they are forgetting all the mandatory stadium seat donations and ticket fees are cutting into funds people could be donating to things more central to the mission of the University. Than again I suspect that probably half the Joe Sooner Fans are not all that interested in the actual mission of the University given that it is not producing Heisman trophy winners.

    2. Thank you. I was wondering when someone was going to be sane enough to mention that. Some real genius in some of these comments.

  17. there is a way to solve this, Porky could be sent out to fix the flower gardens himself as a means of serving penance for his alleged misconduct against students. That would fix it all

  18. OU is not a billion in debt. That is a scare headline used by Gallogly to get rubes to support him trashing Boren’s legacy. All universities issue bonds; this is a form of indebtedness but it is not “debt” as you or I understand it, such as the federal deficit.

    1. Sure, a bond is debt, not sure what you mean to say its not debt. That said, there are a lot of ways to spin the numbers. Some of that debt was for stadium upgrades that are fully covered by future athletic department revenues (tickets and TV revs) — yes, its on OU’s books but you could pay it off tomorrow and it doesn’t help OU’s general fund. There were large bonds that are supposed to be funded by rents paid by students in the new “Univeristy Colleges” — Boren’s grand idea that is a good one but he should have built one, first, to trial the concept, but the private sector partners (and perhaps his own ego) convinced him to build 3, so revs are not covering those expenses.

      Given all that why fire staff in the research development office, cut the National Merit Scholarship program, and cut the OU undergradute research program??? That’s what sucks about this –mistakes are made in one area of campus (captial spending for housing) and things totally unrelated are getting gored.

  19. Sara, how long have you been working for Gigalooy’s PR firm?

  20. Unacceptable…take a couple of $$$$ out of the Athletic program specificly the Football programs TV royalties and take care of the South Oval any anyother landscaping needs.
    If yjis administration can’t see the value in maintaining the past …we can only guess what’s next. Start reviewing the salaries and bebefits of the new administration.
    Looks like OU needs to start a Go Fund Me account. Just terrible very short sighted of this new administration.
    Clasd if ’72


    The campus looks like crap. OU was always known for its beauty. OU looks like the grapes of wrath, not the flagship university of the state. What’s next? Firing that goofball President is a great start. This isn’t a community college.


  23. Gallogly seems intent on keeping OU a mediocre state school for average Oklahomans and UT rejects. So sad. Exactly why I didn’t go there and would never send my kids there. But the deplorables around here all think it’s the Harvard of the plains…

  24. Nailed it exactly OU Grad. Of course OU is not in debt a billion dollars and what debt there is covers bond payments, fully amortized, for construction, remodeling, technology, laboratories, parking and yes housing, all necessary elements for a quality university that students of the 21st century expect and demand. Once again, remember the alleged, initial financial crisis was a shortfall of about $12-14 million dollars in July of 2018 which the new administration said was more than resolved within six months by ‘finding’ savings of over $31 million. The continuing back and forth about revenue challenges simply reflects the fact that our anti-higher education legislature whacked our colleges and universities by over 24% during the last eight years. That’s not a myth. Read the extensive documents available at multiple locations for yourself.

    In the past I helped write previous budgets for higher education over a period of 28 years that always valued the system with regular infusions of new appropriations. By the way the criticism of too much bonded indebtedness is a crock. It is funded and guaranteed to a great degree by the cigarette tax increase of 2004 which I was very glad to author. If you’re against it don’t go to the Stephenson Cancer Center or Hamm Diabetes facility or the Level One Trauma Care location along Lincoln Blvd because they exist today thanks to leaders like Boren and others who were pushing for them twenty years ago while our opponents sat on their asses and voted no or even worse just sat on their asses and criticized.

    How soon some forget that President Boren increased by 800% the university endowment, led the nation in recruiting merit scholars, attracted students from 130 countries, increased endowed chairs by hundreds, found incredible faculty to teach in Norman, OKC, Tulsa, Lawton and Claremore and was the only President that stood up publicly to the numb nuts in the legislature, and governor’s office, who are so narrow minded about Oklahoma’s education future you could poke out both of their eyes with one finger.

    Oh and he planted some flowers too.

    Everybody talks about higher education being Oklahoma’s great economic engine and it could be but, as it turns out, is only a four cylinder, stick shift model with no radio, air conditioning or spare tire because, quite frankly, that’s what too many of our business leaders think is good enough. You know what I mean. All that continued bullshit about The Oklahoma Standard which, in fact, is only really The Sub-Standard.

    I know personally of the many times Boren got in the face of governors, so called congressional and legislative leaders and especially regents who adopted get along, go along policies and for some of them now in key positions it is get even time and we’re all worse off for it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The humiliation, embarrassment and attempted destruction of our state’s most accomplished statesman will, in the end, fall flat but at what a price not just for him and his family but our state as well.

    1. I think some of this is true. We do have a large sector of the population that believes education (any education) is bad for you. Its problematic when parents, teachers, and others say “if you go to college” instead of “when.” This mindset and, as you correctly point out, that the largest employers think “some edumacation” is good enough has resulted in a significant brain drain from this state. It is also showing up as a reduction of state allocation to higher education, which is having an impact.

      It is, however, incorrect to blame all the issues at OU on the reduction of state allocations. Rather, than just complaining, Boren should have instituted changes to how OU was run. Instead, he chose to fill gaps by increasing tuition and fees for students and focused on affluent Texans. This was a disservice to Oklahomans. He did a lot for the state and OU, that cannot be denied. But its looking more and more like a lot of what he did, particularly the last 10 years, was built on a house of cards and directed solely at doing what was best for the Boren legacy, not what is best for OU.

      As I’ve said, we have to take the good with the bad. We can’t ignore the mistakes Boren made no more than can we ignore the good things he did. At best, its a mixed legacy and we shouldn’t promote anymore than that.

    2. How is your boy’s premium housing doing?

      1. If you build university housing that is full the day it is completed you waited too long to start the projects.

        Yes the new facilities don’t look like those built in the 50s and 60s and thank God and Boren for that……….and don’t confuse the two.

        As new construction comes on line old projects go off because the bonds that funded them have been paid in full. What OU has that is sorely lacking at so many other universities is land and lots of it. Visionaries build for 10-20-30 or even 40 years in the future which is why most bond projects are 30 year payouts. Additionally donors will give big bucks for buildings to have their names on them but usually not interest on debt or maintenance of the facilities. That’s where state revenue bonds must step in to do their share.

  25. Doesn’t out-of-state tuition pay the bills? How will OU attract those dollars now? Get ready for some tough years at OU.

  26. You get that the flowers are there, right? They likely got in late, so blooming will be delayed, yes.

    But when the garden comes in, full and beautiful, your argument will be negated and arguments against the president will be weakened because of this article. Be more careful and diligent in your reporting.

  27. But we can afford to fly football coaches (current and former) around on private planes? Stop admitting athletes that don’t meet the minimum entry requirement put on “regular” students. 4 year free education for 1% to play professionally and most of the rest to get a job they could have had without 4 years of free education. Just saying, I’m sure the cost of travel for one away game in football could fund flowers for several years.

    1. The athletic department budget is a completely separate entity. All the “flying around of football coaches” and the “4 year free education” is paid for by the revenue generated from OU athletics. Of all the sports on campus, there are two that are revenue positive, football and men’s basketball, along with donors, licensing, etc., these subsidize all the rest (including coach’s salaries) AND contribute $’s back to the university’s general fund.

      You can find it here in the annual report:


      And here from St Boren:


      1. The rest? What if those millions were just spent on education? Nobody knows what William and Mary’s football record is.

  28. “Theres no pride in a cheap college degree.”

    Fromer Republican Governor Frank Keating

  29. Bring Davy and his boy toys back, he is OU and should be honored as such. A little San Fran in Cleveland county.

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