NORMAN, Okla. — Interim President Joe Harroz spoke to what is believed to be the largest freshmen class in University of Oklahoma history during convocation on Sunday night.
The evening before members of the Class of 2023 started their first OU classes, Harroz said administration is fairly confident final figures will show them to be the largest in number since the university began 129 years ago. Harroz, who is also starting his first semester as acting president, also unveiled a new marketing campaign during his convocation address which poses the question "What will you do?"
"I've been asking myself that question lately," Harroz said. "This is my first chapter."
Convocation was held at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium this year, instead of Lloyd Noble Center, and on a Sunday instead of the Thursday of move-in. The south end of the stadium was filled with crimson Class of 2023 t-shirts, and students were taught the ins and outs of being an OU football crowd before the ceremony.
While some family members were still present, many had left after moving in the new OU students last week. Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs David Surratt told the students he remembered how he moved into OU, his parents were gone and he started life on campus.
"I didn't think I could find ways that I could get involved on campus, until I did," Surratt said. "I was anxious of finding new friends and mentors, until I did.
"The entire OU community wants to support you on your journey."
Adran Gibbs, Student Government Association president, tried to settle the nerves of new students by explaining how he is now on his "fifth major" since starting classes three years ago.
"The one thing that makes OU stand out is that we invest our time, our resources and our efforts into our OU family," Gibbs said. "We are one university, one community and we all have one goal."
Gibbs and Harroz both addressed having an atmosphere of tolerance and acceptance on campus. Their words follow a spring semester partially marred by racist videos and criticism of now retired President James Gallogly's response.
Harroz said the campus should try to be an example for the world when it comes to differences. He asked the students to make it their goal to do something about a world characterized by division.
"What I ask of you ... my biggest hope, the one gift the Class of 2023 could leave for us, is if you could address this," he told the students.
Sitting behind Harroz was faculty and staff, who forewent the traditional academic robes for white t-shirts with "Class of 2013" written on them. Harroz told the students they were here for them.
"They can help you in ways you cannot imagine," Harroz said.
Harroz, former dean of the OU College of Law, was appointed interim president in May by the OU Board of Regents following Gallogly's sudden decision to retire after a year in charge. The permanent appointment of a president is expected to be decided within the coming academic year.