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ORU Provost Will Resign If President Roberts Is Reinstated

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) - The provost of Oral Roberts University says he will resign if Richard Roberts is reinstated as president at the evangelical school because he can't "in good conscience serve under his leadership."

On Thursday, Mark Lewandowski, who was named to ORU's top academic post in May, delivered the letter offering his resignation to Board of Regents chairman George Pearsons, who is supervising an outside probe of the school's finances after three professors filed a lawsuit accusing Roberts of improper spending.

His letter states that many school leaders are concerned some regents are "waffling in their decision-making" and considering reinstating Roberts, "even in the face of overwhelming information of a management style that promotes fear and has done nothing to address the increasing debt of the university."

He also admits in the letter that he began to be part of "the culture of fear" that had been at the school for years, and that faculty, students and alumni shouldn't have to put up with it any longer. "I have been waiting for the Board of Regents to make a decisive move that would endear the faculty to them and build confidence in the alumni," Lewandowski told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. "They have not done that."

Lewandowski, an ORU graduate, writes that he would continue to serve ORU if Richard Roberts resigns or is not reinstated. He wants the board of regents to vote on his resignation offer at their November 27th meeting. "Today, I speak for the faculty who have no voice," Mark Lewandowski said.

The letter comes a day after the school's founder, Oral Roberts, called an emergency meeting where Richard Roberts asked faculty members for a second chance. Richard Roberts told professors there that if he stepped down now, the public would think he was admitting to wrongdoing.

Days earlier, tenured faculty had given Richard Roberts a "no confidence" vote by a nearly unanimous margin. Roberts has been on temporary leave from the 5,700-student university, fighting accusations that he misspent university funds to bankroll a lavish lifestyle.

Jeremy Burton, a spokesman for Oral Roberts University, declined to comment on the letter.

The "no confidence" resolution, passed Monday, stated that the faculty approved the motion "without regard to the outcome of the current lawsuit against the university." The faculty plan to distribute the nonbinding document to the regents and the faculty assembly at an upcoming meeting.

The professors also voted "confidence" in Lewandowski's "call for greater faculty governance and transparency of university finances." In a third motion, the faculty asked to be involved in "determining selection criteria for and the actual selection of university leadership."

Accusations of lavish spending were detailed in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed October 2nd by three former professors. The lawsuit includes allegations of a $39,000 shopping tab at one store for Richard Roberts' wife, Lindsay, a $29,411 Bahamas senior trip on the university jet for one of Roberts' daughters, and a stable of horses for the Roberts’ children.

In a recent interview with the AP, Richard and Lindsay Roberts denied wrongdoing. Richard Roberts has said the lawsuit amounted to "intimidation, blackmail and extortion."

"It sounds to me like, at even a great risk, these folks who have been pushed hard and far enough are willing to risk everything in order to gain their freedom from intimidation and threats of fear," said Gary Richardson, the attorney who is representing the former professors who brought the lawsuit.

For complete coverage of the lawsuit involving ORU, click here.

Watch the video: ORU Provost Threatens Resignation
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