With Lawsuit Settled, ORU Puts Focus On Future

Thursday, October 23rd 2008, 4:50 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Oral Roberts University speak outs about settling a lawsuit with two former professors.  Filed a year ago, the lawsuit sparked a scandal and lead to the resignation of ORU President Richard Roberts.

The school settled with one of the former professors, Jonathan Swails, earlier this year.  This settlement with the other two is confidential, so neither side can discuss its details.  But now that it is final, ORU says it is finally ready to move on.

It has been a tumultuous year for Oral Roberts University.

Last October, former professors Jonathan Swails, and Tim and Paulita Brooker sued the school, claiming they had been wrongfully terminated.  They said they were fired after stumbling upon evidence that Richard Roberts and his family had misused university funds.

"If they don't make some very significant changes administratively, there won't be an ORU much longer.  Our goal is to help change the university," said Tim Brooker at the time the lawsuit was filed.

And, they did change ORU.  After appearing on national television to deny any wrongdoing, Richard Roberts stepped down in November of 2007.

"Larry, I'm not sure what to make of it.  It's the most unusual thing I've ever witnessed in my life," Richard Roberts told Larry King.

That's when Doctor Ralph Fagin stepped in.  He admits his term as interim president has been challenging.

"You have difficulties in life, but in the midst of it, we're making incredible strides. Granted, we've got strides to go," said ORU Interim President Dr. Ralph Fagin.

After the scandal broke, it was revealed that ORU was $55 million in debt.  That debt was drastically reduced after a surprise $70 million gift from businessman Mart Green.

Much of the Green money is also being used for renovations and technology upgrades on campus.  Some students say they are now focused on those improvements, rather than the lawsuit.

"I think the general feel on campus was a lot of people have already put it behind them, so yesterday was confirmation that it's time to move on, look to the future," said ORU senior Kerick Butler, II.

The administration is also looking to the future, and hopes it can now close the book on an ugly chapter in ORU's history.

"Anytime you have a challenge, anytime you have difficulty, I mean that helps you grow stronger" said ORU Interim President Dr. Ralph Fagin.

Gary Richardson, the lawyer who represents all three professors, did not have any comment on the settlement.  He did tell the Associated Press that he's happy to see the Brookers put this behind them, so they can get on with their lives.

Related Story:

10/22/2008  Settlement Reached In ORU Lawsuit