Student To File Lawsuit Against ORU

Tuesday, November 20th 2007, 4:42 pm
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- An Oral Roberts University student plans to file a lawsuit against the school and its embattled president, Richard Roberts, claiming fraud, devaluation of his degree and misappropriation of school funds.

Cornell Cross II, a 30-year-old senior government major from Burlington, Vermont, is seeking payment of his federal, state and private loans and the reinstatement of two professors who claim they were wrongfully terminated by the university, he told The Associated Press.

Cross said he plans to file the suit Wednesday in district court. His would be the first lawsuit brought by an ORU student since accusations claiming Roberts misspent school funds to support a lavish lifestyle surfaced last month.

"A wrong has been done," ORU student Cornell Cross said Tuesday. "You just don't let that kind of money disappear and get away with it, especially when it's my money."

Last month, ORU revealed that is was more than $50 million in debt.

Cross' suit also will seek removal of Roberts and his wife, Lindsay, from the school and payment of attorneys' fees, he said. It is among several lawsuits expected to be filed Wednesday in district court naming either ORU or Roberts, sources told The AP.

"The culture of fear at ORU is so pervasive that every student in the place feels it," Cross said. "It's a sad, sad state of affairs when a student cannot use their First Amendment right to say this is wrong and this needs to stop."

Richard Roberts, who has been on temporary leave while an outside probe into the school's finances continues, has denied wrongdoing. An ORU spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.

Accusations of misspending were detailed in a wrongful termination lawsuit filed October 2 by three former ORU professors. In his lawsuit, Cross is requesting that two of those professors, John Swails and Tim Brooker, be reinstated at the school.

The lawsuit comes after more than 80% of ORU faculty voted this week against Roberts continuing as president at the 5,700-student school. Next week, the school's regents are expected to discuss that vote, as well as a similar one cast last week by tenured faculty members giving Roberts a "no confidence" vote as president, regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.

The professors' lawsuit against Roberts includes allegations of a $39,000 shopping tab at one store for Lindsay Roberts; 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."

Last week, ORU Provost Mark Lewandowski offered to resign in a letter to board of regents chairman George Pearsons, saying he cannot "in good conscience serve under (Roberts') leadership," and wants the board to vote on his offer at its meeting next week.

For complete coverage of the ORU lawsuit, click here.