Holding the Roberts in such high regard is typical of many ORU regents, particularly the other ministers and televangelists serving on the board, the president of a religious watchdog group said.
"They all, in essence, pay obeisance to Oral. They all almost bow down in Oral's presence,” said Ole Anthony, president and co-founder of Trinity Foundation, which has investigated religious organizations, including ORU, for decades.
But after the lawsuit was filed and regents initiated an outside review of the claims, Pearsons' stance appeared to change.
Pearsons recently said "the buck stops with the board” when it comes to Richard Roberts' future at ORU. He has maintained that stance, despite the Roberts' public claims of innocence and Oral Roberts' vow that his son would return to power.
‘Dose of new blood'
Anthony suggested that the Roberts family and the evangelicals serving as regents should share equal blame for the university's troubles.
"They could use a good dose of new blood,” Anthony said.
"It just needs to be run with more academic integrity and financial responsibility. ... I'm pleased that all the students and the faculty are trying to get their university back.”
Through an ORU spokesman, Pearsons declined to be interviewed for this article.
Other universities have faced similar leadership turmoil, but experts said the Oral Roberts University situation is unique because of Oral and Richard Roberts' national reputation and the significant debt — more than $50 million — the university faces.
"There are places where there has been such fighting over leadership that it has ripped the place apart,” said Doug Lederman, editor of Inside Higher Ed, a trade publication based in Washington, D.C.
Most of those institutions had a longer history and better financial standing than the university that allowed them to make it through the rough times, Lederman said.
At universities such as ORU, where the founders continue to maintain control, Lederman said "there tends not to be push-back.”
"There's not a lot of controversy either because it's quashed, or because people come there knowing what they're getting into. If you have a chance to peel back the layers, you may find that there's dissatisfaction, but it rarely comes out.”
That makes the no-confidence vote and the Oral Roberts University provost's threat to resign particularly alarming.
"There are no-confidence votes daily, if not weekly, in higher education. But they're pretty unheard of at places like Oral Roberts,” Lederman said. "It takes a level of alleged wrongdoing to embolden critics to come out.”
"It's become more divisive.
It's starting to tire me down.”
Sam Dyk, ORU junior business student