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Robert Murphy’s first memory of Norman is that of listening to OU Prof and artist, John Hadley, play the guitar and sing. It was 1976, and his roommate, OKC artist Greg Burns, had brought him to the old groundskeeper’s house near the OU golf course to hear Hadley play. Then they went to the Library Bar where a guy with a chessboard beat him in 3, 7 and 10 moves – three games in ten minutes. It’s not the kind of thing you forget.

In 1984, Robert Murphy helped to install the new telephone system at OU - running riser cables in just about every attic, ceiling, and cellar on campus – and he worked at OU ever since (except for a three-year term as a Telecommunications Manager for IBM), retiring early this year. For all those years he was a Technician, installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting various types of complex communications systems.

To be a successful technician is to be able to work with both physical objects and people. The success of any technical system requires an understanding of what it’s designed to do, an understanding of the user’s needs, and a careful coordination of installers, designers, users, and administrators. This type of experience applies to political systems as well.

More germane to the issue of this election were his experiences on the Hourly Employees Council and the Personnel Policy Committee at OU.

During Robert Murphy’s three-year term on the HEC, he worked with several others to try to fulfill the HEC’s actual purpose, that is, to act as policy representatives for all the clerks, custodians, carpenters, and other tradespeople that keep things working at the University. They were consistently rebuffed in attempts to affect policies that staff members had questioned in certain departments. It seemed that there was a tradition that the HEC could only affect general university policy – such as the Staff Handbook – through its votes on the Staff Senate, which consisted of hourly employees, salaried employees, and administrators.

Then, in 2008, the Physical Plant administration made a policy change that affected several hundred workers, and many were angry. Robert Murphy coauthored an HEC Resolution in opposition to the policy – which passed unanimously – and authored a critique of the policy for members of the Staff Senate. After this, the policy was quietly dropped. For those who wish to see this memo as an example of Robert Murphy’s style when addressing an injustice, click here.

On the Personnel Policy Committee, Robert Murphy was the chair of a subcommittee charged with the rather mundane task of developing a proposal to allow staff members to use Extended Sick Leave to care for seriously ill family members (at that time, ESL could only be used for the staff member’s own serious illness). Consulting with the other subcommittee members, he authored a proposal that included “domestic partners” as family members. This caused some concern among the members of the PPC, not because they were opposed to the idea, but because the term “domestic partner” implied a relationship that was unrecognized under Oklahoma law, and would likely lead to the proposal being unacceptable to the Staff Senate. After some discussion, the proposal was changed to include the phrase “…or other legally domiciled adult”, in the hope that the way would be paved for the time when the Oklahoma legislature finally recognizes that any adults should be able to form civil unions that are the legal equivalent of traditional marriage.

Sadly, though this proposal passed through the subcommittee and the entire PPC, it was never presented to the Staff Senate. The economic situation at the time precluded any consideration of proposals that might increase costs to the university. Still, the fact remains that Robert Murphy was instrumental in initiating what may be the first official attempt to include domestic partners in personnel policy at an Oklahoma State institution. Though there were those who disagreed with his strong opinions on perceived injustice, they will say that he was both serious and fearless in pursuit of a goal.

For those interested in such things, Robert Murphy is first-generation American, born and reared by his Irish parents in Detroit, Michigan. He volunteered for the Marine Corps in 1965, at 17, and served honorably in Vietnam as an Amphibious Tractor mechanic, hauling supplies and ammo to the infantry.

He attended the Sand Diego College of Engineering and many technical schools. He prefers the Austrian School of economics, rather than the Classical, Monetarist, or Keynesian schools, because of its concentration on individual choice rather than macroeconomic calculation.

Robert Murphy is familiar enough with Law to have won a judgment in Federal Court against a large corporation, acting as his own lawyer.

He likes Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Taj Mahal, and The Grateful Dead.

His favorite movies are The African Queen, The Man Who Would Be King, and Pulp Fiction.

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