Temple president, top officials face reckoning
Amid growing unrest about campus safety, Temple University president Jason Wingard and two top university officials could face a no-confidence vote.
Driving the news: The executive committee of the faculty union is meeting today to consider action against Wingard, who became president in 2021, plus provost Gregory Mandel and trustees' board chairman Mitchell Morgan.
- 580 union members attended a virtual town hall meeting Friday sharing concerns about public safety, staffing vacancies and notices received by some faculty members about their contracts not being renewed amid declining enrollment, despite the university’s $200 million windfall.
Yes, but: Some say the move won’t solve Temple’s problems.
State of play: Fewer than two years into his presidency, Wingard’s critics have clamored that he’s been “absent” from campus while Temple deals with a public safety crisis, punctuated by the shooting death of school police officer Christopher Fitzgerald.
- Supporters, including faculty senate president Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, say Wingard’s job is to fundraise and be the “outward face” of the university. Plus, he can’t bolster public safety without help from local and state officials.
Why it matters: The no-confidence vote, though symbolic and unlikely to lead any of the university officials to step down, is an unprecedented step in the union’s 50-year history.
What’s happening: Criticism of Wingard has intensified since he failed to deliver on a promise to double campus security after the 2021 shooting death of Sam Collington.
- The campus’ force has actually shrunk since then.
- Wingard admitted during a news conference that he hadn’t delivered on a mandate to protect students after Fitzgerald was fatally shot on Feb. 18.
Last week, protests erupted on campus over Temple’s lackluster response to public safety and its handling of an ongoing labor strike by graduate students and research assistants who are seeking better wages and benefits.
- The student group, Keep Us Safe, held up signs that said, “Am I Next” while calling for university officials to develop a better safety plan and be more transparent about crimes occurring on and near campus.
- Meanwhile, faculty has questioned the university for stripping striking graduate students of health benefits and tuition reimbursement after their union rejected a deal to end the holdout that began Jan. 31, according to the Inquirer.
What they’re saying: Faculty Union President Jeffrey Doshna told the Inquirer that Wingard has left an impression that he’s more concerned with his image than helping make Temple safer.
- “What you see on Instagram with him smiling and shaking hands and meeting students is curated,” he said.
Axios reached out to Wingard for comment, and the university released a statement saying it hopes that faculty will “continue to work with us to address the serious issues facing the university.”
- In a letter sent to faculty last week, Wingard said he needed to make “hard decisions” and asked for “understanding and grace” while trying to navigate the university through the upheaval.
The bottom line: Jay McCalla, former deputy city managing director and political commentator, told Axios that making Wingard into a scapegoat won’t solve Temple’s longstanding problems.
- McCalla says “turning the leadership of the university” suggests they “have greater control over crime than they actually do.”
“We are the poorest big city in the nation,” he said. “Where you have great poverty, you’re going to have crime.”
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