On Thursday October 8th the President of Temple University Neil Theobald addressed a crowd behind closed doors in a gathering not open to the student body. He delivered his state of the university address boasting Temple’s football record and the massive new buildings Temple is constructing on and around Temple’s campus.
As mentioned above, students were not invited to this event. Students in 15 Now Temple wrote a response to Theobald’s state of the university. Here it is:
On Thursday, October 8th, President Theobald gave his “State of the University” address. Students were not invited to this event. While President Theobald celebrates Temple’s football record and the new buildings Temple has constructed, the community surrounding the university, which is primarily Black and Latino, is one of the poorest zip codes in the nation. While President Theobald pats himself on the back for attracting new donors and an increase in Temple’s US News and World Report ranking, thousands of student workers, who are already facing rising tuition and a mountain of student debt, are paid poverty wages.
Temple claims that paying higher wages would mean an increase in tuition and that it is not fiscally responsible. Is President Theobald’s six-figure salary, personal driver, and penthouse in Rittenhouse square fiscally responsible? Is the 35 million dollars Temple spends on advertising and building gaudy monstrosities like Morgan Hall while eliminating affordable housing fiscally responsible? Are the exorbitant salaries of coaches and millions poured into the football and basketball programs fiscally responsible? Temple University’s financial woes are not a matter of lacking funds but a failure of priorities.
The State of North Philadelphia is that of a crisis. Temple University can either exacerbate or it can help alleviate this crisis. Currently it is doing the former. Temple gentrifies and forces community members out of their homes. Temple Police act as conquistadors establishing and maintaining the borders of the Temple Colony of North Philadelphia. The militarization of the campus creates an artificial border between the university and the surrounding community, which encourages hostility and violence. The Temple board of trustees is occupied by the super rich, governing as a dictatorship, ignoring the cries of students, faculty, staff, and the community. President Theobald has consistently refused to meet with students to address these concerns, using police force to prevent even a letter from being delivered.
As an institution Temple University condones sexual violence, while simultaneously using the threat of violence as an excuse for further militarization and surveillance. Despite recommendations after a Title IX investigation, Temple refuses to establish a rape crisis center on campus to support and aid victims of sexual violence. The fact that Patrick O’Connor, the lawyer who defended Bill Cosby after he was accused of assaulting a Temple employee, is the chairman of the board of trustees makes it clear that sexual violence is institutionally sanctioned at Temple University and indicates an absolute disregard for students’ safety, specifically for the safety of women and LGBTQ people.
Temple University operates like a corporation with regards to it’s students and employees and much like an occupying force with regards to the surrounding community. President Theobald’s restructuring of funding and purging of radical professors has been part of a large scale neo-liberalization of higher education. Departments such as African American Studies, Latin American Studies, Women’s Studies and the liberal arts as a whole have been sacrificed on the altar of profit and gutted of substance. President Theobald and the board of trustees fear the ideas and concepts discussed in these departments and want to keep students ignorant in these subjects.
Temple can become a great institution that serves the community and educates young people towards a better future. Temple can become a cornerstone of Philadelphia when as an institution Temple pays workers living wages, respects North Philadelphia, rededicates itself to liberal arts education, and when Temple makes campus a rape-free environment that is safe for all students and faculty. Towards this possible future, we call on Temple to make very necessary changes to the function and priorities of the university.
We call on Temple University to pay all it’s employees at least $15 an hour, including student workers, and require all businesses that it contracts with to do the same.
We call on Temple University to respect the rights of Adjunct professors and all other workers to unionize.
We call on Temple University to actively engage with the residents of North Philadelphia and address the concerns and demands from community members including Temple’s role as a gentrifying force in North Philadelphia and the relationship between Temple’s police force and the local community.
We call on Temple University to create a rape crises center on campus in accordance with the recommendations from the Title IX investigation.
We call on Temple University to stop the assault on liberal arts programs and its faculty and rebuild liberal arts with the integrity of academic freedom and full funding.
Temple Students, faculty, campus workers, and North Philadelphia community members will be speaking out on these injustices and delivering 15 Now’s State of the University to President Theobald tomorrow at 1:45 pm.