Leaders at Temple University in Philadelphia can’t seem to catch a break.
Following President Jason Wingard’s resignation last month, the Temple faculty union has now turned its ire towards Provost Gregory Mandel and Board of Trustees Chair Mitchell Morgan. More than 800 union members (81%) cast a vote of no confidence in their ability to lead one of the state’s leading research universities. This is the first no-confidence vote in the institution’s 50-year history, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“Our concerns about the management of Temple were never about one person but about the way those in senior leadership have failed over the past several years to live up to Temple’s mission as Philadelphia’s public research university,” said Jeffrey Doshna, president of the faculty union.
The roots of tension
Temple’s rift between the community and its leaders primarily revolves around three issues: declining enrollment, a graduate union strike gone awry and campus safety.
An overarching cause for tension is the school’s depleting enrollment. The university has seen a decline in undergraduate and graduate students since 2017 and a 14% crash since 2019 specifically.
In addition to the long-term issues, 2023 has been nothing short of a rocky year. In January, Temple’s graduate student union went on its first-ever strike in school history. The decision promoted then-president Wingard and other administrators to withdraw tuition assistance and cut health benefits to those participating, which the student union remarked as a “union-busting strategy.” One state representative called it “despicable.” Then, not a month later, a Temple police officer was shot and killed after responding to an on-campus school robbery.
While the no-confidence vote is largely symbolic, it places Temple’s leadership in the hot seat and on the national stage. Even so, Morgan has so far kept a steady hand.
“While I respect the right of all faculty to express their view, my role as chair is to consider the best interest of the entire institution, and support its students, faculty and staff in pursuing our mission,” said Morgan. “I intend to continue doing just that.”
Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta believes a possible path forward to help alleviate Temple’s issues is by increasing the number of trustees, effectively increasing staff oversight.
“I think that if we’re going to talk about the challenges Temple is facing, we have to also talk about [board of trustees] Chairman Mitch Morgan and we have to talk about whether or not we as the state, which gives hundreds of millions of dollars to Temple every single year, have a large enough voice in what is happening at this moment and how we can right the ship,” Kenyatta said, according to WHYY.