Temple University's president resigned Tuesday, after a short and turbulent tenure that was plagued by an increase in crime on campus, a graduate student strike and a lack of confidence among faculty.
Jason Wingard sent a letter to the Temple community last week, addressing concerns about campus safety and declining enrollment. Mitchell Morgan, the chair of Temple's board, announced in a Tuesday statement that the board accepted Mr. Wingard’s resignation.
After thanking Mr. Wingard briefly for his service, Morgan wrote that the board and administration would ensure that these serious issues were given the highest priority.
The board of trustees and Mr. Wingard did not respond immediately to the emails sent on Tuesday evening seeking comment. Friday, he will leave his position as president of the university.
Parents, students, and faculty expressed their frustration at Temple's leadership under Mr. Wingard.
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The University of Pennsylvania has been dealing with the high level of gun violence that exists in Philadelphia. In 2022 there were 516 murders. This is down from the 562 homicides in 2021, but still higher than any other year since 2007, when Philadelphia Police Department began sharing data online.
The high-profile killings that have occurred near the campus only fuelled fears. In February, Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald, a Temple University Police Department officer, was killed in North Philadelphia near the campus. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that in 2021, Samuel Collington was a Temple University student who was killed after an apparent carjacking and robbery near campus.
JNS Protection Services was hired by some parents who were concerned enough about their children's safety to provide security in North Philadelphia, where they walk them to and from school. Jasmine Jackson said the company's founder was concerned that parents would use its services to protect their kids, as they were 'forced to confront the harsh reality' of North Philadelphia and Philadelphia.
Last year, the university expanded its walking escort service to combat an increase in gun violence around campus.
Temple isn't alone in its struggle with off-campus crimes. Similar problems have plagued school administrators in Chicago, Syracuse, N.Y., and Austin, Texas in recent years.
The Temple University Graduate Students' Association's 42-day strike that ended earlier this month, as students demanded better wages and benefits, hampered Mr. Wingard's presidential tenure.
Former president of the Graduate Students' Association Bethany Kosmicki said, "He was mostly absent, as someone who was supposed be a very obvious leader of the University, but seemed to have no presence when we were going though this really important thing."
Under Mr. Wingard, university enrollments also decreased. Temple faculty members said that while college enrollments have fallen nationwide since the pandemic started, the administration has not been transparent about its response.
Danielle Scherer is the vice president of Temple Association of University Professionals' operations. She said that the faculty and staff union had been concerned enough to ask for a vote of confidence against Mr. Wingard in the past month.
She said: 'He appears to miss out on a lot about what an education should do, which is to produce citizens who are concerned about humanist principles. They also need to think of cultivating individuals as something other than just employees.'
Ms. Scherer stated that the faculty at Temple University were concerned by his writings about higher education. These included questions regarding its current value, and adopting technologies which took students out of classrooms.
In an opinion piece published in 2022, Mr. Wingard stated that 'a college education used to be seen as a ticket to success and career advancement. But we now live in a capitalism society and we all know what happens when it comes down money.' The key to maintaining the value of your institution's degree is to ensure that your graduates are able to adapt to any market.
Mr. Wingard had resigned from the union before it could vote. However, its leaders intend to vote no confidence in Mr. Morgan, chair of the trustee board, and Gregory Mandel, Temple University's provost, a law professor.