After a brief and turbulent tenure that was marred by worsening crime around campus, a strike by graduate students, and a loss of confidence in his leadership among some faculty, the president of Temple University in Philadelphia resigned on Tuesday. His resignation came after a brief but eventful tenure.
In 2021, Jason Wingard became the first Black person to serve as the president of Temple University. This week, he released a letter to the school community in which he addressed concerns over campus safety and the university’s declining enrollment. His reassurances, on the other hand, were rendered meaningless when the head of the board of trustees of the institution, Mitchell Morgan, said in a statement on Tuesday that the board had accepted Mr. Wingard’s resignation from his position.
After quickly expressing his gratitude to Mr. Wingard for his service, Mr. Morgan then sent the following in an email: “With the important challenges currently confronting the institution, notably campus safety, the board and the administration will assure the greatest degree of concentration on these severe issues.”
On Tuesday night, neither Mr. Wingard nor the board of trustees quickly responded to emails requesting a response. On Friday, he will step down from his position as president of the institution.
The precipitous decline of Mr. Wingard occurred as a direct result of parents, students, and staff members expressing their dissatisfaction with Temple while he was in charge.
The excessively high rate of gun violence in Philadelphia has been a challenge for the institution. There were 516 murders in 2022, which is lower than the number of killings that occurred in 2021 (562), but it is still greater than the number of homicides that occurred in any previous year dating back to 2007, when the Philadelphia Police Department began releasing statistics on its website.
Fears have only been amplified as a result of recent high-profile homicides in the area. During the month of February, Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald, who worked for the Temple University Police Department, was fatally shot in North Philadelphia, close to the university campus. According to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer from the year 2021, a student at Temple named Samuel Collington was murdered close to the school’s campus following an alleged robbery and carjacking.
Some parents were so concerned about the safety of their children that they hired JNS Security Services, a private security firm, to patrol the areas of North Philadelphia through which their children go to and from school. According to Jasmine Jackson, the creator of the organisation, the parents who employed its services were in a desperate attempt to safeguard their children, who “had to confront the harsh realities of North Philly, and Philadelphia in general, with gunshots, and robberies.”
In a response to the increase in gun violence that has occurred in the area around the university in recent years, the university now operates a nightly shuttle service and has extended its walking escort programme.
Off-campus violence is a problem at many metropolitan universities, not only Temple University. In recent years, school administrators in Chicago, Syracuse, New York, and Austin, Texas have dealt with situations that are quite similar to one another.
The strike that was initiated by the Temple University Graduate Students’ Union earlier this month and continued for a total of 42 days was a hindrance to Mr. Wingard’s presidency. The students went on strike in order to demand more pay and perks.
Bethany Kosmicki, a former president of the graduate students’ association, commented on how “he was largely absent as somebody who was supposed to be a very clear leader of the university but seemingly had no presence while we were going through this really significant thing.” “He seemed to have no presence while we were going through this really significant thing,” she said.
The number of students enrolled in universities fell when Mr. Wingard was in charge. Even though the number of students enrolling in college has decreased throughout the country since the epidemic started, educators at Temple say the administration has not been clear about how it would react.
According to Danielle Scherer, vice president of operations for the Temple Association of University Professionals, the faculty and staff union was worried enough to seek for a vote of no confidence in Mr. Wingard earlier this month.
According to Ms. Scherer, the teaching staff at Temple University were worried by his writing about higher education, which included calling into doubt the purpose of higher education at the present time and advocating for the use of technology that removed students from the classroom.
Mr. Wingard quit before the union could have a vote, but the leaders of the union still want to cast a vote of no confidence on Mr. Morgan, the head of the board of trustees, and on Gregory Mandel, who is both the provost of Temple University and a law professor there.