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Board plans vote to remove President Theobald

This story has been updated to reflect that the Board announced its intent to name Chancellor Richard Englert as Acting President. It also includes the reactions of Temple Student Government President Aron Cowen, TAUP President Art Hochner and Faculty Senate President Michael Sachs.

Temple’s Board of Trustees issued a vote of “no confidence in President Neil Theobald on Tuesday and has scheduled a vote to seek his dismissal at a specially convened meeting on July 21.

Kevin Feeley, a spokesman for the Board, told media today after a Trustees meeting that the expression of no confidence is related to Theobald’s recent firing of former provost Hai-Lung Dai. The Board recently learned Dai is facing allegations of sexual harassment, Feeley added.

Feeley said Dai was removed after two weeks of negotiating a settlement with Theobald — Dai was offered a sabbatical, a deanship and a role in leading Temple’s international affairs program. Feeley said the floundering negotiations “cost [Theobald] the confidence of the Board.”

After the July 21 vote, Chancellor Richard Englert will serve as Acting President a second time for the university while it conducts a search for a new president.

The board has not yet laid out a selection process, said Aron Cowen, president of Temple Student Government. He said the last time the university was searching for a president, TSG was “intimately involved” with the process.

“We could just look at the mechanics [the next] president needs,” Cowen said. “They need to have managing experience, come from an academic environment and be able to balance a budget. But there are other important things too, like what motivates them.”

“Dr. Englert brings a wealth of leadership, knowledge and Temple experience to the post of Acting President,” Board Chairman Patrick O’Connor wrote in an email to the Temple community Tuesday evening. “The Board of Trustees has full confidence that Dr. Englert will ably lead the University in the months ahead with fidelity to its mission of access to excellence.”

“I’ve known Dick for 30 years, so I have some framework for how he works,” said Art Hochner, president of the Temple Association of University Professionals. “But we don’t know what this means to our negotiations.”

TAUP was in the process of negotiating contracts with Dai after adjunct faculty voted to join the union in December 2015.

“I don’t know if this will have any implications on [the negotiations],” he said. “There’s so little information on why this took place.”

Hochner added he was “shocked” when the university lost its top two leaders in such a short amount of time.

“The faculty hasn’t been involved at all,” he said. “These are important people for faculty and students. We were blindsided by the firing and the hiring.”

However, Michael Sachs, president of Temple’s Faculty Senate said the decision to remove Theobald was not the “kind of decision” where faculty would be consulted.

Feeley said the Board has reason to believe Dai and Theobald were close to a settlement, before his ultimate removal. The Board was also not immediately informed of Theobald’s removal of Dai.

The Board has also recently learned that Theobald was aware of the university’s growing financial aid deficit for nearly a year and allowed it to grow from $9 million to $22 million.

“While that’s a lot of money, it’s not a lot compared to the rest of the budget,” Sachs said. “You could make a case that the money was well spent: on good students as financial aid.”

Feeley said Theobald acknowledged he “failed to inform the Board about the problem and the steps being taken to correct it,” which, he originally proposed, was a plan for a tuition surcharge to juniors and seniors of $1,000.

Feeley said the university has no plans to raise tuition for juniors and seniors.

After concerns were presented by the Board to Theobald in a meeting last week, Theobald was offered a chance to resign. He “refused” the offer, Feeley said.

“The Board feels it has no choice but to seek his dismissal and it will pursue that,” Feeley added.

Feeley said Theobald alleged his dismissal stems from his refusal to cover up sexual harassment allegations against Dai. The Board is recently aware of the allegations, Feeley said, and is creating a committee to investigate them.

Dai remains a tenured professor in the Chemistry department.

Neither Theobald nor his office could immediately be reached for comment.

Prior to the announcement, the Board approved Theobald’s choice of JoAnne Epps as provost.

Gillian McGoldrick and Paige Gross can be reached at news@temple-news.com or on Twitter @TheTempleNews.

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