Last month, associate computer science professor Paul LaFollette and law professor Mark Rahdert publicly voiced their opinions about arguably the most pressing issue facing Temple right now.
Each longtime faculty member wrote articles in the Faculty Herald—a monthly publication for university faculty members—that called for more open discussion from the Board of Trustees and administration.
Their concerns are with the university’s proposed $126 million, 35,000-seat football stadium, a topic that has been of major interest to the university community for several months.
LaFollette, who became editor of the Herald in July 2014, believes the university has already made a decision concerning the proposal.
“It’s becoming more and more obvious that this is going to happen,” he said. “There has been very little interaction with the faculty, on the part of administration, about this.”
LaFollette’s front-page article from last month, “The Ethics of Encephalopathic Roulette,” focuses on the dangers of concussions in football, and asks university officials to further discuss the consequences of head injuries before continuing on with stadium talks.
He wrote another article recalling the Faculty Senate’s decision to vote for the elimination of the football program altogether. The piece notes the football program’s struggles during the 1980s, and the faculty strike in 1990, as a few reasons why in May 1991, the Senate voted 73-5 to end Temple’s football program if the department could not “diminish the program’s recurring deficits.”
“The faculty has never been enthusiastic about putting money into sports at Temple,” he said. “And they were particularly not enthusiastic at that time … the climate at that point was largely that we were in financial trouble, and the faculty felt that money spent on expensive sports like football was not being as well-spent if it were spent on more academically-orientated things.”
LaFollette also published a Q&A with Church of the Advocate Rev. Renee McKenzie about the stadium. McKenzie told LaFollette that “she has never seen people on the west side of Broad Street, in this area, to be so incensed.”
“I knew there was uncomfort in the community about the increasing student presence, but I had not heard it expressed that strongly,” LaFollette said.
Rahdert, a professor who has taught in the Beasley School of Law for more than 30 years, said university officials need to review the football program’s history before coming to an ultimate decision.
“There have been attempts in the past to elevate football at Temple to the college big-time,” he said. “The efforts in the past were not successful, and costly to the school … we may roll out a big plan and it may not work.”
Rahdert’s article, “Show Us the Numbers,” calls on administration to be more transparent about how the stadium proposal’s $126 million price tag was reached, along with projected stadium revenue.
He said that the university has to be aware of the opportunity costs of building an on-campus stadium.
“When a school is historically a resource-poor institution, we have to be careful with how we spend our dollars,” Rahdert said.
Faculty Senate President Tricia Jones said she was initially against the stadium proposal when it became news in late October. She added that as discussions have continued, she has become more open-minded.
Jones said President Theobald answered numerous questions about the stadium at the Faculty Senate meeting March 23. She added that former mayor and adjunct professor John Street was also at the meeting, and supported the administration for its ongoing discussion.
An issue forcing the university to make a decision, Jones said, is its current lease agreement at Lincoln Financial Field. President Theobald told The Temple News in February that the Eagles have “made it clear” they would not be willing to decrease the price of the lease.
“If the lease ends now and we don’t build a stadium, what do we do?” Jones said.
Jones, Rahdert and LaFollette all said polarized views from those for and against the stadium have created difficulties with having a constructive dialogue about the issue.
“It would be better if people sat down and talked to each other than if they simply sat down and talked to themselves,” LaFollette said. “It can often be like the MSNBC crowd talking to themselves, and the Fox News crowd talking to themselves, and not much conversation between them.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.