Not long before the start of classes, Temple’s Board of Trustees introduced the soon-to-be 10th president. Neil Theobald, senior vice president and chief financial officer at Indiana University, is slated to assume the presidency Jan. 1, 2013, releasing Richard M. Englert from his position as acting president.
As students, we must also pledge to form active and open lines of communication with our new president. Theobald said he expects to return to Temple several times between now and January, so he will be ready to, “hit the ground running.” His goal throughout the coming months is to understand what the trustees, faculty, staff, students and community members feel are the most pressing issues. Let’s make sure he’s ready by making our needs known. Then let’s follow through to ensure our needs are met.
This is an exciting time for Temple. We are Big East bound. We are leaders in the crusade for affordable higher education. We are responsible for the changing face of North Broad Street. We have a big year ahead of us and it is up to us to make the most of it. Let’s take this opportunity to tell Theobald what is important to us as students. I’ll take the first initiative.
Just Show Up
Like children at a dance recital, scanning the audience for a familiar face, we notice when you come to see us. When former president Ann Weaver Hart didn’t show up at last year’s Convocation, we noticed. You’ve made a great start by meeting with staff, students and faculty in town-hall style public meetings. But alas, that is only a start.
We want you to be visible, honest and a good listener. Walk around campus and greet students. Show your school spirit by donning a Temple sweatshirt to a football game. Get to know different campus groups, hear them out and be fair. Dr. Theobald, when you make an effort, we notice.
You have offered to make yourself accessible by hosting barbecues and having a visible presence on campus. If you continue to make yourself accessible to us, we will respond.
Be Philly Proud
Here in Philadelphia, we carry around a good deal of pride. Pick up on it and embrace it, consider yourself one of us now. You said you would seek to join the chamber of commerce in order to form a close relationship with the business community. More importantly, you said you would take an active interest in the city’s public schools.
We want to see you stay true to your commitments. We want to know how you will reach out to the city’s public schools. Many of our students already do, perhaps you can speak with them. And now that you’ve chosen to live in Philadelphia, get to know the issues facing our city, particularly those concerning our North Philadelphia community. It will help you understand us.
A big problem last year stemmed from student relations with our North Philadelphia neighbors. This surely won’t be going away. Acknowledge the development, we pass it on our way to class each day. Be realistic in your approach to situations, we want solutions that will actually work.
Stay True to your Roots
Theobald, we heard about your nearly 20 years at Indiana University. When you become our president, remember your role as a professor. You said that eventually you would like to teach a class and that you’re willing to deal with the faculty union. When you do, put yourself in fellow faculty members’ shoes.
Also, remember that you’re becoming a Temple Owl the year we join Big East football. You have already acknowledged that the change of conference will allow us to take advantage of numerous opportunities. Support our cause and guide us as we build our brand in new markets.
Remember your responsibilities as a chief financial officer. We heard about your extensive fundraising career at Indiana and we were listening when you said you want to contain cost and increase financial aid here. We are proud to be the only state-supported university not to raise tuition this year. We hope you continue to make the difficult choices necessary so that we always can have access to higher education. And when you think about financial aid, remember what it meant to you as a father of three adult children. Remember the sacrifices you had to make as a parent, and keep in mind the sacrifices many students and their parents make each year to be able to come here. Remember your role as a first generation college student and the sacrifices your own parents made to provide you with an education. Never lose sight of the importance of affordable, quality higher education and stay committed to your promise of providing it.
Theobald, when you spoke with us, we listened. We passed you a hat during that first meeting — a token of our hospitality — but also a sign that we believe in you. Along with the hat, we pass along the expectation that you will be receptive to our needs, at least by providing a listening ear. Temple has a lot to look forward to in the coming year — I hope a president that will work to create a more open and connected community is one of them.
Bri Bosak can be reached at email@example.com.