TTN: We’ll start at your beginning at Temple. You spent 15 years at Wayne State University, in Detroit, and were a major catalyst there to chance that university. It holds some similarities with Temple, being an urban public school, but of course there are many differences from that university and this one. So, if you could tell us what did you think you inherited, what did you pick up and where did you want to go?
The two institutions are similar in some respects but significantly dissimilar in others. And I’ll try to focus on what’s special about Temple. In the late 90s, the decision was made at Temple to begin developing residential life and Wayne State was then and continues to be a commuter school for … students. In 2000 we opened 1300, which is the last of the Temple owned dormitories. We now accommodate 3,800 students in the university dormitories. I made a decision that we must continue to build the residential life at Temple, but that Temple should not be building more dormitories. I did not want us to use our credit in the bond market for dormitory buildings, because we need that credit for educational buildings. But secondly, I thought that we could stimulate considerable economic growth in a very tough area of Philadelphia if we could get private developers interested in this area. And so, you know the rest of the history.
We started with the Kardon building, and we land leased that to Philadelphia management. They redid it as loft apartments and it was a very good success. We then leased them the Atlantic Terminal Building on the same basis. The next step was that when the Health System closed the Elmira Jeffries Nursing Home, we purchased it, and land leased it, once again, to Philadelphia management. The next step was, with the help of public officials in the city, who, incidentally, have been very helpful to Temple, we acquired all of the land south of Kardon and Atlantic Terminal, and we offered to land lease that to a company called Titan, which is a national firm that builds student housing in several parts of the United States. They have put up, as you know, about 740 beds, or 750 there, and the next step was one of our neighboring community development corporations, Beech Interplex, developed all of the townhouses on 15th Street from Cecil B. Moore Avenue to just north of Jefferson Street, just to the edge of Elmira Jefferies. That’s a $108 million investment in one of the most desolate areas of North Philadelphia without a single tax incentive from the city or the state, and without a single dollar invested by the university. That’s a great story; it’s a story about how we’ve stimulated growth in this area. Now, of course, there’s this new development on the corner of Cecil B. Moore and Broad Street that’s going up. That is a work for which Councilman Darrell Clarke can take credit. The city had owned that land, they had attempted to develop it previously, which had fallen through. Councilman Clarke worked very hard to get another developer to come in there and, as you know there will be seven movie theaters, three commercial spaces and the part of the project that you can see so visibly is to be what we think at this time is a nine story tower with additional student housing. And the truth of the matter is that project would not have taken off without the student housing component. That’s the one part that financial agencies are sure is going to be good financially. We’re not sure about the movie theaters or commercial spaces.
TTN: Do you feel a responsibility to provide university housing that is cheaper than private developers provide?
I think there are some price differentials, there’s no doubt about that, but the price differentials occur principally in the fact of having to take a 12 month lease, and some differences in computer hook-ups and some things of that sort. But no, I don’t feel any responsibility for housing, what I feel is a responsibility to provide an education. We have more 18-year-olds than we’ve ever had in the history of the country. We’re in the second echo of the famous baby boom of the 1960s. The net result is, and in addition to having more 18-year-olds, we have a higher percentage who feels that they should go to college because without education economic prospects in this society are not as good. Temple is a public university. Temple is a public university, always keep that in mind. And our obligation, unlike the obligation of the 82 private universities in this area, is to provide education for as many of our citizens as we can. So, if those citizens want to live around the campus, that’s their choice. If they want to live at home or in less expensive dwellings around the city, that’s their choice. Since 2000, all of the buildings built have been based upon the assumption that there’s a market. When there stops being a market, those landlords are going to lose their shirts. So students can live wherever they want to go and I don’t feel an obligation to control prices on housing. I do feel a strong obligation to make education affordable. Also, to preserve the quality of education that students here are getting.
TTN: With that you’re correct in the assumption that Temple feeds a lot of money into the economy for development in the area – to the tune of billions of dollars – in a once blighted section of Philadelphia. Temple is not yet comparable to University City, where there have been a lot of charges of gentrification and displacing residents. Of course with this revitalization there are growing pains. How do you combat the concerns of city residents, whether it’s parking, housing, noise and that of your commitment to the university?
Let’s begin by clearly stating that this is not West Philadelphia. Fifty percent of the structures and parcels in this area were vacant in 2000. So there’s a lot of land and some of it has been filled in by the arrival of students, but not a lot of it. Secondly, unlike West Philadelphia, we do not have housing stock that is desirable for middle class families. There are wonderful big older houses in West Philadelphia that faculty, staff and people who want to live in a college environment have bought up and converted. Here we have almost all very modest townhouses built for working class people many years ago. Literally, a century ago. So we’re not going to become West Philadelphia and we have no desire to do that. Temple, in the five years I’ve been here, has not purchased the home of or displaced a single resident. We are not in the displacement of residents business. And our expansion has all been without any cost to any resident in this neighborhood – without the cost of their house. Cap control, which is a concern of ours, is that the market for student housing has created a reevaluation of the land in this area. And consequently, there are two phenomena happening. People who have lived in this neighborhood for a very long time in modest homes can now sell those homes at a premium, and some of them are doing that. Wherein the alternative they’re beginning to rent to students. Both of those change the character of the neighborhood. Just as I can’t control the student housing market I can’t control what the residents choose to do. You know the poor have the right to be capitalists as well as the rich. And what we’re seeing in this neighborhood is a lot of poor people behaving like capitalists, and that’s just swell, and I want to see them do the best that they can. The other thing that has happened, however, is that the presence of Temple students has greatly improved this neighborhood in a variety of ways. We have more students volunteering to tutor school children in the Norris homes than we have school children in the Norris homes. We also have the proof of young people that are tutoring at St. Malakies Church. We had a group of students, with Jason Riley, the head of [community service] had crews out shoveling the sidewalks of the elderly residents last year. We have neighborhood park cleanups, land cleanups in the vacant lots once or twice a year. But, in addition, the volume of students moving around on the streets now has greatly increased the amount of safety and reduced the amount of crime. We know this to be true, anytime that areas are vacant of people crime occurs; when there are lots of people around, criminals are less likely to [commit crimes]. You’re all very accustomed, because you’re here at night, to the stadium lighting. On the side streets, we are now offering, block by block, to put up stadium lighting if the residents of the block want it so that their streets are becoming steadily safer through high lighting. Finally, of course, because we are a university, under Pennsylvania state law, we have jurisdiction, our police are a fully commissioned police force. All of them go through the academy, all of them have arrest powers, they all carry weapons, we have jurisdiction 500 yards off of the campus. And our police now are able to patrol and to respond to calls from the neighborhood, so that we have introduced considerable additional safety. You also mentioned the big downside, which is parking, and you didn’t mention the second downside, which is noise.
To go back to the predicate of your question, in West Philadelphia, all of the neighborhoods are zoned and posted parking, which means if you don’t have a permit, you can’t park on the streets. The residents here have rejected that, for their own reasons. And the university is without the authority to tell students not to park on the streets. So our students, and some of our staff, park on the streets, and it is a nuisance to the residents. It is particularly bad in the relatively small, yet nonetheless disturbing instances where faculty or staff or students are so inconsiderate that they park halfway across and block a driveway. In that case, we issue tickets. … Those instances, to me, are incomprehensible and also intolerable. Parking on the streets, I can understand. I may not like it, but they’re public streets. And until they are posted, they’ll have the right to park there. That’s the biggest problem we got. Noise is another problem. The nocturnal habits of undergraduates are incomprehensible; at least they are as you get older. And our residents are mostly elderly people. Noisy parties, or just a lot of noise in the street, are trouble. They are a really goodhearted group of people, almost all of them have children or grandchildren, and we get very few noise complaints. And they’re only when the parties are really big, or really out of control, or somebody has done something so silly like the police report today with people throwing water balloons off of the roof onto passersby. But on the whole the neighbors have been exceedingly tolerant and even accommodating to the Temple students. These neighbors are really pretty wonderful people, and we always try to reach out to them. We consulted them when we land-leased, we talked to them at community meetings before move-in at the dormitories so we can figure out how to re-route traffic. We help the lives of the residents. And as we have done this, they have become more and more helpful to the university and tell us how we can do better. Their problems are not severe, and a little more thoughtfulness from Temple students and staff would improve relations. We have to remember that we’re visitors here.
TTN: You spoke of the housing issue; with so many more students coming do you notice a lack of university resources such as shuttles, computers, etc.?
We’re at the point where we’re not increasing the size of the freshman class by more than a handful each year. There were some years when the growth was great. Temple has about reached its capacity. I regret that, because the increase in the number of high school graduates will continue for another few years. We’re the big public university in Philadelphia, and for many disciplines, the only public university in Philadelphia. And our tuition is a third of the tuition at private institutions. And I regret that we can’t accommodate any more students, because I think that our function is to provide education. Our freshman class this year, we have some late registrants and folks from the area stricken by Katrina, the freshman class this year is less than 100 students larger than last year. The current number is 4,055. That also includes people who enrolled last year but completed fewer than 15 credit hours, so they still have freshman status. There have been some lines in Tuttleman, and some of the computer labs are pretty jammed up. Yes, that is an issue at selected times of the day, and for selected equipment. In January we’ll open the new TECH Center, which you know as the Bell Building. It will have 700 computer stations. It will have the full array of equipment. We will now have a rule that any specialized academic software purchased by any department of the university, modeling software in the Fox School of Business, or graphic software in the Tyler School of Art, or statistical package from the college of liberal arts and social sciences, they must also take a site license for the TECH Center. The TECH Center will be open 24 hours a day, for sure five days a week, we’ll see whether we have to keep it open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That will give us great additional access. A student will be able to go there and write a paper on Word, do a statistical computation on SPSS and so forth. We’re addressing that. Other shortages are not so apparent. The issue with the bus service, actually, is that students who are avoiding paying SEPTA fares. We have plenty of bus service to get people to the campus, but at the Best Western down on the Parkway, what we’re discovering is a lot of people who get on board who actually don’t live at the Best Western but live in the apartments around. So we have a little free riding going on. I don’t mind that, we may have to increase the service, but yes, we’ve had some very crowded buses. We’ll have some more of that this year, with a number of our courses moving to Temple University Center City during the day. We’ll knock down Curtis Hall in January to make way for the Fox Business School. So during construction of the Fox Business School, which when it’s built will have lots of classroom space, we will have some classes relocated to TUCC.
TTN: Although we are slowly increasing or not increasing in student body population, why did you feel it was important to bring Tyler School of Art to Main Campus and how are we going to accommodate it?
President Liacouras had made the decision to do that before I came here. Now, nothing was done to do that, but I’ll let Peter off of the hook and take responsibility for the decision myself. I think it is a very serious mistake to locate a nationally renowned art school at a remote location where students are isolated, since most artists are not removed from the society of which they are a part. … So as an educational matter, I think this is absolutely vitally important to the education of the Tyler students and the general Temple student body. I believe most Temple students have no idea what a gem Tyler is. It is a very well regarded national art school. And the appointment of Keith Morrison, a well-known painter and printmaker, as dean, gives us a real shot of energy at Tyler. That’s one reason. The other reason, however, is the concentration of the arts has moved significantly into the City of Philadelphia. The Northern Liberties is housing a great many artists’ lofts. And I think it’s important for Tyler students not to be out in Elkins Park, but to be where the action is in the arts – right in metropolitan Philadelphia. …
TTN: Although capacity may have been reached, how is recruitment changing?
You should ask your question to Governor Rendell. The question is why isn’t the capacity rising. Why is the higher education budget for Temple smaller than it was in 2002, at a time when there are more young people trying to get an education than ever before? I don’t like to keep students out at all. At Wayne State, every student with a C got in. Whether they flunked out, that was between themselves and their professors. But we don’t have the capacity. We have fewer appropriations dollars than we had four years ago. We’ve tried to be a good citizen of the commonwealth by admitting more and more students so that we’re making educational opportunities for young people. The rising SAT is not something I’m doing, I no longer have to take the SAT. It is that the pool itself is larger, and a very strong mix because of Temple’s attractiveness of students with strong credentials. And I don’t know what the alternative criteria would be if we didn’t base it on credentials. We could run a lottery and take 17,000 applications and admit the 4,000 that turned up. I don’t think you’d like that any better. Of course the next editor would be less smart than you and wouldn’t write an editorial. But you would say that was utterly capricious, if I said that was how I was going do it. At TSG they said why don’t you limit it to students in Philadelphia? You see what the agenda was there. And the answer is straightforward, we’re a commonwealth university. It’s not the people in Philadelphia that pay the taxes for this place, it’s the people of the commonwealth, including people from Wilkes-Barre, Allentown, Lancaster, all of these communities where students are flooding in here that never came to Temple before.
TTN: How much do you value Russell Conwell’s vision of accepting “diamonds in the rough” from Philadelphia?
Well, uh … look, there are different answers to that question; it’s a loaded question, which, of course, is perfectly permissible. Conwell, never said they should be from Philadelphia. It happened he ran a small church school, and the people who came were from Philadelphia. And Conwell never said that you should compromise your standards to take students. He was, if anything, ruthlessly, meritocratic? And if you read Acres of Diamonds which almost nobody does anymore it is a defense of the 1890s capitalist system in America, in which he lashes out at the press for its criticism of the rich barons like Carnegie and Rockefeller. So, read it. You’ll be shocked. In fact, read the version in which I wrote an introduction, and in which I was shocked. The idea of access, however, is very much part of what public universities in this country do, and the limits on access are limits of resources. And limits on resources are of two kinds. One is, I’ve already talked about, resources from the state. The other however, is the resource to be able to go on successfully. And, here are the numbers, like it or not. In the city, in the United States, the average SAT score is 1026.We don’t have a board … because when I do this with alumni, who ask me this question, I always write it on the board so they don’t forget. The average SAT score in the state of Pennsylvania is 1002. … I thought it was up one or two.
Adam Michaels [Executive Assistant to the president]: “I think the average in Pennsylvania is 1004 or 1005.”
-Yeah, something like that. The average in the Detroit Public schools is … fill in the blank, those of you who are asking me this question … about 850. Oh, Philadelphia public schools. About 850. That includes all the schools. The five magnet schools have SAT scores about 1050. So, pretty good. And we admit, 25 percent of all the graduates of Central High School. No, we enroll 25 percent, we admit a lot more. Of all the graduates of Central High School. And we conduct interviews in every Philadelphia school that will let us in. Searching for students who we think can make it here. Moreover, whereas there are about 104,000 or some number like that, of test-takers in the commonwealth … 104,000 and although Philadelphia is a city of a million and a half, so I don’t know what percentage it is of the state’s population, it’s a pretty big percentage, only 6,000 students in the city of Philadelphia take the SATs.
Adam Michaels: “About 13 percent of all the public school students in Pennsylvania are in Philadelphia, and only 6 percent of the SAT takers.”
-There you go. So, you know, it’s hard to admit students who have almost no prospects for success. It’s hard to admit students them if they don’t take the SATs so they can be admitted, even though we recruit very heavily in the city. Now, there’s one other difference between the present time and the time that Russell Conwell founded this place in the 1880s … which is there are community colleges. And students can go to community college and any student with a C average or higher in community college who takes the core-de-core curriculum, takes the Gen-Ed program in effect, can transfer to Temple. They are automatically in. And, so we do make a second chance for every student who can’t get in because they are not competitive in the freshmen pool. Temple does a better job of this than any other university in Pennsylvania. And, I’m glad that people are fussing that we should do more because I agree with that. But, as I said, that’s a matter for public officials, not for me.
TTN: What lead you to come to Temple, and if you have any idea at this moment in time, can you predict how long you will stay?
Well …yep, that’s right. Well, I had served; I’ll give you the short answer here. I had served at Wayne State for 15 and a half years. I liked being a college president, it’s hard work, it’s long days, it’s a lot of annoyances like student editors, and it’s all kinds of good stuff. But, it’s stimulating work. And, you get the privilege of working with a lot of bright people. University faculties are smart people, they work on a lot of stuff, and almost all of it is interesting. Students are lively; they reflect what the worlds going to be like in the future. And, they’re interesting to work around, because they have a very different perspective. About 15 and a half years at the same institution is about enough. And, quite frankly, I was tired. The job, these jobs are … they’re full time work. And so you spend a lot of hours, and you worry about a lot of stuff, and I needed a break, so I retired. And I had a year’s sabbatical, and before I could return to teaching, as you know, the state of Michigan stepped in and took over the Detroit public schools. A great idea, except they didn’t have anybody to run the schools for a year while I went out and recruited nationally … to get educators. So I became the receiver and bankruptcy for the Detroit Public Schools to help it straighten out it’s finances and negotiate 17 labor contracts, rehabilitate school buildings, the most recent building had built in 1973/1974, and the buildings were in wretched shape, and to try to bring some order to a disaster. And, so it was clear to me that I was still capable of working a long day … I knew Temple because I had been the chairman of the accreting team here in 1989 and I had made friends on the Temple campus and had stayed in touch. I’ve got to say I was astonished when the search firm came to me and said ‘you’re on a short list at Temple.’ I’d never been on the long list, so how do you get to be on the short list? They run a very unconventional search, and they just simply identified a bunch of people in the country, a bunch being about two dozen, that they thought would be good for Temple. I don’t know how many of the two dozen were interested; I know some were not because they had other situations. I was very reluctant. I was a little old to be college president again and … but I did like Temple, and I enjoyed the work. I was very impressed by … when the search firm finally persuaded me to come in and meet the search committee; I was very impressed by the quality of the trustees that I met. The student member of the committee, who was the president of Temple Student Government, was absolutely outstanding. And, the alumni representatives and the administrative representatives were really great people. So, I thought you know, this is a really good way to put to work 15 years of experience that I have, at an institution similar, but not the same, to the one I had left. And, it’s been great thing. I’ve enjoyed it a lot. I don’t know about anybody else. But, I like Temple, and I like what it does, and it’s been a lot of fun. Well, that’s not true! The staff may not be having a lot of fun, but I’m having a lot of fun!
TTN: Just about when everyone in the media turned their back on John Chaney, you remained by him. How difficult was that decision?
Yep. Well, it wasn’t a difficult decision. The crazy people who wrote to me, it was difficult to remain civil in my responses. But, you’ve got to remember, this is a man whose devoted 20 years to this institution, has been a great mentor to students in the basketball program. Has been a big supporter of Temple, no matter what you ask John to do, on behalf of the university, go out and give a talk, meet with alumni … whatever you ask him to do, he does. He’s allowed the university to develop a scholarship endowment in his name, which as you can imagine, is a pretty popular cause. And, we’re close to having raised the endowment funds now. And he’s been …on critical issues, like the academic performance of student athletes … he’s been a wonderful example. I won’t, I won’t say who the players were because I don’t want to embarrass anybody, but I went to a game, three years ago, and somebody that normally played …got some time in … a fair bit of time actually, sat on the bench. And, I finally turned to the athletic director, I said, what’s going on, you got an injury over there, and he said ‘well, the guy didn’t go to class on Monday, and the coach has got him on the bench.’ You, you tell me where in intercollegiate athletics in this country we have that kind of integrity. And, the guy made a horrible mistake, and he admitted that he made a mistake, and he accepted a suspension without fussing, without accusing anybody of anything, even without frowning about it. I, I’m not, you know I … I believe in redemption of human beings, and John had earned the right to have a chance to redeem himself. So, I, for me, it was absolutely a no-brainer. I mean I just … it’s easy decision to make. Look at the record. The man is remorseful about a serious mistake he made, and based on the record and his genuine remorse… great.
TTN: Has he mentioned anything to you about how much longer his stay is going to be? I don’t what your level of communication with him is, but …
I’m not sure how long he’ll want to stay. You know that’s a decision still to be made. He’s older than I am, and I know I’m tired at the end of the day. So, I don’t know how John is doing. And, and I think it’s a more general matter, and quite frankly, here I think that … not you guys but the press in this country has taken to hounding people who make mistakes. We don’t. … We’ve got to get over the idea that public officials, public figures, whoever, are perfect. Nobody is perfect. The only difference is that some people get caught with their imperfections, and some don’t. And, this idea of hounding people vengefully, as the media in this country now does, is driving out of public office a lot of good people. Somebody ought to go back and read the biographies of the founding fathers. They had some pretty shady business deals, illegitimate children, all kinds of personal flaws. But, they built a great country, and I think that this idea of running lynch mobs in the media about public figures is a huge mistake. And, we ought to get over it. Of course now, we’re at the point where people don’t pay any attention to it. It’s still a bad business, and I was not going to let 500 vitriolic emails drive John Chaney out of Temple University.
TTN: Before we were talking about the student population and how it’s sort of reached capacity, according to some stats. From 95-96, the white population at Temple was 48 percent. It has now increased to about 60 percent. How is the university maintaining diversity?
It is still one of the most diverse campuses in the nation, that’s how we’re taking it into account. But, it’s important to remember, and what I guess I should say, is that the percentage of minority students this year is larger than it was last year. The entering freshmen class, the percentage of minority students … larger this year than last year. It is true that depending what your starting point is, you can see a decline in the percentage of minority students. That doesn’t have anything to do with the number of minority students, the number of minority students is higher, but the percentage is lower. The institution is much larger than it was. The population of the city, as you well know, hasn’t grown much. And, the, you have to remember, that the number of students in the schools who are most… the minority youngsters are educated, the SAT scores are not competitive. And, moreover, the dropout rate is 50 percent. So, percentages are a dangerous thing. What we’re concerned about is whether we’re providing access for good numbers of minority students. Of the 10 universities in the United States from which African Americans earn their bachelors degrees, there are eight historically black colleges and universities, and Temple, and one other. I think that’s the, that’s the record. Oh, we’re in the top five? Good. But, it’s an absolutely wonderful record of access to minority students. And people who throw around percentages forget that as the population has grown, there are a lot of folks coming from Lancaster to Temple, and not many black men and women from Lancaster. So, it has to do with growth. And, with the percentages, people who look at the numbers, we’re doing very well in the numbers, but it is true that the white population of the United States has grown more rapidly than the African American population.
TTN: Are you doing anything to admit and attract more minorities?
We sure are. We’re not only in all the high schools, but we’ve attended more college fairs this year, principally, aimed at African American students up and down the East Coast than we ever have in the past, ditto for Latino students. And I want to tell you that one of the most important efforts made to recruit African American students this year was made not by us, but by our students. The Temple Student Government diversity committee put together phone banks of African American students on the campus to call the admitted African American students to tell them it’s a really good place to come. They set up booths to talk about the environment here, what I think is a wonderfully diverse and accepting environment at Temple, at each of the open houses for students thinking about applying to Temple, and of course in this day and age, you can do remarkable things. They had an Internet chat session for a whole evening in which admitted students could ask questions about the place and get answers from upper classmen and get answers with no monitoring interference or anything from the administration of the university. People want to go where they’re comfortable. And the testimony that our students can give about what comfortable place that Temple is for minority students is the very best recruitment device we have. And I give a lot of credit to TSG and its leadership for pitching in to do this.
Well, we have a new Latino recruiter last year and a new African American recruiter but I don’t think that the color of the recruiter is as important as the environment in the institution. So yeah, we made a big effort, but I want to go back and focus. … Percentages are not a good basis for things, what you really want to know is whether the numbers are growing, and whether the proportion of eligible students is strong. But, if you have a 50 percent drop-out rate in the Philadelphia public schools, mostly in the predominantly African American schools. So it’s very tough to recruit if the public schools falter. Now, Paul Vallas? Is on the right track. For years, for years, the neighborhood schools did not have advanced placement courses. Talk about a little elitism in society, there were advanced placement courses in the magnet schools, but not in the neighborhood schools. Paul’s now made a commitment that there will be advanced placement courses in every one of the neighborhood schools, and hopefully a full array of advanced placement courses, so the bright kids who are in the neighborhood schools for whatever reason are going to have a chance to do college prep work. That would be a big help.
TTN: You mentioned praising Temple Student Government for its increased diversity efforts, but also that your efforts to involve them in decision-making on campus, including writing them an open letter, have been largely ignored. How has TSG involvement been during your tenure here?
Well, it’s like a great many things; it depends on the quality of leadership. It goes up and down from year to year. And I don’t have any influence over who the leadership is, but every year I pray for strong and effective leaders in the Temple Student Government, because this administration has made enormous opportunities … we don’t set up any task forces or committees that we don’t put students on. Every single dean search that we’ve conducted, can’t even remember how many about 8, have had representatives of the student body, in the college… some of those students, I attend many of the meetings, some of those students have been simply extraordinary. They ask tough questions, bring a student perspective to what the dean needs to do to work with the students to make great educational opportunity. In other searches, the student representative is MIA. Can’t find them. They don’t come to the meetings. Well, you don’t get a student perspective if the students are not present. This year, as a result of collective bargaining, which your paper mishandled, though I don’t hold you accountable for that, this year, for the very first time, there’ll be two student representatives on the university-wide committee on promotion and tenure. And I hope they’re good. Because they should be asking questions about the effectiveness of people in teaching. Before we start giving people tenure, which guarantees them work for the rest of their lifetime. And that’s why I want student members, so that they’ll ask very tough questions about whether these are good teachers. And every one of the seventeen school and college committees recommending promotions and tenure will have a student representative. And, so we’ve got a real challenge to recruit the kinds of assertive and sharp students who will make sure that these deliberative processes by the faculty and administration are keeping a focus on the quality of teaching. So there’s a , I mean, it’s not only that there’s a role that they’ve played and that I’ve tried to get them on task forces and to participate over the years, it’s that this year we’ve expanded the role significantly. Students will help us decide who gets to remain in the Temple faculty. That’s a real challenge to students, and I haven’t worked with this Temple Student Government, so I don’t know how well they’re going to do. You don’t get bad advice from students, usually. That’s what I’ve discovered. They’re just like the rest of us they sometimes have got it screwed up, but about 80 percent of the time, you get very smart advice if students know that they’re full participants, and their opinions are going to be taken seriously.
TTN: What’s your favorite meal at J&H?
My favorite meal? [Laughter]. Well, there’s certainly a lot of them I don’t like. As you can tell, I don’t eat many starches or much fried food. I have to be small enough so I can run away fast. I generally eat salads, if you want to know.
Adam Michaels: “I’ve seen the president have a hot dog or two.”
Yes, I’ve had a hot dog, never a bun, that’s right. And with mustard, rather than ketchup, because mustard has no sugar.
TTN: Are you on the Atkins diet?
No, no. And I find that the Sloppy Joes are good up there, but they’re pretty filled up with stuff I don’t want to be eating. Once in a while, I break down. Then I have to go to the gym twice instead of once. Yes, I like ice cream. My uncle ran an ice cream parlor. I like cookies. I don’t eat much of any of those things.
TTN: How accessible do you feel that you are to the student body?
Look, there are about three generations between the average student and me. Most of them have about as little interest in the president of the university as they could have. The best relationship that I’ve had with students is when I’ve been able to teach classes. And I have periodically taught the class on the Supreme Court in the political science department, and then I get to know a group of undergraduates reasonably well. A lot of the artificial barriers of rank and age disappear in that circumstance. So that’s been very rewarding. Adam and I are jointly accessible to students, because as almost every incoming student knows, my e-mail is email@example.com. Now, everybody else, you can write them by their name, but my name is utterly incomprehensible to students so, if they can’t write ‘president’ we’re in pretty bad shape. We do get two, three, four e-mails a day … often there are complaints about bad service someplace in the university, or inquiries for help, and we try to make sure that people get good answers. Sometimes, we get opinions from students in that way. I wander around, in addition to going to Johnson and Hardwick, I wander around the campus, at least on the decent days, and people can stop to talk to me. They do it often. I try to have all the student leaders in for dinner twice a year at the Liacouras Center … and after dinner has been served, we just have open forum to take questions and students can ask any questions they want and, as in the case of you, I’m pretty direct about giving answers to things. So my interactions with students are … good, I think. But I don’t make the mistake of thinking that I can have some relationship with each of the 34,000 students on the campus. Nor do I make the mistake in thinking that I am a particularly interesting personality to them. I am as old as their grandparents in most cases, and they are living with their contemporaries. And so I don’t intrude myself on students, either.
TTN: You talked briefly about the Fox School of Business there, and that you have a relationship with them. What are the plans for the business school for the next couple of years? Obviously, they do get a lot of land space on campus, they get a lot of donations from alumni and a lot of money from the university … where do you feel they are going in the next couple of years and do you think they sometimes get preferential treatment over other colleges in the university?
No. They don’t get preferential treatment. We know that the business school is the second highest enrolling college for majors. The order of total enrollments is liberal arts, followed by science and technology, followed by business. But that’s because of the Gen-Ed courses. But, in terms of majors, the business school is the second largest at Temple. They have very crowded facilities. And they are going to get a new building. Which is being paid for, roughly, a third by the state, a third by Temple and a third by Fox School fundraising. It’ll be a great facility; it’s going to go where Curtis Hall now is, between the present Speakman and Curtis halls. And it will provide, in addition to classrooms and gathering spaces and faculty offices, it will also provide general classrooms for Temple students because we’re short of classroom space at our present size. There’s a tugging and a hauling that goes on in the university, in all our programs, not just the Fox School, which is the tension between the desire of the schools and colleges to admit to their programs only the best students on the campus. In my belief any student we admit, who maintains good academic standing, has a right to enroll in any college. They don’t have a right to succeed, they have a right to enroll. And this is a source of tension between the deans and the administration of the university. They all want to chase rankings, and one way to do it is to have a high-end student body. But I think once we’ve made a commitment to a student by admitting them, if that student is in good standing, they have the right to enroll wherever they want to enroll. So there’s a certain amount of tension. But, I think the Fox School, if it does its work well, has the opportunity to emerge as the leading business school in this region that serves the region. It will never be Wharton, and quite frankly, considering that we are a Philadelphia-based institution, I’m not eager for them to be Wharton because, nobody from Wharton stays in Philadelphia anymore. I’m very interested in how the fifth largest metropolitan area in the United States becomes – remains – a vibrant economic and cultural center. That means you need college-educated people. We are as large as Penn and Drexel put together, and you could probably throw in Haverford and Swarthmore, and still not be as big. Moreover, one out of every eight college-educated people in the whole Philadelphia metropolitan area, Philadelphia and the four counties and the suburbs, one out of every eight people with any college or university degree has a degree from Temple. This area can’t function without Temple. And so my idea is that we want to teach to our full capacity, and make sure that our students have access to every major we’ve got here, because metropolitan Philadelphia needs every kind of expertise. Every kind of specialty. But… and they are not over-funded, because we fund … I don’t want to get too complicated about this, but the colleges get funded by looking at the data collected from the other national research universities, the other big places in the country like us, that have big student bodies, broad programs and have their faculty engaged in research as well as teach. The University of Delaware gathers the national data every year, and you can figure out how many teachers, what the ratio of teachers is to students, from that. Because they collect the number of students, they collect the number of teachers, and they know what the student majors are. And we fund our colleges at the average. So that, if the average is one teacher for every 20 students, that’s what we fund. So nobody gets preferential treatment under that system. Every now and again, some college will make a case that they need a specialist in some unique area that is more than they would get by formula. So we may add one faculty position here, two faculty positions there, something. But there’s no disproportion in funding across the campus. And one reason that there isn’t is because I think that the students in the less visible schools, the students in social administration have every bit as much right to a strong category of faculty as the students in the Fox Business school. I’m not going to skimp on the kids in social administration because social workers don’t make a lot of money. That’s a long answer to your question, but you asked specifically about the Fox School, but you’ve know learned something about the budgeting of the university and something about the idea of student access to all of our academic programs. Now, that doesn’t apply of course to the professional schools. We’ve got such a crunch, in law and medicine, for example, we just can’t even begin to admit all of the people who would like to go.
TTN: Last year, Temple … initiated Temple tuition for non-university study abroad programs, and I was wondering, you mentioned responsibility to provide affordable education, do you feel that someone with an obligation to pay both the Temple tuition and the abroad costs, as well as the abroad university’s tuition will dissuade study abroad at Temple in this heightened diversity ranking and affects an influx of diversity students.
Well, I wasn’t aware, you’ve told me something I didn’t know, that we have any study abroad programs where students pay both the full Temple tuition and the tuition of the receiving university abroad
TTN: Like, Temple Japan obviously … specifically things that I feel like they won’t be using at Temple, like REC services …
Well, they’re not using anything at Temple when they’re abroad … so I don’t know why they’re paying Temple tuition. Adam, let’s make a note that … that sounds odd to me, it doesn’t quite ring right, but I’ll ask about it.
But I think the question being asked is a larger question why they’re paying Temple… our own domestic tuition for young people who are … Well, we’ll ask. I hadn’t heard of this before … If people have such easy access to me, why somebody wouldn’t have written me an e-mail to complain about this …
TTN: You just mentioned right now, you receive e-mails … obviously people have a lot of gripes, on a campus of many thousands of students, what are common student complaints you receive from day to day, or over the years, what seems to be the general trend …
Well, one thing I don’t want to do, and that I don’t do … is to let students jump over all the things they’re supposed to do. It’s not only that students have complaints, every student would like to be treated like a VIP, and they can’t come to me and avoid doing what they’re supposed to do. So, one thing we very often do is to say to students ‘well, maybe you’d better go back to Financial Aid and fill out the forms. We’re not going to do that for you’ and it’s part of learning how to function in the world. Because the world is full of huge bureaucracies, the corporations that you buy services from, the banks, the governments and… and students ought to learn to negotiate the world around them. So, the complaints that I am mostly interested in are those where we appear to have fouled up on our normal procedures for helping students. The rest of them I am likely to turn back. I’d say that I can’t identify a particular pattern of student complaints. Students complain about everything, but the ones that I think we are most concerned about are those that relate to their financial relationship with us. We’re not in a position to give away things, but when students find difficulties say with financial aid, not that we didn’t give them financial aid, that’s a decision that’s based on their need, and it’s a decision that largely by federal formula. But where a student says that their applications were lost, or they’re not getting help in completing the process. That’s where I have a great concern. Every now and again, that’s not right. More than every now and again, a student writes to complain they can’t get into classes or something like that. And, that troubles me a great deal, because… Chris just asked the question about funding. Since colleges are funded by the amount of students they have, there’s never an excuse for a college not to offer all the classes for the students that want to get in. Because if they planned on an enrollment of 2,000 this year, and it turns out there was an enrollment of 2,300, by November, we pay them for the extra 300 students, because we’ve collected extra tuition. And, so one of the things that does get me going is when students can’t get into classes. Now, they can’t all get in in the hour that they want, but every college… the deans have heard this speech more than once, every college has an obligation to open up sufficient sections to accommodate all the students who want to get in there. Now I can’t control time of day, because there’s a limit to how many classrooms we can have in a…time of the day. So, I’d say financially, access to classes, probably common… not common, but the most common. Students right about all kinds of things.[Parking]
Parking, yeah. Every now and again, I get …[graduation] yeah, there we have a little bit of an issue and it kind of goes two ways. Our general rule is that students can march in graduation if they are within 8 credit hours of completion… that’s a rule I put in when I came here. Some of the colleges don’t seem to like that rule, and then they tell students they can’t get in… can’t march. So we intervene in those cases. Now, it’s also true it sometimes goes the other way. Sometimes students have been here for awhile, and they’re scheduled to graduate, and they’ve been playing a little too hard, and studying not enough. And so they aren’t within eight credits. But they tell they’re parents that they are going to graduate. And then we get the student who writes here and wants us to let them march because their parents will kill them [if they don’t]. We are not sympathetic, as you can imagine. So, we have all kinds of interesting things that go on. You see life’s glories and its flaws in the presence of this.
TTN: When you come to the office tomorrow morning, what’s the first thing on your agenda when you walk in?
Who the hell knows? (laughter) Everyday, everyday, I come into the office with a list of things I intend to do, and by the time I get here, the outside world has made a list of its own, and that’s why I have to work evenings and weekends to work on the things I really want to work on. Because, I came to the office yesterday, and suddenly, at the Wanamaker school, at the south edge of campus, we’re going to be taking refugees from Louisiana. Well, it turned out that there weren’t any yesterday, but that raises issues for us. Issues of security in the campus area. Issues of what happens if the hurricane victims have small children that want to enroll in the Temple partnership schools we run, the schools in the neighborhood, what we will do about that. And so we spent part of yesterday morning, totally without anybody asking us, to address the potential questions of what would happen if there was an influx of people in North Philadelphia. Everyday brings some issues you don’t expect. So, I wasn’t just kidding when I said who knows. But, we do try to work steadily in this office on finance of the university since a financially unstable university is not good for students, if we can’t afford to hire professors, we can’t afford to hire the best people nationally, if we can’t provide supplies and equipment, if the library deteriorates, you’re getting a poor education. So, we work steadily on issues of finance. We work steadily on academic issues. To make sure the curriculum is good, to make sure… you were asking the question about computers, that we are offering the support services necessary, to insist really that students are treated in an above board manner by everybody in the institution so a professor’s syllabus should contain all of the information that a student needs to know, there should be no surprises. And that’s our university policy. We’re kind of revising the general education program, which is now 20 years old and pretty badly outdated. Faculty recruiting, and recruiting administrators is a big part of what I do. Not that I recruit the faculty, the faculty committee and the deans recruit them, but I often want to be involved in helping to sell, to sell the university. We work very hard on promotions and tenure matters. Because once you give somebody tenure, they have a right to remain in the institution to teach students for the next three generation. … Your grandchildren will have the professors that are being hired today. So, we work very hard on that process, and I review personally every case for tenure and make a decision what to recommend to the Board of Trustees, because I realize that we are shaping the future of three generations of students. So, it’s an enormous enterprise. It’s uh … like being mayor or a small city, and being head of it’s school district all at once.
TTN: I’m interested in Temple’s portrayal in the media and the perception of it by some outsiders. How do you feel you are perceived by the media, and how do you feel Temple is perceived outside, seeing as though John Chaney and Bill Cosby’s situations last year … grabbed some media attention.
I haven’t a clue. I don’t take polls of the media people, and I don’t know how they perceive us. I believe there is a considerable awakening in the media about the importance of Temple in the area, if you take a look at the last year, maybe two years, publicity about Temple it’s growth, it’s quality … this major national recruiting effort for first-rate faculty that we’ve been conducting, the economic impact that we have in this area, both the impact of what we spend as an institution, and the impact of the enormous number of college educated people we supply into the area. All that is beginning to be acknowledged. And, we do get some set-backs. We have a media frenzy over John Chaney, but okay. … It passes. And I don’t know what people think about Bill Cosby, but I’m trained as a lawyer, and my view about that is innocent until proven guilty.
TTN: What are you most proud of in accomplishments …?
I think the…It may surprise you, but I think the most important thing that’s happened to Temple is the redirection…is the strengthening of its academic program and the recruitment of more than 150 first rate faculty from all over the United States. In universities, the people are everything. You aren’t a great institution unless you have great faculty. And your students don’t become great students unless they’re taught by great teachers. And so, that’s the least visible part. I’m always concerned people remember the buildings you build. Or, if you have winning seasons in the athletic program, which we haven’t had recently, but what I’m really interested in is the quality of education. And the quality of education turns, first and foremost on the quality of your faculty. Then on the quality of your educational standards and curriculum, on the tone that is set with the student body, and then on the support systems.
An area where we haven’t had turnaround but we’re working on it, and you’ll see dramatic changes in the next few years is in the libraries, because we have a weak system of libraries at Temple. That I’m working on. We have a new university librarian from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill- an absolutely first rate man. And, we’re pumping additional money to build the libraries, and also the computer and technology systems.
Now, let me see. You can probably figure out by looking in my biography in uh … it’s the seventh, so in 16 days I will be 69 years of age … and I think the next job will be a beach bum. I don’t want to work this hard anymore.
TTN: What do you think your biggest mistake at Temple has been?
Well, I’ll tell you that when I leave. I’ll put it in my autobiography.