“All about appearances”: How the university’s opinion of Jason Wingard shifted

Former Temple President Jason Wingard officially resigned on March 31.

After struggling to address two long-standing issues, campus safety and public engagement, President Jason Wingard resigned last week. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Former Temple University President Jason Wingard resigned last week, marking the shortest tenure of a president at the university. Wingard’s departure came following the death of a Temple police officer and a 42-day strike with TUGSA members, both of which accelerated the Temple community’s acute, yet longstanding dissatisfaction with two issues that had long plagued the university – safety and public engagement.

Despite the headwinds Wingard faced in the final weeks of his presidency, his arrival generated significant excitement following the exit of former President Richard Englert. He was the university’s first Black president and arrived with extensive experience, leading many to believe that he was more than qualified to assume the role.

“He had every specification, every qualification that we were looking for in the next president,” said Mitchell Morgan, a member of the Board of Trustees, during Wingard’s introductory press conference in June 2021.

Photos alongside celebrities, like Spike Lee and Julius Erving, throughout his tenure also portrayed the former Temple president as an eager newcomer looking to grow the university’s brand — an effort those within his circle claimed was well-intentioned, yet students felt led to his eventual demise. 

The Temple News compiled quotes about Jason Wingard from students, faculty, Temple administration and others mentioned in our coverage to tell the story of his presidency through the lens of the university community and external stakeholders.

Jason Wingard named Temple University’s 12th president 

Temple announced on June 8 that Jason Wingard will be the university’s next president starting July 1. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Wingard was named president on June 8, 2021, at a press conference at 1801 Liacouras Walk after Englert announced his departure nearly a year prior after serving since 2016.

“His absolute passion for Temple’s mission inspires me. We have so many things in common. Any way I can help him as he assumes this role, I’m going to help him. It’s all about our students, our faculty and our mission, and he gets it.” — Richard Englert

“He’s a visionary, he’s a great leader and we are really excited about him.” – Mitchell Morgan

Temple to reorganize senior administration

Temple University President Jason Wingard is reorganizing the responsibilities of several members of the university’s administration. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

On Aug. 23, 2021, the first day of the Fall 2021 semester, Wingard announced plans to restructure senior administration to streamline efforts to improve the university’s perception. The Temple News spoke to members of administration to learn more about Wingard’s plans for the personnel changes.

“The first priority for me is to help Dr. Wingard implement his priority brand strategy. He wants to make sure that our reputation is strong.” – Valerie Harrison, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Temple President meets Governor Tom Wolf in Harrisburg

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Temple University President Jason Wingard meet in Harrisburg to discuss the state’s appropriations to Temple University on Jan. 11. | MELISSA ZAVORSKI / COURTESY

In an effort to continue cultivating Temple’s relationship with Harrisburg as a state-related university, Wingard made his first trip to the Pennsylvania State Capitol on Jan. 11, 2022, to meet with former Gov. Tom Wolf. The pair discussed state appropriations, higher education, job availability and how Temple could contribute to the workforce.

“The governor enjoyed the discussion with President Wingard and Chairman Morgan. The governor was pleased to learn about Temple’s continued growth in the City of Philadelphia and vision.” — Elizabeth Rementer, Wolf’s press secretary.

Temple president highlights university brand through social media platforms

Temple University President Jason Wingard speaks to the media about community outreach efforts on Polett Walk near Liacouras on April 5. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

During a one-on-one interview with The Temple News on March 23, 2022, Wingard emphasized his desire to use social media platforms and news channels to advance Temple’s message. At the time, Wingard featuring students and celebrities on his social media pages made students feel more connected to the president. 

“That one connection made me feel more connected to Temple as a college. So I feel like whenever President Wingard’s out and people talk to him he’s affecting the culture in a positive way.” — Kyle Adams, a 2022 media studies and production alumnus.

“Look at it like osmosis. If he’s close enough to people you know, like, trust and respect, then he will hopefully generate some of that for himself.” — Dave Anderson, advertising professor.

Wingard bikes through North Central to meet community leaders

Guadalupe Portillo (left), the block captain for the 1400 block of Norris Street, speaks with Temple University President Jason Wingard outside her home on Norris Street near Carlisle on April 5. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

In April 2022, Wingard biked through the community to speak with local leaders about sanitation and safety issues in their neighborhoods. Most of the community leaders Wingard spoke with had long-standing relationships with Temple and were chosen before the start of the ride.

“I feel that he’s gonna really, really meet our concerns, the Temple students as well, but also the few residents that are still here in the neighborhood.” — Sandra Fernandez-White, first vice chairperson of Philadelphia’s chapter of the National Congress of Black Women as of April 2022.  

Temple celebrates Jason Wingard’s inauguration

Jason Wingard was officially inaugurated as Temple’s 12th president Friday. He is the first Black president in the university’s 137-year history. | EARL KUFEN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Nearly more than a year after being tapped as Temple president, the university community celebrated Wingard’s inauguration on Sept. 16, 2022. Leaders expressed their optimism for Wingard’s ability to guide the university forward amid health, economic and social challenges.

“Navigating these challenges will require a collaborative and committed effort. Grounded in compassion and humility, President Wingard, with your guidance and under your leadership we will confront these challenges head-on, building on the innovative research, rigorous scholarship and creative expression of our faculty.” — Provost Gregory Mandel.

Temple navigates increasing public scrutiny

Following the death of Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald and the ongoing TUGSA strike, many are questioning the university’s communication methods. | OLIVIA ROQUE / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As the university received growing national media coverage for its handling of TUGSA’s strike and criticism of its safety efforts, some students and faculty believed Wingard and members of senior administration struggled to effectively communicate Temple’s response. Those feelings were heightened following Wingard’s appearance in a Feb. 22 NBC10 Philadelphia interview where he claimed he “did not have the answer” for how the university could keep students safe.

“Photographs aren’t messages. What we need to have is much more of a focus on directly relating to talking with students. And having President Wingard is supposed to represent the student body, where is that voice in understanding the student body?” — Scott Gratson, director of undergraduate studies in the Klein College of Media and Communication. 

TAUP to discuss no-confidence on President Wingard, other leaders

A vote, if decided on, would ultimately be conducted anonymously and electronically. TAUP has yet to determine how long the voting period would be. | EARL KUFEN / THE TEMPLE NEWS.

On March 1, The Temple News first reported that the Temple Association of University Professionals planned to introduce a vote of no confidence against Wingard and other university leaders. The move was a major rebuke of Wingard’s presidency and emblematic of faculty members’ growing frustration – many of whom saw firsthand how their teaching and research assistants had been affected by the strike and are preparing to negotiate their own new contract with Temple later this year.

“We’re hearing from folks who are department chairs and other administrators that they have never seen Temple in such a bad moment. People who’ve been here for decades have said they’ve never seen such a lack of leadership.” — Jeffrey Doshna, president of TAUP.

Students disapprove of Wingard’s performance

Ninety-two percent of students disapprove of Jason Wingard’s performance as president of Temple University, according to a March 2023 poll conducted by The Temple News. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Amid increasing backlash on the university’s handling of safety issues and the TUGSA strike, The Temple News surveyed roughly 1,000 students about their thoughts on Wingard and the direction of the university. Roughly 92 percent expressed disapproval of Wingard’s performance and thought he was not relatable. 

“I feel like Wingard is all about appearances and not about actual substance. It feels like he’s running Temple like a company with students and their education being akin to a product he’s trying to sell rather than what it actually is – a place of learning with real human beings.” — an anonymous student who responded to the survey.

“A lot of Temple students and Wingard are from very different paths in life, so we can see that he is more affluent than compared to the Temple community.” — Rohan Khadka, a sophomore secondary education-social studies major and then-TSG presidential candidate.

Students express support for Wingard’s decision to step down

Emma Holtzman believes it was smart for Wingard to take responsibility and resign on his own, rather than being pushed out. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

On March 28, the university announced Wingard’s plans to resign. Many students were supportive of his decision, citing the university’s response to the TUGSA strike as key reasons for why it was time for the former president to move on from his role.

“As someone who lives on the block that [Wingard] was going to move onto, I can definitely attest to the fact that the university has had a really poor response to student concerns about not only Jason’s behavior personally but the safety of everyone on campus.” — Riley Brady, sophomore English major.

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