Dr. Ann Weaver Hart was on Main Campus for less than half a day Tuesday, and already students and faculty were following her lead.
As Hart, Temple’s likely ninth president, walked into the TECH Center Tuesday morning, a crowd of students immediately gathered around her, said hello and began peppering her with questions.
Throughout the day, Hart also met with staff, alumni and the Board of Trustees to outline her goals for the future of Temple, including her continued commitment to diversity, athletics, neighborhood involvement and academic freedom.
Hart began each discussion with a personal introduction of herself – married since 19, she and her husband both worked their way through school at the University of Utah, where Hart eventually became the dean of the graduate school. She is currently the president of the University of New Hampshire.
During the student session, Hart, who would be Temple’s first female president, was extensively questioned about the university’s commitment to the community surrounding Main Campus.
Hart said she would continue the work that has been done to bring the university and the community together.
“Great cities need great universities, and great universities need great cities,” Hart said. “And the surrounding neighborhood of Temple is one of the important parts of the future success of Temple in achieving that original mission and a commitment to access [to] excellence.
“I think the message I want to send is that a great university, accessible to young men and women whose circumstances aren’t preventing them from having access to higher education, but access to higher education that is of the highest value.”
She also spoke about the growth that Temple has experienced under President David Adamany, whose resignation is effective June 30.
Hart said that when she was first interviewed by the presidential search committee, she asked them if continuing the pace of growth that Temple has developed in the last six years was the best way to develop financial resources.
“Hitting that 34,000 student number has given us both a treasure and a challenge. If you develop a strategic long-range plan going into the future, and tie to an academic plan, a financial plan and a campus master plan, so that those are the three cornerstones of your long-range planning, you need to decide what is the optimum size of the great university that we want 10 years from now,” Hart said. “And then you need to plan your financial resources around that building plan for enrollment.”
Students who attended the discussion were overwhelmingly supportive of Hart, though a few questioned her professional background.
Kim Teplitzky, a senior and president of the student environmental action group, said that being president of the University of New Hampshire does not necessarily prepare someone for being president of Temple.
“It doesn’t seem that she has the qualifications to take over such a diverse school,” Teplitzky said. “Doing one hour [meeting] in the morning, on a commuter campus, on a study day, is not very respectful of our issues.”
After working at the University of Utah, Hart served as the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., outside of Los Angeles.
That, Hart said, is where she received her background in urban higher education.
“My official professional career has actually prepared me more for this kind of setting, than for a small, research university where 94 percent of the students live on or near campus, and attend full time,” Hart said. “This, in many ways, is a return to my roots.”
The University of New Hampshire has a student population that is 94 percent white. According to a report last year by the Princeton Review, about 31 percent of Temple students reported their race as something other than white.
Hart said she is looking forward to coming back to a diverse university, but noted that she still has a lot to learn about Temple, the city and the community.
“Of course I need lessons,” Hart said. “I didn’t commit my life to higher education to avoid lessons.”
One of her goals as a university president is to be open and accessible to students, faculty and staff as much as she can, Hart said.
“I have monthly meetings with the student body offices,” Hart said. “I have luncheons twice a month, some of them planned, some of them open.”
She noted that it’s important for her to be available to all student organizations, not just a few which are prominent on campus.
“It’s easy for a president to get tied into student government,” Hart said. “Student government is critical. And student body officers at UNH know that they can see me or talk to me with 10 minutes notice if I’m anywhere near my office at any time. And they all have my home phone number and they all have my cell phone.”
According to Oscar Chow, outgoing president of Temple Student Government and the only student member of the presidential search committee, that commitment to accessibility was one of the reasons Hart was one of his top choices since the beginning of the search.
“Ann Hart has the whole package,” Chow said. “She definitely has the credentials. You have to look at her overall.”
Hart, who did not apply for the job, but was nominated, said she had no plans to leave UNH until she was contacted by the search committee.
“I was intrigued by the opportunity,” Hart said. “I’m very honored to be here.”
Hart was also questioned by both students and faculty about the effects of academic freedom, and the academic freedom hearings that have taken place on university campuses across the country, including Temple.
“Freedom of speech is a constitutional right, and it is protected,” Hart said. “We really have two core values, one of which is essential to our American citizenship, and one of which is essential to the power of higher education. And those are the freedom of speech, and academic freedom. And they’re not the same thing. And they rely on very different principals and support.
“Understanding freedom of speech and the rights of every citizen, student and faculty member to that freedom, and understanding and committing to academic freedom, where the expertise [of the faculty] is where the decision about rigor and quality and the teaching of your own subject area.”
Jack Posobiec, a senior and a member of the organization Students for Academic Freedom, said although he had some reservations about Hart and her enforcement of academic freedom issues, he was impressed with her.
“As a whole she definitely seems to have that presidential style and flair,” Posobiec said. “I like her. I like her more than Adamany.”
That sentiment was echoed throughout Hart’s faculty speech, where African American studies professor Dr. Molefi Asante said, “I’ve never seen my colleagues so happy,” eliciting applause from the audience.
Members of the athletic department also questioned Hart about her commitment to Temple sports programs.
At the University of New Hampshire, four sports teams, women’s crew, men’s swimming, and men’s and women’s tennis were cut by the athletic department earlier this year due to budget concerns, though Hart said that she is committed to Temple athletics.
“I think it’s important first to say that I am strongly supportive of, and the trustees are very supportive of, Temple remaining a Division I-A football school, and to continue to compete at the highest levels in sports,” Hart said. “It plays a huge part in the livelihood of a university.”
An editorial in the May 2 edition of the New Hampshire, UNH’s student newspaper, praised Hart for the work she has done for the school.
“Let’s look at one obvious fact in this debate, and that is that the woman must have been doing something right if she has been chosen as one of the finalists for Temple. Furthermore, Temple is not some tiny little school in some podunk town. Temple happens to be a rather large university in a vibrant city, where a vibrant leader like Hart could prosper; meanwhile the Durham community anxiously awaits her decision.”
The Board of Trustees will vote Thursday, May 4, to approve or reject Hart’s nomination and an announcement is expected to be made afterward. If Hart is approved as president, she will take office July 1.
Emily Catalano can be reached email@example.com.