Over the last two years, College of Liberal Arts Dean Teresa Soufas has been involved in three separate personnel conflicts at the university.
At the end of the Spring 2012 members of Temple’s African American Studies department appointed Kariamu Welsh, then-professor of dance at Temple, to chair the AAS department. Soufas denied her appointment, citing the fact a department’s chair cannot be appointed from a different school. Soufas appointed Jayne Drake, a white woman formerly the vice dean of academic affairs, to head the program as an interim chair for one year. Nearly a year of debate and protest ensued, which temporarily ended when Molefi Asante, former chair and founder of the department’s Ph.D program, was named chair after leaving the position in 1997.
On Oct. 18, 2012, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Religion Lewis Gordon resigned from his professorship at Temple, claiming that Soufas directly sent a staff member to spy on his classes that semester. In a letter to the Faculty Herald published on April 22, 2013, Gordon claimed he asked Soufas to avoid scheduling his classes on Fridays so he would be able to observe the Jewish Sabbath with his family in Rhode Island. Among other complaints, Gordon claims that Soufas sent a staff member to check whether he was holding classes on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. He and his wife – also a Temple professor at the time – resigned, and both now teach at the University of Connecticut.
On March 10, students and community members sat-in on a public meeting of the Board of Trustees, protesting the non-renewal of AAS Professor Anthony Moteiro’s employment contract with the university. While Soufas said the firing was due to the fact that Temple’s AAS department was “moving away from [W.E.B.] Dubois studies,” Monteiro claims that he was let go due to his involvement in the Welsh protests.
We question why the department is choosing to move away from Dubois studies, as well as why Monteiro’s skillset was not deemed necessary enough to retain.
Of course, the dean of a college must retain control over his or her school, and is often confronted with tough decisions when staff members must be let go. However, in light of the clamor that has surrounded many of the College of Liberal Arts’ personnel decisions in the past few years, we ask that Dean Soufas unambiguously explain why the university chose to let Monteiro go.