Board misses chance to diversify

The election of former Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley is beneficial to the university, but the open seat was an opportunity to add another female or minority trustee.

If you’re visiting Sullivan Hall, Main Campus’ administrative center, you have to pull hard to open the thick doors.

But if you’re a white male with experience in state government, you can just walk right in through the revolving door.

The revolving door is a conceptual process by which politicians and businessmen move between the industries and institutions over which they rule. If an election goes south for a candidate, there’s an alma mater that’d love to have them help with fundraising or serve on the board.

Most advocacy against revolving-door politics lambasts the access which a political position can provide for an individual. As the Center for Responsive Politics puts it: “these people’s government connections afford them privileged access to those in power.”

It can go both ways, too. Former politicians on staff at a corporation or other institution can open doors for their employers with government connections they made in their previous career.

The Board of Trustees recently acquired two new white male members who’ve finished up with state government: former Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley, and now-retired Speaker of the House of Representatives Sam Smith, who appointed himself to the board in line with a provision that 12 of the 36 trustees be appointed by the state government. Both trustees are Republicans.

Given the former roles of these new trustees, only weeks removed from the legislative process, their power as assets to the university, which receives 16 percent of its budget from the state, is clear: among other things, they can likely help acquire more money.

However, the openings on the board were an opportunity to correct the lack of gender diversity on the university’s most powerful administrative arm. Racially, the board’s composition isn’t drastically different than most other schools, though it would have been more diverse had the seat gone to a non-white candidate.

We’re not at liberty to criticize Jim Cawley’s dedication to Temple, and that is not the goal of this editorial. We saw the Temple “T” on the door of the Lieutenant Governor’s office, when it was still his. He’s told the Inquirer that he got his start in politics as a student here.

But all of this does not change the fact that there are only three women on the board.

It’d be difficult to cull a woman from the state government who had served in as high a position or could offer as useful connections. The current Republican leadership includes two women, and the Democratic has one.

Pennsylvania did not have a female Lieutenant Governor until 2003 – Catherine Baker Knoll, who died in office in 2008. The state has never had a female governor.

Ultimately, the pool of top candidates is overwhelmingly male. After a meeting in December, Board Chairman Patrick O’Connor told reporters regarding the search for someone to take the seat formerly held by Bill Cosby, who resigned last December amid allegations of sexual misconduct: “We get the best people, and sometimes we’re perceived not to do the best we should do, but we try hard here, and we try to be fair.”

“The best people,” given the fact that the more powerful positions are occupied by men, means that Temple’s not going to pick a woman on principle alone. But it had the chance, and chose the connection instead.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this editorial which printed on March 17 incorrectly indicated that Cawley would occupy the seat formerly occupied by Bill Cosby, the comedian who resigned in December amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Since Cawley was a governor-appointed trustee, he occupies a different seat. Cosby’s former seat will be filled at the discretion of the board, not the state government.

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