Legislators call for transparency in Temple’s presidential selection process

Local representatives joined the head of the faculty union and a community activist in demanding Temple do more to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the process.

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta speaks outside Conwell Hall on Monday. | SCREENSHOT / REP. MALCOLM KENYATTA

State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta called on Temple University Board of Trustees Chairman Mitchell Morgan to share how he will promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the university’s presidential search process in front of Conwell Hall Monday.

“We need to understand from him how his chairmanship is going to push forward these issues of equity and diversity,” Kenyatta, who represents the 181st state congressional district that encompasses Main Campus, said during the event. “Right now, we don’t have an answer.”

The event, which State Sen. Sharif Street and State Rep. Danilo Burgos also attended, came just a day after Morgan announced the Board had added two new members to the Presidential Search Committee: Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, a professor and vice president of the Temple Faculty Senate, and Valerie Harrison, the senior advisor to the president for equity, diversity and inclusion. 

Temple supports Morgan’s announcement for the committee to now include Williams-Witherspoon and Harrison, said Ray Betzner, a spokesperson for the university, in response to Monday’s event. 

While adding Williams-Witherspoon and Harrison to the committee is a step in the right direction, Street would like to see the committee do more to promote diversity, equity and inclusion, he said at the event. Street’s father, former Philadelphia mayor John Street, was appointed to the Board in July, but is not part of the Presidential Search Committee.

“Congratulations, you’ve taken a step, but you still have a thousand miles to go minus that one step,” Street said. 

The event also included a speech from Rev. William B. Moore of Tenth Memorial Baptist Church, and was attended by representatives of the 20th, 37th and 49th wards. 

The university’s Presidential Search Committee formed last week and originally included 13 Trustees, two faculty members and one student. The committee is tasked with finding a successor for President Richard Englert, who announced his plans to retire in July. 

The Presidential Search Committee will also host a series of town hall meetings in the coming weeks to receive input from Temple students, faculty, staff, deans, alumni and the community in the presidential selection process.

Gail Loney, a member of the Stadium Stompers, a local activism group opposing Temple’s plans to build a stadium on campus, called on Temple to include the community in the presidential selection process. 

“This community is filled with people of color who are qualified, educated, and more than capable of doing a search and research for a president for this university,” she said.

Steve Newman, a professor and president of the Temple Association of University Professionals, also criticized the lack of community representation in the university’s presidential selection process. 

“The administration frequently makes noises about its desires to include the community, but what concrete steps have we seen to that end?” Newman said.

Kenyatta does not believe the university will listen to the concerns that members of the Temple and North Philadelphia communities have about the presidential selection process, he said. 

“Temple is all talk, do not be fooled,” he said at the event.

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