Students who protested the ousting of African American studies professor Anthony Monteiro at the March 10 Board of Trustees meeting met with Ken Lawrence, senior vice president for government, community and public affairs, on Friday, March 14.
After the Board of Trustees meeting on March 10, members of the group Justice for Dr. Anthony Monteiro held a sit-in on the second floor of Sullivan Hall until President Theobald and Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor met to discuss Temple’s role in the community. Monteiro’s prospects for reinstatement and the alleged racial motivations the protestors believe dean of the College of Liberal Arts Teresa Soufas had in her decision not to renew Monteiro’s contract.
Monteiro, a non-tenure track adjunct professor, had his annual contract renewed for nine years based on recommendations from the department chair to the school’s dean. Soufas, who has the final word on the recommendation, chose not to reinstate Monteiro.
“Non-tenured professors get let go every year,” Soufas said. “It has nothing personal to do with [Monteiro].”
At the trustees’ meeting, O’Connor said “it would be unfair to comment on a case still in progress” when the crowd shouted words of support for Monteiro. Students and community members in attendance voiced their concerns with the lack of outreach between the administration and community groups, and demanded another meeting be planned, which Lawrence and the students set for Friday.
The Friday meeting with Lawrence focused on the group’s other goals, including “an institution-wide plan for service learning in the community” that would give class credit for community service and implement a service graduation requirement, group member Kashara White said.
“What that means for the community members is that Temple would not be an antagonist,” White said. “For Temple students, it will make them better people.”
“That’s something that would come from the provost,” Lawrence said. “That’s an academic program and I don’t have oversight over academics…Personally, I think it’s a good idea, but that’s just me speaking personally.”
Central Penn College, near Harrisburg, is one of the few Pennsylvania schools with service as a graduation requirement. Many other colleges and universities, including Temple, offer optional community service opportunities for students.
The protesters said they want Temple to have more intensive service involvement to fix poor relations with the community. White said that “right now, the community sees Temple as an antagonist, an imperialist.”
“I think that there are certainly parts of the community that may have issues with Temple for one reason or another,” Lawrence said. “But I don’t think that as a blanket statement you could say that the community sees Temple as an antagonist.”
“For Temple to have its Temple Made campaign and make it look like it’s cool to be urban for four years and then graduate, it further exploits the community,” White said.
White acknowledged Temple’s community efforts, mentioning things such as medical student involvement at Norris Homes, but argued for a larger-scale community outreach program.
“The community isn’t seeing [Temple’s community work] at-large,” White said. “What they’re seeing is the brand.”
While the two parties disagreed on whether there was a “gap” between Temple and its relationship with the community, both Lawrence and White said the meeting was productive.
“I think it was a good first step,” White said.
“I think it was an educational experience for both of us,” Lawrence said. “I’m always looking for an exchange of ideas.”
Lawrence said the group may meet with Soufas eventually to discuss their concerns relating to students’ claims about Monteiro’s removal.
“I’d be happy to meet with them again once I get some more information on the concerns that they’ve raised,” Lawrence said. “I’m always willing to meet with students and hear ideas.”
Joe Brandt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JBrandt_TU.