Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor told The Temple News on Tuesday that professor Marc Lamont Hill’s anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian comments caused Temple University “immeasurable” damage.
Hill sparked national controversy with his speech at the United Nations on Nov. 28, in which he used the phrase “from the river to the sea,” which some consider anti-Semitic. O’Connor said he’s received up to 30, “maybe 50” emails about the situation every day since, from “alums, professors, students, friends of Israel, politicians, young, old, Black, white.”
Chairman of the Board of Trustees
The emails include donors promising to withdraw financial support for the university and calls for Temple to fire Hill as CNN did, O’Connor said. CNN, where Hill was a contributor, cut ties with the urban education and media studies and production professor on Nov. 29.
O’Connor said he didn’t know how much damage Hill’s comments could’ve caused.
“I’ll let you know at the end of the day [what the damage is] when people who used to give us significant amounts of money follow up on their promise never to give another dime,” O’Connor said.
Hill did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
O’Connor agreed to sit down with The Temple News one week after the Board unanimously condemned Hill’s speech. The statement noted that the Board interpreted the speech as “virulent anti-Semitism” and “hate speech,” but recognized Hill’s constitutional right to speak freely.
On Tuesday, O’Connor told The Temple News the Board decided to write the statement during executive session before its meeting last week. He said some trustees didn’t think the statement was strong enough and others still “wanted him fired.”
On Nov. 30, two days after Hill’s speech, O’Connor told the Inquirer that he directed university counsel to investigate reprimanding Hill.
In President Richard Englert’s Board report last week, he said the school’s administration decided Hill was not speaking as a Temple representative. They consulted legal counsel, “nationally renowned expertise” from outside the university, Provost JoAnne Epps and David Boardman, the dean of the Klein College of Media and Communication to come to the decision, Englert said.
The university’s faculty contract states professors are free from “institutional censorship or discipline” when speaking as citizens, according to a letter of no confidence in O’Connor signed by more than 30 professors on Dec. 5.
Last week, O’Connor told The Temple News after the Board meeting that the university is still “evaluating” remedies for Hill, but did not elaborate further. When asked again on Tuesday, O’Connor said the power is in Englert and Epps’ hands.
“It’s not the trustees’ domain to do discipline,” he said.