Our silent president

Why President Theobald ignoring student journalists is a problem for the university community.

Andrew Thayer TTN FILE PHOTO
President Theobald. | Andrew Thayer TTN FILE PHOTO

We are proud today to publish our annual special project, found on Page C1, which this year focuses on campus safety. In it, you’ll read about what makes Temple different from other schools – why crime is such a prevalent topic here and what methods the university implements to protect us. There are several voices in the story, including those of Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone, Captain of Special Services Eileen Bradley and 22nd District Captain Robert Glenn, among many others.

Every Temple official we asked for an interview was willing to talk to us – with one exception.

We formally requested an interview with President Theobald in early February, when we were in the very early stages of our reporting. He had just done an interview for a lengthy front-page story in the Inquirer, and he has done sit-down interviews with The Temple News as recently as November 2013, so a 30-minute discussion did not seem out of the ordinary. We even extended an invitation for him to join us on a ride-along with Temple Police.

We followed up several more times – making clear that we wanted to talk to Theobald about the special project and other topics affecting the university community.

Finally, on April 17, we received our answer from a university spokesperson: “Unfortunately, he’s not going to be able to do this. Thank you for the offer.”

In other words, Theobald is not willing to extend the same time to student journalists at his own school that he is to the Inquirer. It’s disheartening to hear, especially when the Inquirer story that we’re referring to – which ran with the headline, “Two years in, Temple’s president getting ‘A’s” – included details of how Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor expressed a desire for Theobald to “adopt a more public persona.”

Of course, it’s not surprising that the president’s office would have an interest in Theobald speaking with the Inquirer – which holds a larger audience than ours and is also owned by H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, a member of Temple’s Board of Trustees. But for what possible reason would the university deny its student newspaper a request – one made with several months’  notice – to interview Theobald?

Perhaps it’s because we might press him about last year’s controversial athletic cuts. Perhaps it’s because we could bring up the lengthy exposé we published last fall that unveiled a years-long pattern of abuse and neglect in the university’s track & field program. Perhaps it’s because we would have the opportunity to ask him about other contentious issues, like the exit of professor Anthony Monteiro, Title IX investigations, campus crime or the Bill Cosby scandal.

Make no mistake, though, we would have discussed much more than just these hot-button topics. There is plenty to celebrate here at Temple, and we would love nothing more than to hear Theobald’s thoughts of what the future holds for Main Campus.

We do our best to report on Temple-related issues with integrity and fairness, all in an effort to be watchdogs for the university community.

But it’s very difficult to fully garner both sides of a story, when our president won’t even talk to us.

1 Comment

  1. 2012 graduate here. Very sorry to hear this- and pathetic that the president couldn’t even issue a personal statement himself. Certainty makes me concerned about what this guys true motives really are.

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