Temple University President Richard Englert gave this year’s State of the University address to students and faculty on Thursday, touching on some of the most positive and negative events at the school this last year.
Englert spoke about community relations, the financial future of the Temple Health System, athletics, the Fox School of Business misreporting scandal and the accomplishments of faculty and students.
The university has worked over the summer to improve community relations by being a “good neighbor,” Englert said during the address.
Over the summer, the university secured three city trash days and hired clean up companies to clean up trash left by students living in off-campus apartments.
The university is continuing to partner with local community groups to lay the groundwork for a Special Services District to address “quality of life issues,” like excessive trash, Englert said during the address. The university is “moving aggressively” to form the district, he said.
Temple officials are still discussing how they will create the district, university spokesman Ray Betzner told The Temple News.
“It would be one of the things that would certainly hope to help the community and alleviate some of those issues that students living in a neighborhood create,” Betzner said.
Englert and vice president of public affairs Bill Bergman walked through the neighbor during a period when students were moving out of their apartments, and were “amazed and disappointed” at how much trash accumulated on the streets, Englert said.
There will be “more to come” this year about the proposed on-campus stadium, Englert added.
“We need to have our students do their very best in terms of respecting the neighborhood they live in,” Englert told The Temple News after the address. “We will help take care of that trash, we will help address it, but we all need to work together. We have great neighbors, let’s respect them.”
“We are committed to building a stadium that is good for the neighborhood, not just for Temple,” he said.
Englert recognized the leadership of interim dean of the Fox School of Business Ron Anderson, who is providing a “steady hand” to the school in the aftermath of a rankings scandal where Fox misreported data submitted to the U.S. News & World Report, Englert said.
The university has taken steps to ensure data integrity, like creating a performance analytics unit that oversees accreditation, academic quality, rankings and data assurance, lead by executive director of performance analytics Barbara Manaka.
“I believe, Provost JoAnn Epps believes and Dean Anderson also believes that on this issue, there is only one way to regain credibility and the faith of our students,” he said. “We must be as transparent as we can about anything we find, and we must be equally clear about how we are making things right.”
The university hit an all-time fundraising high of $98 million from donors, surpassing last year’s top bid total by $8 million.
The members of the Board of Trustees have donated more than $127 million in the university’s history, Englert said. He recognized the $10 million gift from trustee Steve Charles to name the Charles Library, which will officially open to students and faculty in Fall 2019.
Englert also acknowledged the university’s Task Force on Opioid and Related Drug Addiction and Recovery Support, which will examine the university’s policies regarding students with substance use disorders and on-campus recovery housing.
The task force, which was created in April, is made up of faculty from multiple colleges within the university and one student and is led co-chairs John Daly, professor of surgery and Ellen Unterwald, professor of pharmacology and director of the Center for Substance Abuse Research at the Katz School. The task force is expected to make recommendations to the university by December, Unterwald told The Temple News in May.
The College of Public Health’s smoke-free campus task force, led by Dean Laura Siminoff, completed the first phase of its work by delivering recommendations to the university, Englert said.
The task force received a $20,000 grant from the American Cancer Society in October 2017 to study how the university could become a tobacco-free campus by Fall 2018.
Over the next few months, the university will see a “systematic roll out of measures” related to the task force’s recommendations, Englert said.
Englert said the Temple Health System faces “significant financial challenges” because it is the largest provider to Medicaid-insured patients in Philadelphia and provided about $70 million in charity care in 2017.
“We are essential to the health of North Philadelphia and this entire region,” he said. “We know that more must be done to maintain a viable and sustainable healthcare enterprise in a highly competitive and volatile market.”
In June, the university announced it would be looking into financially restructuring the Health System and possibly selling the Fox Chase Cancer Center and Jeanes Hospital.
Englert thanked the Commonwealth for providing the university with $155.1 million in state appropriations, a $4.5 million increase from last year. Despite the increase, the university increased in-state undergraduate tuition by 2 percent and 2.4 percent for graduate students. Other state-related universities like Pennsylvania State University and the University of Pittsburgh were able to freeze their tuitions because of their large endowments.
While thanking the Commonwealth for its support, Englert stressed the importance for the Temple community to continue to lobby for more appropriations in order to keep in-state tuition down.
“The alternative to state funding is excluding many students from higher education and saddling our parents and students with tens of thousands of dollars in additional debt,” Englert said. “No one here wants that.”