Temple University’s Presidential Search Committee hosted an hour-long town hall with students on Wednesday evening to answer questions about the search to replace President Richard Englert, who announced his plans to retire in July.
The town hall was led by Student Body President Quinn Litsinger, a junior political science major who serves as the only student on the Presidential Search Committee. Mitchell Morgan, chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Valerie Harrison, senior advisor to Englert for diversity, equity and inclusion, also provided frequent answers to students’ questions throughout the event.
Students asked questions about how the committee will seek out diverse candidates, how they will ensure the next president will prioritize students and how they will find candidates who will improve Temple’s relationship with the North Central community.
The committee is unsure about when the search for a new president will be complete, but hopes to identify Englert’s replacement during the Spring 2021 semester, said Shelly Storbeck, managing partner of Storbeck Search & Associates, one of the firms the university enlisted to help conduct the presidential search.
Englert said in July he hopes to retire by the end of the spring semester but will not leave his post until a successor is found, The Temple News reported.
Storbeck Search & Associates and Diversified Search, the executive search firm that owns Storbeck Search & Associates, are helping the committee identify a diverse slate of candidates, Morgan said.
“It would be wonderful if the next president is an African American woman, but there’s no litmus test,” Morgan said. “We want to hire the best candidate.”
Currently, the committee is in the process of identifying potential candidates, Storbeck added.
“There’s a very competitive field out there,” Storbeck said, pointing to other schools looking for new presidents like Florida State University and Lehigh University.
The committee is also evaluating candidates suggested by students, faculty, staff, alumni and local residents. For example, the committee met with Provost JoAnne Epps, but is unsure if she is interested in applying for the position, Morgan said.
“She has said to me that probably the next leader has to give you five or 10 years,” Morgan said. “I’m not so sure if she has five to 10 years in her, not because I don’t think she does, but I think she doesn’t think she does.”
One quality the committee is searching for in a candidate is a commitment to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion within the Temple and North Philadelphia communities, like by furthering the programming created through the university’s $1 million anti-racist initiative, Harrison said.
The Presidential Search Committee itself previously came under fire for the lack of diversity among its initial 13 members, prompting it to add Harrison and Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, a professor and vice president of Temple’s Faculty Senate, to its ranks, The Temple News reported.
Harrison also affirmed the committee will select a candidate who upholds students’ First Amendment rights while also condemning bigoted speech in the Temple community.
Temple was criticized in June after the university tweeted that students’ rights to use “hateful speech” was protected under the Student Code of Conduct in response to more than a dozen incidents of students making racist comments on social media. Temple acknowledged the racist statements made by students in an announcement on June 7, where the university said Theresa Powell, the vice dean of Student Affairs, and the Dean of Students would meet with each student who made these comments, The Temple News reported.
Temple then convened an eight-person committee in June, led by Harrison, to recommend the university amend the Student Code of Conduct, which the committee is close to finishing, Harrison said.
The Presidential Search Committee also hopes the next president will help Temple develop a short- and long-term financial strategy to address the economic challenges the university has faced amid, and long before, the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Morgan said Temple’s endowment pales in comparison to other local schools like Villanova University and Pennsylvania State University, and he hopes the next president expands it.
As one of the architects of Temple’s long-term strategic planning process, trustee Stephen Charles added that he hopes the next president will help Temple formulate a cohesive plan for sharing information among its education programs, research initiatives and health system.
“I’m hoping the new president will be thinking about things from that information-sharing, collaboration, innovation perspective as we think about being more integrated across campus,” Charles said. “And not just internally, but externally in the communities surrounding us, the different industrial sectors and professions that interact with Temple.”
The committee plans to engage North Philadelphia residents in the presidential search process by mailing them a survey about the qualities they would like to see in a president, the challenges they believe the next president will face and why a candidate should be drawn to Temple, Storbeck said.
The committee also plans to hold meetings with North Philadelphia residents and stakeholders, which will be similar to the town hall for students, Morgan said.
Anyone can nominate a candidate or send questions to the Presidential Search Committee by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.