The audience at a Temple University College Republicans sponsored event saw more than was expected on Sep. 17. Amid high tensions and foul language, a Temple professor was asked to leave and in the wake, a national news organization picked up the story, causing a stir.
Now, the parties involved are reaching out to one another to make amends and move forward.
The event was held in Mitten Hall and was advertised as a seminar led by Matthew Wagner, a member of PA Right to Work, a nonprofit organization that advocates for voluntary union membership. Wagner lectured for the first 35 minutes of the event. After that, Wagner opened up the event to questions.
A question-and-answer exchange between Joseph Schwartz, a political science professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Wagner was captured in a nine-minute cell phone video that was posted to YouTube. As of press time, the video had 833 views.
The video starts with Schwartz asking Wagner why workers would want to optionally opt out of union contracts that are supposed to work in their favor. Wagner refused to answer Schwartz’s questions.
“I already said, we are not talking about why someone would want to opt out or not,” Wagner told Schwartz.
Darin Bartholomew, co-chairman of the Pennsylvania Federation of College Republicans and Temple’s student body president was present at the event. He later said Wagner could have put his organizations tax-exempt status in jeopardy if he responded to questions about specific legislation.
“I was very angry he wasn’t answering my questions,” Schwartz told The Temple News.
Less than a minute into the video, Schwartz responded to Wagner using an expletive, to which Wagner responded with a warning.
“If everything is free choice, why don’t I tell the boss f— you,” Schwartz said in the video.
“If you’re going to use foul language you can leave,” Wagner said to Schwartz.
Wagner continued to press Wagner about right-to-work, though Wagner deferred several times, asking Schwartz if he was going to use foul language again. More people joined in on the argument and a few minutes later, Bartholomew asked Schwartz to leave the seminar all together for his earlier use of profanity.
“Oh come on, f—ing A,” Schwartz exclaimed.
At this point, Bartholomew stood up and walked toward Schwartz, demanding that he leave. Schwartz stood up and walked toward the door before turning back to the room and speaking for approximately three more minutes about a historic law in 1948 regarding unionization which was opposed by anti-civil rights politicians.
Two days later, Todd Starnes, a political columnist for Fox News wrote and published a column titled “Ultra-liberal professor disrupts college Republican meeting with vulgar rant.”
Schwartz said he has since received over 20 hate emails from people who had read this article.
In the next couple of days, Schwartz responded to a request from TUCR chairman Joe Oleksak for an apology.
“[I]n defending the principle of academic discourse and open dialogue I should not have used an expletive,” Schwartz said in the email to Oleksak. “And for that I am apologizing to the College Republicans.”
Oleksak responded with a similar message of making amends.
“I know from experience that you are a fair and level-headed professor. It was never this organization’s or my intention for you to be perceived as anything but,” Oleksak said in the email. “I look forward to hopefully putting this mess behind us and working together to ensure a fair and friendly discussion where ideas can be shared freely and without animosity.”
Marcus McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @Marcus.McCarthy6.