Students, community rally against O’Connor

Student and community organizations join together to protest the naming of O’Connor Plaza.

Jared Dobkin of Stadium Stompers stood alongside FMLA in Founder's Garden on Thursday afternoon to demand that Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O'Connor step down. | WILL BLEIER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Student and community organizations held a rally in O’Connor Plaza Wednesday, as a part of the campaign to remove Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor’s name from the newly dedicated plaza and for O’Connor to step down from the Board.

Representatives from organizations spoke to a crowd of about 50 students about O’Connor’s connection to former university trustee Bill Cosby, who he defended in a 2005 civil suit against Andrea Constand, former university employee who Cosby allegedly sexually assaulted.

Martha Sherman, FMLA president, Conor Geiger, vice president of the Temple Young Democratic Socialists of America, Lile Harrison, member of Socialist Students at Temple University and Jared Dobkin, a Stadium Stompers leader spoke at the rally.

Harrison spoke to the crowd about the university’s response to Cosby’s criminal trial against Constand that ended in deadlock this summer.

“O’Connor has been chairman of the Board since 2009, and it speaks volumes of how this school administration is structured,” Harrison told the crowd. “He has flaunted university funds and continuously attacked the surrounding community, and most infamously O’Connor represented and defended Bill Cosby against allegations of rape and sexual assault.”

Geiger told The Temple News about his new organization’s commitment to the campaign.

“It was important to be out here today, because we need to take a stand against the Board of Trustees and their undemocratic, anti-worker stand,” he said. “We want, as a new organization, to show that we are standing with other left-wing organizations here against sexism and rape apology.”

Volunteers from the organizations distributed FAQ sheets with information about O’Connor, FMLA’s demands and resources for survivors of sexual assault.

“We’re trying to raise awareness about the issue, because I honestly think our biggest barrier to getting [O’Connor] off the board and getting more resources for sexual assault is that people don’t know about it,” Sherman told The Temple News. “They see O’Connor Plaza, and they don’t think twice about it. We want to make people on campus aware with what’s going on.”

Sophomore psychology major Kaila Alderfer and freshman political science major Melissa Ziegler held signs that displayed a timeline of O’Connor and Cosby’s relationship.

Alderfer sent an email to President Richard Englert as a part of FMLA’s email campaign, which encourages students to reach out to him about their grievances with O’Connor and the plaza.  

“I sent an email to the president of Temple, and I did not hear anything back,” Alderfer said. “It’s a really big issue, and he needs to know about it, and getting [emails] from a massive number of students, hopefully our voices will be heard.”

“I wanted to come out and participate in this event because it’s not something I don’t think a lot of people are familiar with why people are upset about O’Connor Plaza,” Ziegler said. “It’s really important for people to be aware of the things that are going on in our university, what were spending money on and who we’re supporting.”

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