This story has been updated at 6:43 p.m.
The Temple University Board of Trustees issued a unanimous statement of condemnation at a meeting on Tuesday against Marc Lamont Hill’s comments at the United Nations last month, which sparked national outrage.
The Board recognized Hill’s First Amendment right to free speech and that he was not acting as a representative of the university at the time of his anti-Israeli, pro-Palestinian comments at the U.N. on Nov. 28.
The statement does not suggest that Hill will be fired or reprimanded for his remarks, but trustees said administrators are still “evaluating” if they will take any action.
“The members of the Board of Trustees of Temple University — Of The Commonwealth System of Higher Education, in exercise of their own Constitutionally-protected right as citizens to express their views, hereby state their disappointment, displeasure, and disagreement with Professor Hill’s comments, and reaffirm in the strongest possible terms the President’s condemnation of all anti-Semitic, racist or incendiary language, hate speech, calls to violence, or the disparagement of any person or persons based on religion, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity.”Board of Trustees’s Statement of Condemnation
President Richard Englert reaffirmed the Board’s message during his Board report Tuesday.
Englert said the administration analyzed the law and consulted with legal counsel, “nationally renowned expertise” from outside the university, Provost JoAnne Epps and David Boardman, the dean of the Klein College of Media and Communication.
“It is clear that Professor Hill’s appearance and his views were his own and not as a representative of Temple University,” Englert said. “He spoke as a private citizen and his right to do so is protected by the Constitution.”
Earlier this month, CNN fired Hill following the controversy. Hill, who is an urban education and media studies and production professor, has issued several apologies since his speech, including to the Temple community.
Boardman attended the meeting and, in a statement to The Temple News, wrote that he is “pleased” that the Board respected Hill’s right to free speech.
“This has been a traumatic chapter for many people in the Temple community and beyond, and a profound reminder that words can wound,” Boardman’s statement reads. “Words can also heal, and it is my hope that we can turn this into an opportunity to teach, to learn, and to talk productively across fault lines that divide our nation on many issues.”
Chairman Patrick O’Connor told the Inquirer on Nov. 30 that Hill’s comments are “hate speech.”
“I’m not happy. The board’s not happy. The administration’s not happy. People wanted to fire him right away,” O’Connor told the Inquirer. “We’re going to look at what remedies we have.”
O’Connor told The Temple News on Tuesday that the university is still “evaluating” any remedies to these situations, but did not elaborate on what these remedies could look like.
More than 30 university faculty members signed a letter of “no confidence” in O’Connor earlier this month following his statements about Hill.
“When the faculty asked for my ouster because I expressed my first amendment rights, I was outraged with their hypocrisy,” O’Connor said Tuesday. “I didn’t call for [Hill’s] ouster.”
Hill joined Klein’s faculty as the first Steve Charles Chair in Media, Cities and Solutions. Trustee Steve Charles endowed the chair in 2016 with a $2 million gift.
“What I want to see is that chair be focused on solutions journalism,” Charles told The Temple News after the Board meeting. “I need to see more evidence of that.”
Hill currently teaches the special topics course Solutions Journalism: Germantown in Klein.
Charles said he met with the professor last week to discuss the controversy and Hill’s concerns about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Charles is working with administrators to develop a university-wide crisis communication system that will allow Temple to “instantly to tap into a network of whoever is around the campus who is an expert” on the subject of future public controversies. It will help university leaders and press people make informed public comments.
Tuesday’s meeting started about 20 minutes after its scheduled time, as trustees continued to meet in executive session that started at 2:30 p.m. for more than an hour.
Executive session was “heated,” trustee Leonard Barrack said.
“I was very upset,” Barrack said regarding Hill’s comments. “I haven’t slept for nights.”
University officials, including the trustees, are concerned that not taking action on Hill could affect enrollment and alumni donations, he added.
Trustee Marina Kats and Barrack both said the university’s statement of condemnation could have been stronger.
“Some of the early remarks about his constitutional privileges could have been left out because I thought they were redundant,” Barrack said.
“I think the board did not go far enough in their condemnation of professor Lamont Hill,” Kats said. “ I think we should explore all the options. He does have freedom to speak as he wishes…however when it is inciteful speech he no longer has the protection of the first amendment.”
Trustee Tony McIntyre said that he believes the Board reacted appropriately, but he personally condemns Hill’s comments.
“I’m not Jewish, but if I had a Jewish child, I’m not so sure I want him in that guy’s class,” he added.