TU Purpose faces probation

After the group invited a speaker from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to Main Campus, Student Affairs reprimanded it.

After the group invited a speaker from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to Main Campus, Student Affairs reprimanded it.

New student organizations face a slew of challenges during their first year. Distinguishing themselves from similar organizations, building a solid membership base and getting their names out around Main Campus are among some of those challenges. But for Temple University Purpose, the greatest first-year challenge has been conflict with Student Affairs.

The organization’s propensity for hosting attention-grabbing programs landed the group in trouble with Student Affairs several times this year. On April 14, Director of Student Center Operations Jason Levy notified the organization that, effective immediately, it was on probation for a planned event.

Led by its president Alvaro Watson, a senior social work major, TU Purpose aims to create an open forum for those passionate about social and political issues to exchange ideas and opinions freely. Guided by its motto, “Socially driven, politically aware,” the organization has not shied away from controversial issues.

“We’re not afraid of tackling issues that other organizations might be afraid of,” Watson said.

The grudge between TU Purpose and Student Affairs began last fall. Main Campus was in an uproar in October when controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders was invited to speak in Anderson Hall.

After paying an initial Student Center-assessed security fee for the anticipation of any safety risks, the organization was charged an additional security fee that TU Purpose members said they felt was unnecessary and unfair. When attempts at resolving the issue on their own failed, the organization reached out to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education for assistance. The Student Center eventually dropped the additional fee.

TU Purpose’s latest grapple with Student Affairs revolves around a security issue as well. On April 14, FIRE President Greg Lukianoff came to Temple to speak about political correctness and student censorship. In the paperwork submitted to secure space and resources for the event, TU Purpose did not identify Lukianoff as a political or controversial figure because organization leaders said they believe he is neither. Doing so, however, would have necessitated a security officer’s presence during the event.

On the morning of the event, Watson received the e-mail informing him of TU Purpose’s probationary status.

“It said that the content of the speech had not been submitted to them,” he said. “But we scheduled the event back in February. Why did they wait that long to contact us?”

According to the e-mail, published online at TheFIRE.org, Levy said, “a follow up contact was made by our office requesting that information and it was not provided.”

Watson said the e-mail also stated that Student Affairs made many unsuccessful attempts to reach him and other members of the executive board, and although no one requested security presence at the event, it would be provided free-of-charge. He said the former statement is an outright lie.

“No one tried to contact myself, or anyone else in Purpose about this matter. But even if they had tried to contact us and failed, the next point of contact should have been our faculty advisor. No one contacted her either,” Watson said.

In the e-mail, Levy continues that, “Unfortunately, our office did not do as good a job as we should have in following up with you and we take responsibility for that – but you and your organization also bear some of the responsibility in the process.

“Please note that we will not charge your for tonight’s security,” he continues, “but that we will be adding TU Purpose to the student org. probation list for the remainder of the semester [sic].”

Watson said he believes that the probation is yet another attempt by Student Affairs to place a roadblock in front of the organization and dissuade them from sponsoring controversial events in the future.

“We’ve done everything required of us for our events. We’ve made sure to dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’. Yet, Student Center Operations continues to throw obstacles in our way to shut us up,” he added.

TU Purpose again turned to FIRE for assistance. Adam Kissel, director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense program, has been heavily involved in trying to resolve this matter. Kissel said this latest probation issue raises both due-process and freedom-of-speech issues, and that other student organizations should be wary of the implications of TU Purpose’s treatment.

“We have asked Temple to explain their seemingly random decisions and actions, but they haven’t. This is a danger to every student organization’s freedom of speech rights on [Temple’s] campus,” Kissel said.

Kissel agreed that Lukianoff posed no security risk to the campus and said requests to the university for policy information in regards to organization probation criteria and/or guidelines had been ignored.

Moving forward, Kissel said he and FIRE plan to raise public awareness about what he said is a gross violation on Temple’s part.

“Public attention is always a check on unconstitutional actions so we plan to spread the news about the way Temple treats their student organizations. It’s up to them whether they want that information spread in a positive way, or in a critical way,” Kissel said.

Levy declined to comment, but Assistant Vice President for University Communications Ray Betzner issued a statement on behalf of Student Affairs, saying:
“Student Affairs supports Temple groups and regularly works with hundreds of student groups each semester to hold meetings and events on campus. There have been times when some groups have not followed the university’s procedures when having events. When this happens, Student Affairs staff let the groups know there have been problems and meet with them to discuss the concerns.

“The purpose of these meetings,” Betzner continued, “is educational, and the goal is to eliminate problems so the group can continue to use campus facilities.”

There is no word on whether any such meeting has been planned for TU Purpose.

In the future, Watson said he’d like to see better communication among the different divisions of Student Affairs and between the Office of Student Affairs and student organizations. He also said he hopes for fair and equal treatment for his organization.

“If anyone should be on probation, it should be Student Activities because they have not done their job,” Watson said. “It’s ironic that an organization such as ourselves who aim to give a voice to controversial issues is basically being silenced.”

Angelo Williams can be reached at angelo.williams@temple.edu.


  1. If you look up this FIRE group on wikipedia it says they are against Universities charging extra security fees for student groups…mmm wonder why TU purpose wanted to bring them here?

    come on Temple News I’m surprised you didn’t look this up yourself, the reference on wikipedia is from a newspaper in California, that’s legit enough right?

    Also if you look at the cases in Universities they support they are basically libertarians who want to perpetuate racism, sexism, anti-muslim sentiments and hate in the name of free speech. Kind of like Geert Wilders…so even though the current president isn’t famous the organization is pretty clear about what they believe by the cases they’ve supported.

    This really brings it back to this fake debate about colleges being too “liberal” like the media is too “liberal”. Again. Who are colleges run by? How much does our president make? What companies does Temple invest in with endowment funds? Who is on the board of trustees? Temple is about as “liberal” in actual policy as the mainstream media is. (owned by less than 10 corporations worldwide)

    Come on Temple, can we start having real discourse?

  2. A real discourse has been created, and Temple University Purpose proudly takes credit for it. While, yes, 4 of the 5 events we have held have provided enough ammunition for some persons to label us right-wing or just a one-trick pony, it is not that we are either of those. If you take the time to read our mission, anyone can read that Purpose “firmly believes in embracing and challenging scholarly discussion of most-critical issues and debates on present developments…” All of the events we had are not events we had because of the e-Boards personal preferences; rather, they are because they happen to be most-critical issues on which there are present developments all locally, in our country and around the world. Perhaps, instead of reading Wikipedia, one might choose to read out mission (we’re even on Facebook- go figure) and douse suspicions and rumors with ill-purpose.

    Founder and President, Temple University Purpose

  3. But its true…The San Francisco Chronicle wrote that the “FIRE” group is against Universities imposing a security fee for student organizations? Need the link?


    Mission statements are propaganda that any organization wants the public to believe. I think that ACTIONS the organization takes will reveal what the organization is about. What actions has your group done? Brought Geert Wilders, the Confederation of Iranian Students,

    “Confederation of Iranian Students (CIS) is a pro western independent student movement group”

    An anti-abortion group, and Drug and Alcohol Addition Survivors?

    Basically your point is that colleges are too “liberal” and students should feel comfortable acting like bigots in the classroom…and that conservatives just aren’t respected enough in Universities? Did you think it was funny when the president of the MSA had her life threatened too?

    I don’t think that Temple should target a group because of their content…but I think it’s pretty obvious what the goal of your organization is by your ACTIONS, not words.

  4. Mission statements are propaganda? Perhaps to cynics like you they are. Our actions reflect the statement I provided from out mission, nothing more. You may not favor any of our events, but that is your issue, your prerogative. Had we had a flower show that showcased flowers from the Southwest, you’d have found some form to criticize and label. It is persons like you that Purpose tries to reach to create a dialogue. Quite obviously it succeeded. We never set out to change minds or make fans. We set out to inform and help persons grow stronger in their beliefs and appreciate others for what they are or aren’t regardless of popularity. I can’t express to you how proud we are of having brought a new perspective–a challenging one–to Temple. What have you done? That is, other than criticize diversity. Those are your actions. When we provide our open forum, it’s to give voice to those not given one on our campus. Also, our members drive the agenda. If you criticize Purpose (or me), you are criticizing your peers, which is fine, but you need to understand what/who you are criticizing and the reasons we hold our events. All of your comments criticize but not once have you asked why we held the events we held. That is where you fall short and that is what happened last October with Wilders, many close minded individuals began venomous rumors. I would advise you not to use Monira as your form of ammunition to your argument. I think that is shameful. Monira and I have worked on our relationship as Presidents of student organizations. We have worked on understanding our organizations and have moved on with a positive outlook on our futures on campus. These are Monira’s actions and mine. Again, reflect on your actions. Quite different than ours, I’m sure. I’d suggest you do the same and extend your mind from that little bubble in which your mind exists. You have an October 20th mentality (I’m sure you’ve memorized that date). Move past that date. Be productive. Attempt to understand and appreciate as reasonable persons do. Bitterness has consumed you and your cynicism will destroy any possibility you could ever have at being productive at whatever it is that you desire to do with yourself.

    Think about this; Purpose simply presents information and leaves it to freethinkers to do with it as they would like.

    If you have a problem with that, I suggest you move somewhere without freethinking or that isn’t pro-Western. Your arguments baffle me. Your arguments fuel my drive. Your words only validate the reason–the NEED–for an organization like Purpose to exist on our TU campus.

    I’ve no other words for you but THANK YOU. Just as I thanked all of the protesters from last year, I thank you for showing that you care about whatever your care about.

  5. Kristen, please keep up with the news. Don’t be a spreader of rumors. We are not on probation and there was never any reason for us to be on it. We’re still going strong. Thanks for the entertaining chat. I wish you great success with your actions.

  6. Temple University Purpose all of you rock!! You are a great leader Alvaro Watson.
    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”~Theodore Roosevelt

  7. I stand 100% behind Watson.

    Back in the day (I’m a 2007 summa cum laude graduate), I had to deal with the fools at Student Affairs and actually ended up winning (got a lady fired unintentionally because my state representative threaten Temple’s appropriation because Student Affairs was trying to deny my group its very basic Constitutional Rights– SA was flagarently discriminating against our group… didn’t even have to get the ACLU or FIRE involved, but they were both interested in taking up our case!).

    Temple has a push down policy if anyone hasn’t noticed… If they can, and you have no resolve, they’ll push you around. Ironically we have this great document called the CONSTITION which reigns at public universities and endows EVERYONE with the same RIGHTS!!! I know some of you would like to replace the Constitution with your own ideas from the dark ages (such as the Soviet Union and modern China where people were/are denied unalienable rights), but the Enlightenment truly means bringing LIGHT to the front and not running away because someone might be offended. It’s sad that anyone in today’s age thinks their agenda should be the only one pursued.

    Perhaps Temple University should finally review their Student Affairs Office and bring it and Temple Student Government out of the dark ages and into the Enlightenment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.