With next president, Temple needs to demonstrate commitment to diversity, students and faculty say

Temple University in Philadelphia (Photo by Brendan O'Kane via Flickr Commons)

PHILADELPHIA — Students and faculty at Temple University are crediting outgoing university President Richard M. Englert for what they said was a demonstrable commitment to the state-related institution. But they have some very specific expectations of his eventual replacement.

Temple University President Richard M. Englert told the Temple Board of Trustees on Tuesday he will retire from his post next year (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

Rising senior Lily Sanders told the Capital-Star that she couldn’t think of a “glaring weakness,” in Englert’s tenure, but she did say that the “the consideration of building a stadium under his presidency was a huge misstep.”

“Temple’s increasing encroachment on the North Philadelphia community is something that I find deeply problematic,” Sanders said.

Englert, a 45-year Temple veteran, announced his retirement Wednesday. He called the decision to step down “bittersweet,” the Philadelphia Tribune, a publishing partner of the Capital-Star, reported.

Under Englert’s guidance, the university welcomed its largest and most academically qualified classes of new students, broke records for freshman applications and experienced growth as a premier research institution. Temple had its first Rhodes Scholar and has seen a steady rise of national and international recognition for students through Fulbright and other scholarship programs, the Tribune reported.

Sanders told the Capital-Star that it’s important that Englert’s eventual replacement demonstrate a knowledge, acceptance of the surrounding North Philadelphia community. He or she should also focus on making the university a more inclusive environment.

“It would be great to see someone that has grown up in the surrounding community in our University’s highest position,” Sanders said. “However, I don’t want the University to place a BIPOC or woman in that position as a form of tokenism or as a means of brushing concerns of systemic racism and Temple’s continued support for the Philadelphia Police Department under the rug.”

Nila Denise, a rising junior and political science major, said she’d like to see Englert replaced by a person of color.

“Since Temple is located in a predominately African American area, I feel that this type of change would truly inspire the community,” Denise said. “Overall, I believe that this change would amplify the voices of black students, something much needed within these trying times.”

Abbe Depretis, a communications and social influence professor said Englert “stepped in at a time when clear leadership was needed, and I think he did a good job at providing that steady hand,” Depretis also credited Englert for keeping faculty in the loop when major events occurred.

Temple Field Hockey Head Coach Susan Ciufo said Englert “understood how the student-athletes represent the university in a positive light,” Ciufo said.

After the field hockey team experienced an unexpected cancelation of an away game at Kent State University, Englert showed his support.

“Immediately I had a phone call with President Englert and he was very understanding, upset, and helped fight our battle to get reimbursed for our trip to Ohio.” Ciufo said.

Temple University rising junior, Jackie Rappaport, a media studies and production major, said she’d found Englert friendly and involved with student life.

“I remember speaking with him at the Homecoming booth I ran, and he was not only eager to see what the Klein College of Media and Communication was presenting, he was also courteous in meeting my family,” Rappaport said.  “When a higher-up is present it shows, and it always did with President Englert.”

The university plans to promptly move to form a selection committee to conduct a national search for a new president. Englert has agreed to stay on until his replacement is named, the Tribune reported.

For Depretis, “the timing is perfect to hire someone and send a message to the students, faculty and staff that diversity and inclusion are important to the future of the school.”

Correspondent Michala Butler, of Harrisburg, is a sophomore communications student at Temple University in Philadelphia. Follow her one Twitter, @MickiB16.