Temple University President Resigns as Crime Grows Near Campus

Jason Wingard, the first Black president of the university, faced criticism over his handling of a strike and fears about rising crime in Philadelphia.

The president of Temple University in Philadelphia resigned on Tuesday after a brief and tumultuous tenure plagued by worsening crime around campus, a strike by graduate students and a loss of confidence in his leadership among some faculty.

Jason Wingard, who became the university’s first Black president in 2021, sent a statement to the campus community last week addressing concerns over campus safety and dwindling enrollment at Temple. His reassurances, however, proved futile as the chair of the university’s board of trustees, Mitchell Morgan, said in a statement on Tuesday that the board had accepted Mr. Wingard’s resignation.

After briefly thanking Mr. Wingard for his service, Mr. Morgan wrote: “Given the urgent matters now facing the university, particularly campus safety, the board and the administration will ensure the highest level of focus on these serious issues.”

Mr. Wingard and the board of trustees each did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on Tuesday night. Friday will be his last day as the university’s president.

Mr. Wingard’s rapid downfall came as parents, students and faculty voiced frustration with Temple under his leadership.

The university has contended with high levels of gun violence in Philadelphia. In 2022, there were 516 homicides, down from 562 in 2021 but higher than every other year going back to 2007, when the Philadelphia Police Department started sharing data on its website.

High-profile killings near campus have only fueled anxieties. In February, Sgt. Christopher Fitzgerald of the Temple University Police Department was shot dead in North Philadelphia, near the campus. In 2021, Samuel Collington, a Temple student, was shot and killed near campus after an apparent robbery and carjacking, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Some parents were unnerved enough to hire a private security company, JNS Protection Services, to keep watch in parts of North Philadelphia where their students walk to and from campus. Jasmine Jackson, the founder of the company, said that the parents who used its services were desperate to protect their children, who “have to face the harsh reality of North Philadelphia, and Philadelphia in general, of shootings, robberies.”

The university has a nighttime shuttle service, and it expanded a walking escort program last year to address the rise in gun violence near campus.

Temple isn’t the only urban university confronting off-campus crime. School administrators in Chicago; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Austin, Texas, have endured similar problems in recent years.

Mr. Wingard’s presidency was hobbled by the Temple University Graduate Students’ Association’s strike, which ended earlier this month and lasted 42 days as the students sought better wages and benefits.

“He was largely absent as somebody who was supposed to be a very clear leader of the university but seemingly had no presence while we were going through this really significant thing,” Bethany Kosmicki, a former president of the graduate students’ association, said.

University enrollment also declined under Mr. Wingard’s watch. While college enrollment has fallen nationally since the pandemic began, Temple faculty said the administration was not transparent about how it would respond.

The faculty and staff union was concerned enough to call for a vote of no confidence in Mr. Wingard earlier this month, said Danielle Scherer, the vice president of operations for the Temple Association of University Professionals.

“He seems to really miss a lot of what the purpose behind an education is supposed to do in terms of producing citizens who care about humanist principles and think about the cultivation of individuals as anything other than employees,” she said.

Faculty at Temple were alarmed by his writing about higher education, including questioning its current value and adopting technology that took students out of the classroom, Ms. Scherer said.

“At one point, a college education was seen as the ticket to career success and advancement, but we live in a capitalist society, and we know what happens when money is at stake,” Mr. Wingard wrote in a 2022 opinion piece. “The key to retaining the value of a degree from your own institution is ensuring your graduates have the skills to change with any market.”

Mr. Wingard resigned before the union could hold a vote, but its leaders still intend to hold a vote of no confidence on Mr. Morgan, the chair of the board of trustees, and on Gregory Mandel, Temple’s provost and a law professor.

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