ABOVE PHOTO: JoAnne Epps (Photo/temple.edu)
PHILADELPHIA — Former Temple University law school dean and provost JoAnne Epps has been named acting president of the university. She vowed to focus on safety and enrollment amid spiraling crime near the north Philadelphia campus and other issues during her predecessor’s tumultuous tenure of less than two years.
Epps, who has spent nearly four decades at the university, told The Philadelphia Inquirer before the announcement that she believes she was selected in part for her “ability to sort of calm waters.” The newspaper reported that enrollment is down 14% since 2019.
“I am obviously humbled and excited and really looking forward to being able to make a contribution to the university that I so love,” Epps said in an interview with the paper. She said she will not be a candidate for the permanent position as the university launches a national search for a new president.
Jason Wingard, Temple’s first Black president, resigned last month after leading the 33,600-student university since July 2021.
Wingard, 51, resigned shortly before a no-confidence vote by the faculty union, with members citing concerns over falling enrollment, financial issues, and labor disputes. He had told a panel of state lawmakers a week earlier that Philadelphia’s homicide rate has wrought a climate in which students, faculty, parents, and staff are afraid.
In announcing his resignation, the school vowed to ensure “the highest level of focus” on serious issues facing the institution, “particularly campus safety.”
Temple University police officer Christopher Fitzgerald, 31, was shot and killed near campus earlier this year after pursing three people dressed in black and wearing masks in an area where there had been a series of robberies and carjackings. Two youths were arrested nearby, and an 18-year-old suspect was taken into custody the following morning. The school said Fitzgerald, a father of five, was the first Temple University officer killed in the line of duty.
The university had also recently seen a six-week strike by graduate students who are teaching and research assistants. Members of the graduate student union last month ratified a new contract after overwhelmingly rejecting an earlier agreement and extending their walkout.
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