ABOVE PHOTO: Temple University President Jason Wingard speaks during funeral services for the victims of a deadly row house fire, at Temple University in Philadelphia, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Officials say it’s the city’s deadliest single fire in at least a century. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
PHILADELPHIA — Jason Wingard, the first Black president at Temple University, is resigning after a tumultuous tenure of less than two years and amid a surge of violence that has affected the north Philadelphia campus.
The university announced Tuesday evening that the board of trustees had accepted Wingard’s resignation, which takes effect Friday, and lauded him for what it called significant contributions to the university’s mission.
“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,” the announcement said. “We understand that a concerted and sustained effort must be undertaken as we attempt to solve these problems.”
Officials said “a small group of senior Temple leaders” would be designated to guide the university while another president is being sought.
“This group will have many years of experience at Temple and devotion to its mission,” the announcement said. “Each will have discrete responsibilities for the university’s essential functions and provide a stable foundation for us as we look toward the search for our next president.”
Wingard, 51, has led the 33,600-student university since July 2021.
The Temple Association of University Professionals was preparing to hold a no confidence vote next month regarding Wingard and two other officials, with members citing concerns over falling enrollment, financial issues, and labor disputes. During an emergency town hall meeting earlier this month, faculty members spoke of a reduction of faculty positions, non-renewal notices on contracts, and increasing class sizes, WHYY reported.
Wingard told a panel of state lawmakers last week that Philadelphia’s homicide rate has wrought a climate in which students, faculty, parents and staff are afraid.
A Temple University police officer was shot and killed near the north Philadelphia campus last month. Officer Christopher Fitzgerald, 31, was shot 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 in neighboring Bucks County.
Fitzgerald was the first Temple University officer killed in the line of duty, said Jennifer Griffin, the university’s public safety director. A father of five children, he joined the school’s police force in October 2021.
The university had also recently seen a six-week strike by graduate students who are teaching and research assistants. Union members earlier this month ratified a new contract after overwhelmingly rejecting an earlier agreement and extending their walkout.
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