No Confidence: Temple President Dismissed, Stadium Resistance Remains
Last Tuesday, Temple University’s Board of Trustees submitted a vote of no confidence in President Neil Theobald, sending a shockwave throughout North Philadelphia.
Theobald, who refused to resign, will be forced to step down from his position on July 21.
“Basically, he’s gonna be out,” Cornelius Moody told students and community members the next day during a meeting at the Church of the Advocate on 18th and Diamond streets.
In the light of Theobald’s dismissal, the Stadium Stompers — the organization that formed to protest the construction of a stadium in North Philadelphia — continues to hold meetings and events.
The Stadium Stompers did not hesitate to discuss Theobald, who consistently has advocated for a 35,000 seat on-campus stadium.
“Theobald ignored the voices of community, workers, students and faculty forcing us to protest in order to be heard,” the Stadium Stompers Facebook page read hours after the news was announced.
Moody, who facilitated the meeting, called for a round of applause.
“It seems like there’s definitely a drive to keep moving forward,” Moody told attendees.
Despite initial enthusiasm at Theobald’s removal, many at the meeting expressed skepticism. Patricia Wiggins, who has lived in North Philadelphia for more than 65 years, said she is unsure of how to perceive Theobald’s removal.
“I don’t know if maybe Theobald was weakening, and the Board of Trustees saw that,” Wiggins said. “Maybe they thought they’ll put somebody in, maybe, to push even stronger for a stadium.”
While Theobald will step down, plans to build a stadium are moving forward. At the same July 12 meeting that called for Theobald’s removal, the Board of Trustees voted to increase funding for a feasibility study on the stadium. Originally, the study was projected to cost $1 million; now, an extra $250,000 has been added to gage the effect the stadium will have on traffic in the area.
“Apparently, one million dollars to figure out if a stadium’s a bad idea wasn’t enough money,” Moody told the Stadium Stompers amid laughter.
Despite its growing stadium budget, Temple has recently faced financial troubles. In late June, Temple discovered a $22 million deficit in its financial aid budget, which led to the dismissal of former provost Hai-Lung Dai.
While processing Dai’s removal, Theobald offered Dai a generous settlement, including a deanship and a sabbatical. According to Kevin Feely, a spokesperson for the Board, the deficit, and Theobald’s actions that followed, led to his own removal.
As the Stadium Stompers discussed Theobald’s removal, Veronica Ayala, a Temple student, alluded to Dai’s dismissal.
“I think we can celebrate the fact that the Provost was fired,” Ayala said.
According to Ayala, several years ago two Temple professors had organized a program that would facilitate interaction between students and the community. Dai, however, cancelled funding for the program before it began.
“I fundamentally know that [Dai] wasn’t really about programs like that, or trying to link, exactly, the community and the students,” Ayala said. “He didn’t think it was valuable.”
JoAnne Epps, the dean of Temple’s Beasley School of Law, has been nominated to replace Dai as provost. Following Theobald’s official dismissal, Richard M. Englert, the University’s Chancellor, will serve as acting president of the university.
As Temple experiences major changes — the expulsion and replacement of two of its most prominent leaders — resistance to the prospective stadium remains firm.
“Regardless of what you want to take from this thing with Theobald, where we are in the movement, the fact of the matter is as a group, the Stadium Stompers has done a lot of work,” Moody said.
After addressing Theobald, the Stadium Stompers discussed plans for a block party, a march and even a movement to inform incoming freshman about gentrification in North Philadelphia.
“We just have to keep pushing,” Wiggins said.