volume 41, number 1
Temple UniversityFaculty Herald

The Plan to Privatize Temple

—Marina Angel, Professor of Law, Temple University School of Law

Marina Angel,

Professor of Law

Temple University School of Law

Tony Wagner, whose titles include Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and Treasurer of Temple University, has been chosen as the point person to inform the faculty, including the Faculty Senate Steering Committee, the Representative Senate, and the Collegial Assemblies, of the plan to privatize Temple University.  (link to Cherry & White Pages, when you get there, print in Anthony Wagner).  We are used to reports from Temple's financial officer, but no one expected the new vision and "Mission" of the University to be delivered by the CFO.  The not so subliminal message is that faculty are just interchangeable cogs in a machine -- the cheaper the better.  A recent administration letter to all faculty said there were 150 new faculty members, 125 non-tenure track (NTT) and 25 tenured or tenure-track.  NTTs are cheaper and easier to control, since they are on short-term contracts.  Public entities that privatize eliminate external controls that allow them to get rid of expensive, long term employees and hire a cheap, contingent work force.

When Mr. Wagner appeared at the Law School, I told him at the end of his speech that he was describing privatizing our university.  He admitted that fact and told me there had been widespread "transparent" discussion of privatization for the four years since he arrived at Temple in 2007.  Mr. Wagner has carefully avoided the use of the specific word "privatize," so none of the faculty understood that that's what he was talking about.


The faculty are used to having the Mission of Temple University articulated by a President or Provost, not by Temple's CFO.  Since no one in the Temple University community, except possibly the upper levels of the Administration and maybe some or all of the Trustees, has been privy to any discussion of "privatization," for four years Mr. Wagner has either been talking to himself or to a very limited upper echelon of university officials.


He  articulated three justifications for "privatization,"  1) the amount of Pennsylvania state funding is low and is decreasing,  2) we need to go to one level of tuition, the same for both in-state and out-of-state students to increase our income,  3) our enrollments and undergraduate student credentials are going up and will continue to do so.


Unstated is the fact that if Temple privatizes, all faculty unions will be immediately disestablished.  Under the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in NLRB v. Yeshiva University, faculty at private universities are considered managers, not employees entitled to unionize. This is probably something Mr. Wagner, some university officials, and some trustees, would love to see.


Let me examine the validity of Mr. Wagner's three justifications for privatizing Temple. 


1.  The amount of Pennsylvania's state funding is low and is decreasing.


When I arrived at Temple University in 1978, Peter Liacouras was Dean of the Law School.  He specifically and publicly complained to the Law School Faculty that the percent of Temple's state funding was low and that the University of Pennsylvania was getting as much, or almost as much, as Temple.  A senior tenured faculty member and law librarian, the late John Lindsey, had been tenured at four universities and was the interim dean at one of them.  John Lindsey told me in the 1980s that it was highly unusual for a public university to be as tuition driven as Temple.


You have discovered America, Mr. Wagner--after Leif Erikson, Zheng He, and Christopher Columbus. The answer is not privatization, but more effective lobbying, fund raising, and grant attaining by Temple University. 


How effective is our lobbying if we have gotten the exact same amount of money from Pennsylvania for the last three years and a half million dollars less than we got ten years ago?  In the real world of non profit institutions, the primarily function of trustees is to donate money and raise money for the non profit institution.  How much money have the current members of Temple University's Board of Trustees donated this year?  How much money have they raised?  Temple seemed to have an evolving mission for research to provide both more money to the University and quality education for our graduate students.  In the last year, Temple has degraded the job of the person in charge of research and inexplicably failed to renew one year contracts for prominent and successful research professors.  We had a Vice President for Research who reported directly to the President.  We now have a Senior Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Education who reports to the Interim Provost.  We have downgraded the title and importance of the head of research while increasing the person's responsibilities to include all of graduate education. 


President Hart has eight people reporting to her directly: Anthony Wagner (CFO & Treasurer), George Moore (University Counsel), David Unruh (Fundraising), William Bradshaw (Athletics), Kenneth Lawrence (Government, Community & Public Affairs), William Bergman (Chief of Staff & Construction), Edmond Notebaert (Health Sciences), and Richard Englert (Interim Provost).  What happened to academics, including research, as the primary goals of Temple University?


2.  We need to go to one level of tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students.


Has it occurred to Mr. Wagner, either talking to himself or to a small group of Temple's elite, that the primary reason our enrollments are going up is because Pennsylvania residents find our low in-state tuition attractive during these tough economic times?  Our out-of-state enrollments have also gone up, because our out-of-state tuition is low compared to other public and private schools in the northeast corridor.  If we go to one level of tuition, we would lose more of our disadvantaged students of ability whose presence makes Temple's diversity attractive to our upper middle class students.  As a result, we would lose our appeal to many of the more affluent students who chose to come to Temple believing it is diverse. 


There are other consequences that would flow from our going to one level of tuition. 


The Pennsylvania legislature would not tolerate one level of tuition and would cut all, or almost all, of our $178.5 million of state funding.  Temple would have no unique mission that would distinguish us from other private non-profit or for profit competitors.  By the way, Temple University Japan is incorporated under Japanese law as a private for profit educational entity.  It has no tenure.   Almost all faculty are on six month to one year contracts, renewable at the whim of the administration.  Forget about Japan's traditional lifetime employment; it no longer exists.  The vast majority of courses are taught by adjuncts, who are often indistinguishable from full time faculty.  Is this the blueprint for Temple University main campus? 


Mr. Wagner argued that, since University of Pennsylvania gets as much or almost as much funding as Temple, a privatized Temple would continue to receive the same amount of funding.  This reasoning is fatally flawed.  The University of Pennsylvania has a very clear mission as a major research university with several highly specialized programs.  It has a superb lobbying effort in Harrisburg and a Board of Trustees whose members consistently contribute generously to Penn.  The late Chair of Temple's Board of Trustees, Howard Gittis, contributed much more money to Penn than he did to Temple.  If I recall correctly, in his last year as Chair he contributed $25 million to Penn and $5 million to Temple.


Temple's traditional mission was articulated by its founder Russell Conwell and was encapsulated in the phrase "Acres of Diamonds."  Temple provided opportunities in higher education to those "Diamonds" who would ordinarily be closed out.  What is Mr. Wagner's understanding of Temple's current Mission?  Looking at admissions policies and activities, Temple's Mission seems to be to attract and provide yet more opportunities for the children of the more affluent.  Temple's recent publicity regarding the new undergraduate class included the statement that we have "doubled" our Latina/o admittees as compared to last year.  Latin Americans are the fastest growing segment of the American population.  They are only 3.7% of the just admitted undergraduate class.  This is nothing to brag about.  African-Americans are almost 50% of the population of Philadelphia. We admitted only 14%.  Asian Americans are the new immigrants and should be admitted in adequate numbers to represent their communities.  All of our students will live in an increasingly multi-cultural country operating in an increasingly international context.  Many of our white students come here because they believe Temple will prepare them for the future.  If Temple does not reflect the composition of our city, our state, or our country, our attraction will disappear and our remaining students will not be adequately prepared to deal with the future.


Mr. Wagner's response to questions from the Law Faculty regarding the changing composition of Temple's student populations, including our graduate and professional schools, was the slogan that "diversity is built into Temple's DNA."  Reality belies the slogan.


Temple's traditional mission was clear, articulated, and apparent.  Its new mission is unclear but seems to be to use state money to build pyramids in honor of "the elite," while at the same time raising tuition for students and chiseling faculty and staff on salary and benefits.  The idea that Pennsylvania's Legislature and Governor will continue to fund us at our current levels is totally unrealistic when Temple is abandoning its traditional mission and its new mission is unclear and seems no different than that of any other private non-profit or for profit school.


Temple is the only public university with its main campus in southeastern Pennsylvania.  If we lose our public status, we lose everything.


3.  Our enrollments and undergraduate student credentials are going up and will continue to do so.


They will not continue to go up if we go to one level of tuition for all applicants.  As stated earlier, we are getting more in-state applicants because of our lower tuition.


Only people who do not understand SAT scores would brag to faculty that there has been 5 point average increase to 1114 in our combined undergraduate SAT scores.  The statement may be true, but it is meaningless in terms of indicating any real increase in quality of students.




Now that it is clear that Mr. Wagner is leading the effort to privatize Temple, it's time to let him, the rest of the Administration, and the Trustees know that the idea stinks.