volume 41, number 3
Temple UniversityFaculty Herald


Of Town Hall Meetings...

—David Waldstreicher, Faculty Herald Editor

The President’s recent town hall meetings with faculty have been very nice affairs. I mean that in every way.

They’ve been well planned and well publicized. They’ve covered important subjects and passed on information about athletics, the 20/20 plan, and sustainability to any faculty member who cared to attend (and an average of about sixty or seventy have done
so). They’ve sometimes ended with choice beverages and especially fine hors d’oeuvres. I’ve enjoyed sharing space with the president and other administrators, the athletic staff and my colleagues. The barriers that separate professionals at any modern university seemed a little less stony on those days. It felt good.

But a “town hall meeting” is not a town meeting. The classic New England town meeting – still very much in operation – is an exercise in direct democracy. The people of a town gather together annually and actually make decisions – including laws.

It is also not the Faculty Senate, where the faculty’s elected representatives gather monthly. It seems that the recent profusion of town hall meetings is, intentionally or not, in part an attempt to create a different mode of publicity for the administration – perhaps an end-around the Faculty Senate. The Senate has this year, sought to limit the number and extent of administrative presentations at Senate meetings and devote more of the Senate’s time to deliberating, making decisions, and calling for action.

When the Huron Group was brought in quickly in January to consult about expected budget-cutting necessities, the Provost announced a “town hall meeting” with the faculty so that their views could be heard. About seventy faculty came expecting to hear a presentation, as has usually been the case at the President’s town hall meetings. Instead we were told that we were going to do the talking, and the Huron specialists were going to do the listening.

Now we’ve come full circle: town hall meetings are for faculty as well as administrators to be heard. I was proud of my colleagues at the Huron town hall meetings: their ideas about the budget – and the process – were well informed and well considered. But there is a big difference between meetings where ideas are aired, and processes that guarantee faculty representation and input. Town hall meetings feel democratic: after all, anybody can get up and say anything. But the ones we have seen have certainly not been any more representative than the Faculty Senate. And they should not substitute for our elected, representative institutions, which are one of the things that make us more than employees following orders.

The Faculty Herald remains dedicated to promoting a dialogue with and among the faulty of Temple University and invites readers to write the editor in response to anything in this or a previous issue, or on other topics of interest and import to Temple Faculty. New letters sent to the editor will be published to a prominent place on the Herald’s website (www.temple.edu/herald) within one or two weeks of the editor receiving them and will be included in the next issue of the Herald. Readers are also welcome to post comments on select articles presented on the new Faculty Herald blog at http://www.facultyherald.blogspot.com.

Letters to the editor should be emailed to David Waldstreicher at facultyherald@temple.edu