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March 29, 2023

Temple president Jason Wingard to resign amid campus safety concerns, university says

An interim group of senior leaders will be designated by the board of trustees during the search for a replacement

Higher Education Universities
Temple President Jason Wingard Resigns Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Temple University will search for a new president after accepting the resignation of Jason Wingard, who served for less than two years. The university has struggled with public safety, falling enrollment, financial issues and labor disputes.

Temple University President Jason Wingard has submitted his resignation and will step down Friday instead of a facing a no-confidence vote that had been planned next month, the university announced. The university's board of trustees will designate a small group of senior leaders to guide Temple during its search for a new president.

The move comes less than two years after Wingard, 51, became the university's first Black president in July 2021.

"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," said Mitchell Morgan, chair of the board of trustees. "We understand that a concerted and sustained effort must be undertaken as we attempt to solve these problems."

Wingard had been facing mounting pressure from university groups, including the Temple Association of University Professionals, the faculty union that authorized the no-confidence vote against the president and two other senior leaders.

Concerns about the impact of violent crime near the North Philly campus intensified last month when Temple University police officer Christopher Fitzgerald was fatally shot during a pedestrian stop. Fitzgerald, 31, was the first Temple police officer to be killed in the line of duty.

There have also been a number of home invasions and carjackings of Temple students, including the fatal shooting of 21-year-old senior Samuel Collington in November 2021.

Temple has adopted several initiatives to improve campus safety since hiring former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey to conduct an audit of the university's operations. These efforts include a new personal safety app and funding for off-campus landlords to add security cameras and better lighting to their properties. Temple's Best Nest Program offers students resources for off-campus housing within the boundaries of the university's patrol zone. 

The university also has more campus police patrolling on foot and bikes, more cameras around campus and better coordination with Philadelphia police. In the wake of Fitzgerald's death, Temple received $1.7 million in state funding for upgrades to campus police technology. 

In addition to persistent crime, Temple has faced falling enrollment, financial issues and labor disputes during Wingard's tenure. The Temple University Graduate Students Association went on strike for more than a month before reaching a new contract with the university earlier in March.

Temple's board of trustees said the interim leadership group will bring years of experience to addressing the university's challenges.

"We recognize that solutions will be most effective, impactful and long-lasting when they reflect the perspectives of so many different groups who care deeply about Temple’s future," Morgan said in a letter to the community. "We remain confident that the university can overcome these challenges with your support."

In 2016, after the board of trustees voted no confidence in then-Temple president Neil Theobald, the university appointed chancellor Richard Englert to serve as acting president. Englert went on to become Temple's president until his retirement in July 2021, when he passed the baton to Wingard.

Temple's timeline to select a new president isn't yet clear.

"As we enter this new phase for Temple, your engagement and collaboration will be critical to our efforts to emerge stronger and more united as an institution, and a community, than ever before," Morgan wrote to the university community.