Temple Fest incident Q&A
The following Q&A details Temple University’s actions in response to the Aug. 20 incident at Temple Fest in which one student struck another during a verbal conflict. This also describes processes moving forward.
What happened at Temple Fest on Wednesday, Aug. 20?
While accounts differ, it is clear that after a verbal conflict, one Temple student struck another student just after 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 20.
What did the university do in response?
Temple took a number of actions, including but not limited to:
- Tended to the injured student. The university provided him medical attention and then offered to take him to Temple University Hospital, which he declined.
- Immediately began a full investigation. Started by taking statements from those present.
- Reached out to the individuals and student groups involved, extending support as needed.
- Asked for witnesses or anyone else having information about the incident to contact Campus Safety.
- Briefed the Philadelphia Police Department and other agencies.
- Reached out again to those involved to address any security concerns after media outlets released their identities.
- Issued a statement on the incident the night it occurred condemning violence on campus. Expanded on that statement in an email from Vice President for Student Affairs Theresa Powell. Dr. Powell's email was sent to all students, faculty and staff on Thursday, Aug. 21. The text of that statement is below.
- Also below are the statements of the Temple Student Government and the Temple Religion Department.
- Reached out via email, social media and news media to encourage students who witnessed the incident to provide statements to campus police in an effort to ascertain additional facts and clarify conflicting accounts.
- Communicated with numerous organizations in the area and around the nation about the event and the actions the university was taking.
- President Neil Theobald briefed Temple Student Government and interested students about the situation.
What is the current status of the investigation?
Temple Police conducted a full investigation into the incident, which included interviews of multiple witnesses as well as the involved students. That investigation has been completed and the next step will be to transfer the results as soon as possible to the Charging Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to assess appropriate charges.
Was anti-Semitic language used? Was this a hate crime?
Temple’s complete summary will be provided to the District Attorney’s office, which will assess the information and charge the case appropriately.
Will you release the details of the investigation?
The University does not release details of investigations like this, in order to prevent bias in the judicial process.
Why did you not arrest anyone at the time of the incident?
Temple Police did not witness the event. Responding officers stopped and identified the accused student, and other witnesses were identified. Based on preliminary facts, a felony did not appear to have occurred so the officers did not have the grounds to make an arrest. The Temple Police then conducted a full investigation. The ultimate determination of charges will be made by the District Attorney.
Will the university take action separate from the criminal process?
Yes. The same information from the police investigation has been sent to Temple’s Office of Student Conduct. (View a PDF of the Student Conduct Code.)
The essential steps to the process are:
- Any student charged by Student Conduct is notified of the charges and then briefed about the process.
- A hearing board is impaneled. All board members are trained and the panel can be made up of faculty, staff and students.
- A private hearing is then held with information presented by police, the individuals involved and witnesses.
- The panel renders a decision on responsibility and provides a recommendation as to sanctions. The charged student and the victim in a case of violence are advised of the outcome. Students found responsible for code violations can have a range of actions taken against them, including suspension and expulsion.
- The results of the hearing process are private to protect those involved.
Is there a relationship between the criminal justice and the Student Conduct Code processes?
The processes are separate.
I've heard the Students for Justice in Palestine student organization was involved. Is the group still at Temple?
No action regarding the status of the organization will be taken until the Office of Student Conduct is able to evaluate the findings from the investigation to determine if the group violated the Student Conduct Code.
Like individuals, student organizations can be subject to sanctions if it's determined they have violated the Student Conduct Code.
Overall, organizations that engage students are an important part of the college experience, because they allow students to explore their own beliefs, interests and values in an environment of mutual respect. Temple University expects these organizations will remain committed to civil discourse and appropriate behavior.
What additional action is the university taking to ensure the safety of its community members?
The safety of Temple's students is our highest priority. Individuals or groups who have asked for additional security will have that provided to them. This is in addition to the comprehensive set of safety activities we engage in on a regular basis.
What other efforts are being planned?
We are also working with Temple University faculty and students to establish a series of dialogue sessions that allow students a safe place to discuss their beliefs and concerns. Additional information about these sessions will be made available as it is developed in the next several days.
There are reports of university actions that are offensive and insensitive. Are they true?
- It has been reported that the flag of Israel was not on display in Temple’s Student Center because it was “too controversial.” This is not true. We do not have sufficient space to display the flags of every nation, so they are rotated on a regular schedule. Israel’s flag is on display now and has been since the last rotation took place Aug. 7.
- There are claims President Neil D. Theobald deliberately scheduled a meeting with Jewish students on Monday, Aug. 25, at a time and date that would conflict with a planned rally on campus. Again, this is not true. Several weeks ago, President Theobald was invited to speak at the first Temple Student Government meeting of the academic year, where he addressed this and other issues. The time and day of the meeting were set by TSG, which regularly meets at 4 p.m. every Monday. All students were welcome to the meeting and were invited to ask questions.
- Last spring, an adjunct professor made disparaging remarks about the Holocaust on a Modern Languages Association website and his private Facebook page. That adjunct, Alessio Lerro, no longer works at Temple. Reports that he made these comments in his classroom are untrue. As the university became aware of the extent of his comments, Temple issued the following statement: “It is Temple University's position that the ample historical evidence, scholarship and research regarding the horrific impact of the Holocaust on the Jewish people is a strong counterpoint to Mr. Lerro's statements. Mr. Lerro's opinion is solely his own and not that of Temple University. Temple University condemns in the strongest possible terms the disparagement of any person or persons based on religion, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity.”
Statement of Theresa Powell, vice president for student affairs
August 21, 2014
Letter to the Temple community:
Wednesday was the first day of Temple Fest, an event for new students to learn about the many student organizations and activities available on our diverse campus. That event was marred by an act of violence, and there are reports of religious slurs and insults.
Campus Safety Services continues to investigate the incident. I urge anyone who may have witnessed it to contact Temple Police at 215-204-1234.
While that investigation moves forward, we want to emphasize that Temple University unequivocally condemns the disparagement or assault of any person based on religion, nationality, race, gender, sexual orientation or identity. The university will not tolerate violence of any kind directed toward members of the Temple community.
Our university Student Conduct Code begins with these words: "Temple University is a community of scholars in which freedom of inquiry and freedom of expression are valued. Important aspects of attending the university as a student are having respect for the rights of others in the community, conducting one's self in a manner that is compatible with the university's mission and taking responsibility for one's actions."
In the coming days, we will work with students and local leaders—particularly those in our religious communities—to ensure that everyone understands and conforms to the principles of freedom valued in our nation and guaranteed by our Student Conduct Code.
Theresa A. Powell
Statement of Raymond Smeriglio, student body president
Dear Temple Community,
During Temple Fest on Wednesday, August 20th, a physical altercation was reported along with reports of racial slurs and insults. Campus Safety Services has launched an investigation and is asking any eyewitnesses who may have information about the incident to contact them at 215-204-1234.
Temple Student Government’s mission is to advocate on behalf of all students and hold higher administration accountable. After meeting with University leadership, TSG confirms that the University has taken the necessary steps in addressing the incident. A full investigation was launched into the incident; higher administration has reached out to both parties involved, the Anti-Defamation League, the Inter-Faith Council, and has sent a widespread statement to the entire Temple Community outlining the student code of conduct and denouncing violence. TSG continues to be in constant contact with university leadership in evaluating next steps.
Temple Student Government does not condone violence and takes this incident seriously. We plan to move forward to work with the university and student groups to create a safe forum where students can participate in a civil, intellectual discourse. We now call on our fellow Temple students to embrace the diversity that this university offers and abide by the Student Code of Conduct to ensure all students feel safe and accepted on campus.
Student Body President
Statement of the Department of Religion
As Jewish and Muslim faculty members at Temple University we are saddened by the escalation of verbal and physical violence between supporters of Israel and Palestine that took place on our campus this week. The Temple Department of Religion has a long history of civil discourse and respect which we believe is the correct approach to working with others, even those with whom we disagree. We must learn to view each other as human beings, not as enemies, and to talk through our conflicts respectfully. We hope that our students, especially those with strong feelings on this topic, will follow that example.