Final exams aren’t the only things on the minds of students at Temple University. On Monday, several students protested the firing of a popular professor.
The protests, which are happening weekly now, were sparked by the decision earlier this year to not renew the contract of Dr. Anthony Monteiro, a non-tenured professor in the African American Studies Department.
The firing led to the formation of the group “The Student Coalition for Dr. Monteiro.”
The group held a demonstration on campus back on March 10, creating a petition for Monteiro’s reinstatement which they claim has received over 1,000 signatures. Since April, the group has staged a protest on campus every week, the most recent taking place on Monday. During Monday’s rally, some of the protesters also held a sit-in outside the office of Teresa Soufas, the Dean of the College of Liberal arts.
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The coalition also created a social media campaign, demanding Monteiro's reinstatement and the firing of Dean Soufas.
"We believe Professor Monteiro was a victim of an unjust, racist and retaliatory firing at the hands of Dean Soufas and the rest of the administration," said Walter Smolarek, a Temple student and member of the coalition.
Smolarek claims the situation began during the selection of the chair of the African American Studies Department, when a white woman and then Vice Dean for Academic Affairs was nominated as the interim chair.
"There was a large community and faculty movement against the decision. Dr. Monteiro was a very visible and vocal part of that."
According to the Temple News, in 2012 Monteiro supported the nomination of Kariamu Welsh, a tenured member of Temple's dance department, for the new chair of the African American studies department. The Temple News reports that Soufas instead nominated Jayne Drake, who is white, to a one-year interim term as the chair of the Department. Drake was the Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at Temple at the time.
Dr. Molefi Asante, an African American who served as chair of the African American studies department from 1984 to 1997, later returned to his position as chairman in 2013.
Monteiro and his supporters claimed that his firing was in retaliation for his opposition to the initial decision to nominate Drake as the department chair. Soufas denied this however and told Temple News that the decision to not renew Monteiro's contract was made by Dr. Asante over the changing structure of the department.
Temple University also released an official statement today regarding Monteiro’s firing:
Temple University takes pride in its unique and diverse community of scholars, honoring freedom of speech and its role as an anchor in the North Philadelphia community.
In recent weeks, questions have been raised about Temple’s commitment to these goals, in particular, in relation to the decisions not to renew the teaching contracts after June 30 of two non-tenure track faculty members in the department of African-American Studies.
Personnel decisions like these are extremely difficult and were made only after thoughtful consideration and consultation. The decisions not to renew the contracts were made in accordance with university processes that were developed, vetted and approved by Temple’s academic community. The affected faculty members were given appropriate notice of the non-renewals in accordance with university policy and the TAUP (Temple Association of University Professionals union) contract.
The University has processes in place for each of the affected faculty to exercise his right to contest the decision, and this process is ongoing. In fairness to the process and, in particular, to the affected faculty, the university cannot comment further on these individuals’ cases at this time.
NBC10 also reached out to Dean Soufas' office for comment but have not yet heard back from them.
Smolarek says the group has gained support from several organizations in the North Philadelphia community as well.
"We think that the struggle for justice for Dr. Monteiro is the struggle for justice for North Philadelphia," Smolarek said. "We hope that everyone who’s available will come to Temple, rally outside Anderson Hall and just show their support."