Temple University sits in the heart of North Philadelphia; it is one of three large “state-related” institutions of higher learning in Pennsylvania. Its neighbors in the surrounding community are predominantly African American and Latino. At its beginning over a century ago, its founder Dr. Russell Conwell made known his vision of an academy that served and had connections to the workingclass neighborhoods that shared its urban environs.
Recent years have seen sporadic controversies related to the question of whether Temple has lost its way and strayed from Conwell’s original hopes and intentions. For example, Temple has been the target of demonstrations claiming that its ambitious building program of the last decade has been undertaken without adequate consultation with neighboring communities and without hiring qualified workers from those communities.
Now comes another issue being raised by Temple students and by some of its neighbors.
This is the environment in which Dr. Anthony Monteiro, prominent scholar and popular professor among his students, has been told that his contract will not be renewed at the end of this academic year. As it happens, the University may have over reached in this attempt to terminate such a faculty member.
Professor Monteiro, a long-time faculty member and one of the most instrumental in founding Temple’s African American Studies Department, has many students and former students on his side. He has a reputation as a prominent authority in African American history and philosophy. The author of numerous articles, he is in particular an authority on the life and work of W.E.B.DuBois. As he persuasively argues, in order to understand the African American experience, one cannot ignore or shy away from its tradition of radical, humanist thought. These are among the points that were made at a recent campus rally calling for Monteiro’s reinstatement with tenure. The view is widely held that Monteiro’s termination is part of the university’s attempt to join a national trend by sticking to a more narrow and conservative approach to the liberal arts.
Among the speakers were students, community members and labor leaders who came to voice their support. Some had met him only recently during their student careers; others were acquaintances of years or decades. Several students and former students cited Dr. Monteiro’s record of superior classroom performance and of giving of his time to conduct classes and programs in neighboring community venues and churches. And they emphasized his role in expanding their horizons by introducing them to the works of authors and scholars of whom they had previously known little or nothing.
Keantre Malone, due to graduate in June, is active in a group that has organized to support Monteiro’s cause. He told the People’s World after the rally that he had attended many of the professor’s lectures and classes and that “Dr. Monteiro offers a pedagogy that you can’t find anywhere else in the academy…. He encourages you to answer questions about the meaning of true democracy, ending limitations and liberating the human spirit.” He feels that Monteiro’s case is in line with a national trend of “shutting down” the liberal arts and threatening to do away with scholarship that “responds to issues of racism, sexism and other issues being swept under the rug” in our country.
Dr. Monteiro, in his own brief remarks, took a reflective tone, but one that showed his determination to exemplify what he believed the African American Studies Department and what a liberal arts institution should stand for. He noted that his termination was “without cause or explanation” and that the tenure of the current Dean of the College of Liberal Arts had been “troubled by her insensitivity to social and racial issues”. He eloquently recounted his hope for Temple and for its potential during past decades and his hope that the university would not do away with a vibrant liberal arts program that sets a comprehensive university apart from a business school. He told the crowd that of all Temple’s colleges “the College of Liberal Arts is arguably the most important.”
A leaflet distributed at the rally urged supporters to call People Utilizing Real Power (PURP) at 484 679-6322 for more information and to get involved.
Photo: Anthony Monteiro