Temple University’s Board of Trustees took a vote of no confidence in university president Neil Theobald Tuesday afternoon. The board will seek his dismissal at a special meeting on July 21st.
The board lost confidence in Theobald over his handling of the removal of Hai-Lung Dai, a chemistry professor at Temple, from his position as provost late last month, according to Kevin Feeley, a spokesman for the trustees. The announcement of Dai’s ouster came on the same day that the university acknowledged it had run up a $22 million deficit on its financial-aid budget.
“Dr. Theobald became aware of this problem that a deficit had developed nearly a year ago, according to the information that we have and according to his own words, at a time when the deficit stood at approximately $9 million,” Feeley told reporters after the board’s quarterly meeting on Tuesday. “Instead of insuring that the problem had been corrected, which is a core function of a university president, the deficit was allowed to grow, eventually reaching $22 million by early March of 2016. During this period, as Dr. Theobald himself has acknowledged, he failed to inform the board about the problem and the steps being taken to correct it …”
Feeley said that Theobald had been seeking to remove Dai as provost for several weeks prior to the announcement that Dai had been removed in late June, which took some trustees by surprise. During that time, Feeley said, Theobald had negotiated with Dai, at different times offering him a deanship, a sabbatical, and a role in Temple’s international affairs program. Theobald discussed those negotiations with the board, according to Feeley, before abruptly deciding to remove Dai as provost.
The board met with Theobald in a special session last week and offered to accept his resignation, but Theobald refused, Feeley said.
In an email from Theobald to the university’s lawyers and human resources department, a copy of which was obtained by Philadelphia magazine earlier Tuesday, Theobald appeared to be resisting pressure to step down from his position after the abrupt decision to remove the university’s provost.
“I want to make it very clear that I have not, and will not, be resigning from my position, which is a position to which I am fully dedicated,” Theobald wrote. “I look forward to remaining President of Temple through December 31, 2017 (pursuant to my Employment Agreement).”
In the same email, Theobald alluded to allegations that Dai, the provost, was accused of sexual harassment by a subordinate. Feeley said that the allegations against Dai had been made in mid-June, but that the trustees didn’t become aware of them until earlier this week.
“The board is recently aware of those allegations,” Feeley said. “Those are serious matters. They’re under investigation. The board will appoint a committee to lead that investigation.”
Theobald became president of Temple in 2012. Dai became provost in 2013. Theobald did not respond to a message Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday, a public relations firm sent a statement on behalf of Dai.
“I would like to address the allegations concerning the 22 million dollar deficit,” Dai said in the statement. “This involves a program that has greatly enhanced Temple’s reputation and has benefitted many students. It has also resulted in a net gain to Temple in student enrollment and tuition. I was not informed of any deficit until March of this year. As the Board of Trustees said yesterday, the responsibility for managing budgetary matters rests with the President. I was never, at any time prior to March of 2016, asked by President Theobald to manage this issue. Once this issue was brought to my attention in March of this year and prior to my unjust dismissal, I actively began to take steps to address the over expenditure.”
This is a developing story.
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