Temple University Board of Trustees Fails Miserably in Gender Equality

"I'm tired of this shit!" yelled its chairman when we called to talk to him about it.

patrick-oconnor-temple-board-cosby

Patrick O’Connor has lately been a man under fire. The vice-chairman of the Philadelphia-based, 22-city law firm Cozen O’Connor, is also the chairman of the board of trustees at Temple University. And Temple’s board had, in recent weeks, come under extreme pressure to sever its ties with longtime trustee and face-of-Temple Bill Cosby, until Cosby resigned last week. So it’s understandable that O’Connor was a bit gruff when we got him on the phone the other day.

“I’m tired of this shit!” he yelled into the phone from his office in Conshohocken within 30 seconds of taking our call. “This is freaking ridiculous. This is pathetic journalism.” And later, “What are you, an imbecile?”

The reason for our call was not to discuss Cosby, per se, but the demographics of Temple’s board of trustees, since some have questioned whether that board turned a blind eye to Cosby’s alleged behavior — or even enabled it.

Cosby’s first public accuser, former Temple employee Andrea Constand, made her allegations way back in 2005, and Temple stood by its man then (O’Connor actually represented Cosby in Constand’s civil case against him, which was settled out of court) and continued to stand by him nearly 10 years later. Even as the number of accusers topped 20, Temple responded to media inquiries about Cosby’s presence on the board with a terse 14-word statement that said nothing.

Well, considering what an old-boys’ club the Temple board is, it’s not hard to imagine that the trustees approached the accusations of the women with the same doubt or shoulder-shrugging or “not-Bill-Cosby!”ing exhibited by most of America for the better part of a decade — and more recently by Cosby-defending celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and Jill Scott.

Of the 14 major public and private colleges and universities in the Philadelphia area that we examined, Temple’s board has the lowest percentage of female trustees, at nine percent, with just three women among the board of 35. That’s also the lowest number of women on any individual board. None of Temple’s “honorary life trustees” (there are eight) is a woman. Philadelphia University (four women, 13 percent), La Salle (six women, 14 percent) and Saint Joseph’s (five women, 16 percent) have the next three lowest female board representation of the local schools we compared.

Nationally, the average female representation on college boards hovers between 28 and 30 percent. Temple — a school that prides itself on diversity among its student body — is pathetic by comparison.

Most of the region’s schools hit or exceed that national average. Both the median and mean average (see the full chart below) in the colleges and universities in the Philadelphia region fall within the national range, even when you eliminate outlier Bryn Mawr College, an all-women’s school, where female board trustees outnumber the men almost six-to-one.

When we called O’Connor for a comment on all of this, he took issue not only with our overall point but also with our counting ability, insisting that Temple’s board is really just 24 people.

“We elect 24 board members, three of whom are women,” said O’Connor, agitatedly explaining that the remaining board members are appointed by government officials in Pennsylvania. “This is just basic reporting. Get your research done.” Meanwhile, Temple’s media relations department agrees with our count of 35.

O’Connor went on to do more math on our behalf.

“Three women, 24 board members … that’s one-eighth of the board,” he huffed. “If Temple is the lowest with one-eighth, I can live with that.”

Then live with it he will.

SCHOOLBOARD SIZE# OF MEN% MALE# OF WOMEN% FEMALE
Temple35329139
PhilaU302687413
La Salle423686614
SJU312684516
Drexel4838791021
Villanova332576824
Rutgers141071429
UArts282071829
PAFA4431701330
UPenn5639701730
Haverford3222691031
Princeton3925641436
Swarthmore3921541846
Bryn Mawr345152985

Note: We did not include emeriti in our count of board members. Rutgers has both a board of trustees as well as a board of managers, and we included the board of managers, which is most like the other schools’ boards of trustees in its authority. Rutgers’ board of trustees is 38-percent female.

Follow @VictorFiorillo on Twitter.