Hundreds of students, community members, and activists came together again Thursday evening to protest the dismissal of African American Studies Professor Anthony Montiero and relations between the university and community. Renowned activist Cornel West made an appearance and spoke in support of the professor.
The protest took place on the corner of Broad St. and Cecil B. Moore Avenue in front of Morgan Hall. The crowd of roughly 150 was contained by a line of Philadelphia Police officers on bikes, in plain clothes, and in uniform. No arrests were made and civility was kept between police and protesters.
The controversy stems from the decision that Montiero’s contract would not be renewed. Protesters say this deals another blow to what they see as a flimsy relationship between Temple University and the community.
The Community, The Divide
Although the protest was centered around Montiero, organizers insisted that his firing is another example of the university disregarding the community surrounding it.
Protesters held signs reading “Temple Made Gentrification,” a knock at the school’s ‘Temple Made’ marketing campaign. They claimed there have been increases in the costs of living for local residents as a result of Temple’s presence, along with Temple’s ambitious development projects—past, present, and future—that they say dislocate North Philadelphia residents. There was also mention of reported discussions about demolishing Norris Apartments, a public housing complex near the center of campus.
“Despite tuition hikes and a decrease in student services, they still have money for land-grabs at North Philadelphia residents,” Montiero said.
Montiero said a meeting he had with Temple President Neil Theobald went well, but insisted that, “greatness has to do public service, not tall buildings.”
“Montiero in, Soufas out”
Protesters chanted, “Montiero in, Soufas out,” demanding the termination of College of Liberal Arts Dean Teresa Soufas. One speaker referred to African American Studies Chair Molefi Kete Asante as “Judas” for his alleged betrayal of Montiero.
“My firing was a cynical act,” Montiero said in his address to the crowd gathered in his support. “We can longer sweep under rug the dirty secrets of Temple University.”
Montiero said much of the drama in the African American Studies Department at the College of Liberal Arts stems from his refusal to drop literature from W.E.B. DuBois from his curriculum.
After a sit-in at the Office of the Provost and a meeting with President Theobald earlier this year, the protesters were adamant about getting Montiero reinstated with tenure. They say that tenure is often used as a tool of manipulation university-wide. Montiero claims that 7 percent of professors in the College of Liberal Arts are black, while 3 percent have tenure.
“President Theobald was very respectful and that gave me hope that he is a person who listens and might do the right thing,” Montiero said.
At the conclusion of the protest, leaders had a message for the university.
“We’re going to be nice. Two weeks for reinstatement, with tenure,” one speaker said, referring to when Montiero’s contract expires in June.
So far, there has been no immediate response from the School of Liberal Arts or President Theobald to the protest.