Temple U. cut still part of the Pennsylvania Senate budget proposal (Temple Japan discussion)

The Associated Press is reporting that Senator Pileggi says the Senate version of the budget is almost done, and it’s coming in close to what the House has passed. This means that it’s likely Temple will take the $45 million hit in Commonwealth appropriation, and should, finally, put the matter of what Temple Japan Campus is spending in Tokyo on the map.

Folks have asked me why I did so much blogging about this, as opposed to putting the issue on an editorial page through a letter to the editor.

Well, the fact is you need to be really careful when it comes to Temple, because–at least this was true 20 years ago–Temple fights dirty. The outward image is this high-minded college of selfless scholars, out to serve the greater community. The reality is that it’s a hodge-podge of feifdoms, administrators hiring their friends and relatives, and people basically grabbing the money. This is what Governor Corbett figured out. This is why the school came up for hits right at the start of the term.

I’ve seen how Temple goes about smearing people, and, quite frankly, they stop at nothing. Two law students who were contemporaries of mine (one a year earlier than me, one a year later) were thrown off the Temple campus by Robert Reinstein, the former dean, for the flimsiest of excuses. (The actual, unspoken reason was that Reinstein was a bit of a religious chauvanist, the students had had some dispute with either a Jewish faculty member or Jewish student. We all knew it, but you really couldn’t talk about that sort of thing. More about that in a note below.) Both were alleged to have “serious psychiatric problems”, which seemed to have been bunk, but were said in order to discredit whatever those students had to say in rebuttal. I don’t think either of them ever ended up practicing law.

A few years later, a [Temple] student was murdered at a MAC machine [on or near the campus]. Temple, at first, One of the Philadelphia hospitals insisted that the student died of a “spontaneous brain hemorrhage”. Somehow, the evidence came forth that, no, he was hit over the head so the perpetrator could steal the money the boy withdrew from an ATM. I am not a doctor, but to me, blunt force trauma would be something you’d recognize, right?

There was knifing by a facilities worker at the university. People knew the gentleman, and he was generally a nice man, but apparently the police had the goods on him. The administration tried to get him off.

Someone brought a semiautomatic weapon to the campus. Because it was a “favorable admissions” student, they simply told the student not to bring the gun to campus.

This is all the 1990’s. I’m sure Temple cleaned up its act over the last 15 or so years. But what you might also think is that this is all you hear in one small circle of a big campus, and you don’t get to hear the other stuff!

So the school is one that was run by people for whom slander was nothing, and criminal acts simply didn’t happen! So no, it’s not like they would have sent Whitey Bulger after you in the Liacouras days. But they were indeed people you had to be very careful around.

With this in mind, I just keep gently raising the fact that Temple has unaccounted for multimillions, and let government and other local contacts just take the item up and consider it.

When the everyday Temple students, next fall, end up paying 10% more in tuition, then there will be an audience. But really, not before. No one would be paying attention.

[This post is going to have a few notes attached to it:

Note #1: The Philadelphia Inquirer is saying that Temple’s hit is going to turn out to be $32 million, which is less than the $90 million Governor Corbett proposed, and the $45 million that had originally surfaced in House deliberations. Here is the article. They say “mostly restored”. But that fact is, that’s quite a cut! ]

[Note #2: The death of Brian Aidenbaum (the Temple student who was murdered for MAC machine money) was reported in several places. I had originally heard about it from an associate. Philly.com has the Philadelphia Inquirer reporting from 1995. The initial report is here. This is the one that suggests the brain hemorrhage. I had been told that it was actually Temple people who had suggested that the student had simply collapsed. The Inquirer indicates that the Hahmenann Hospital (NOT part of the Temple hospital network) was the source of that rumor. Good for the Philadelphia police that they never bought that excuse, because a year later, there was a trial and conviction of the two attackers.

Because there would be some doubt now as to who put this idea of “spontaneity” into the initial reporting (Temple or Hahnemann Hospital), I have corrected the above. But if I find anything in online archives that quotes Temple University officials (and if I recall correctly, they did have something to say that week), I’ll change it back.

The death of Brian Aidenbaum was a senseless tragedy, and it directly stemmed from the lack of focus the local law enforcement of the time (the Temple police) had on campus safety. In those days, they were more likely to be used as campus bullies against unfavored students than they were as actual safety officers. I think Brian Aidenbaum himself had been commended the year before (1994) for breaking up a sexual assault on campus. This was a young man who did Temple police’s job–but they weren’t there for him.]

[Note #3: Uncomfortable evidence of Robert Reinstein’s religious chauvinism. In a 1991 incident, a law student was expelled from campus for comments that he made on a confidential evaluation form. The nature of the comments were unflattering to a Jewish professor. (The student’s name, it was said, is Hoang Nguyen. But I can only confirm that Mr. Nguyen did disappear from the Temple Law School after the incident. I met him once when I bought law school books from him.)

The legendary Temple civil rights attorney, Professor Burton Caine, memoralized the incident in the law review article linked here. As I recall, the nature of the comments was played down. The mere fact that the student was thrown out of school for comments on a confidential evaluation form was emphasized. Those of us there, though, knew who the professor was.

The second incident I mention was one to gather much more notoriety, and that was Lincoln Herbert. Years after the Herbert matter, Robert Reinstein was quoted in Philadelphia’s local City Paper (“Uncivil Actions”, July 15, 1999) as saying:

“Two of [the three students named on WHS posters], by the way, were conservative students — this wasn’t political, as far as I could tell, it was just hatred,” says Reinstein. “The poster had a picture of one of the students, and accused him of being an embezzler.… And in the course of the poster they attacked a second law student they didn’t like, they called her, I think, the ‘head dyke’ of the law school. And the third student, they made an anti-Semitic slur; they called him the Jew so-and-so.” (Herbert ackowledges the references to a student’s alleged misappropriation of funds — he says he was “reporting” what others already had “implied” — and to another student’s being the “head dyke.” In both cases, he says, he was responding to “scurrilous” attacks on the WHS. He says he never called anyone a “Jew” anything.)

As fact of the matter, Herbert did not produce any poster saying “Jew so-and-so”. As someone who worked with the Herbert free speech team, I saw all the material. And allegations of anti-Semitism were no part of Herbert’s 1994 school trial, nor in the U.S. District Court case or the Third Circuit appeal. So where did Robert Reinstein, in 1999 (five years later), get the notion that Herbert had printed some anti-Semitic material?

Obviously, Reinstein either misremembered, made that snippet up after the fact, or he was biased against Herbert for having had a conflict with a Jewish student in the law school. It really can’t be anything but those three. I don’t think it’s misremembered–particularly after what happened to Hoang Nguyen. ]

[Note #4: Part of the circle-the-wagons ethic at Temple University has to do with where these administrators come from in the first place. Cronyism and friends-hiring-friends-and-relatives is a large part of it, as well as Pennsylvania’s “Home Rule” tradition. (I know I don’t blog enough about Pennsylvania Home Rule, but that’s another post.)

When it’s time to circle the wagons, people who are in their positions not simply by merit, but merit-with-connections, are the same type of people who are willing to cross the line into innuendo and smears. I don’t think that’s an overbroad statement. Think about it: a big institution that’s more like a club for friends. Well, someone outside the group, they’re not one of the “in” people. So to the insiders, it’s less about whether the outsiders challenge or questioning has objective merit on its own, and more about the fact that, from the insiders’ perspective, they are politically outside. “I got my job in Temple through my personal connection to X, and how dare this outsider challenge our good thing!” Nothing to do with the merit of the criticism.

Temple bends over backwards to pretend that its hiring is merit-based, but the facts can, from time to time, slip through. Two previous instances that I’ve mentioned on the blog are Temple Japan’s Bruce Stronach’s close connection to his predecessor there, Canadian Kirk Patterson. According to the Temple Times’ Christopher Wink. First, we’re told in the title:

Campus unknown named next dean of Japan campus

But then, in the article, we’re told:

There had been some question to the delay in the decision to nominate Stronach, a longtime friend of Patterson’s. Official comment on the timing of the announcement has not been made . . .

[Stronach] has not spoken to what, if anything, his friendship with Patterson, who was not active in the selection of his replacement, might mean for his plans and goals.

So which is it? Was Stronach a man who was selected out of nowhere, or was he someone whose nomination was put into the mix, at the start of the search process, by Kirk Patterson? Sure, Patterson “played no role” in the actual selection, but he was probably about the only person who the search committee could rely on for a personal assessment of the candidate. The only other possible candidate was someone who already worked for Temple Japan as a professor and as the chief lawyer for the division.

The second one is the former law school assistant dean Adelaide Ferguson, who was actually the wife of one of Robert Reinstein’s friends, the late Professor Alan Lerner of Penn Law School. The general public was only made aware of this connection late in Adelaide Ferguson’s career in the law school. But it’s hard to believe that that hire didn’t have something to do with the fact that Reinstein and Lerner were close friends, and had done (religious-themed) public interest litigation in the ’80’s. Ferguson (-Lerner’s) hire happened shortly after Robert Reinstein was named dean of Temple in the late 1980’s (1989?). And Mrs. Ferguson (-Lerner) decided to retire shortly after Mr. Reinstein himself retired from administrative duties.

Prior to the Temple hire, Mrs. Ferguson’s main achievement was that she worked as paralegal to her husband in his law firm. Don’t tell me that was an independent search. And if it was, that Robert Reinstein wasn’t the one to encourage Mrs. Ferguson to apply.

These are just two that I know well. Of course, others will point out that Chip Marshall, the head of the Temple Hospital system, making almost a million dollars a year, is the son of a former Temple law professor Joseph Marshall. But I don’t know the details of how Chip Marshall came to be involved in the Temple Hospital system. The point is simply that the hiring, in general, isn’t as arms-length as the Temple administration would have you believe. There are probably many other examples, and, well, you have the e-mail address.

When Temple has to cut $32 million off its budget, it will be interesting to see what administrative positions get cut. You can bet the whole impact is going to be forced on to the tuition-paying students.]