Acting Temple President talks campus safety as school looks for new leader

The fall semester at Temple University is in full swing under the leadership of Acting President JoAnne Epps.

The Board of Trustees appointed Epps in April to become the transitional leader as the search presses on for the next president.

"I would never have imagined even becoming a professor at Temple, let alone being in this position," said Epps. "I had actually turned in my retirement papers at the end of February, which is a very serious and sobering experience, but I have to say that after I handed them in I had not a moment’s regret, so I knew I’d made the right decision, so I was headed in a very different direction."

Epps said she has spent more than half her life at Temple teaching and serving as the Dean at Beasley School of Law, serving as university provost and senior advisor, and now as acting president.

More than 30-thousand students attend Temple University, but enrollment numbers are down between 15 to 20 percent since before the pandemic.

Epps said a new vice provost for enrollment managed was hired and the university will continue creating robust enrollment strategies.

"This isn’t because people are voting against Temple. We had a high enrollment number around 2017 of almost 40-thousand students at Temple, but many of them were people who were not paying tuition," said Epps. "We started intentionally getting smaller. We were graduating large classes and bringing in smaller classes, we knew that there was going to be a decline that we were going to experience, that was going to be intentional. We’re going to spend this year asking what’s our right size in this world these days?"

As part of the violence prevention strategy, Temple is equipping its officers with new technology including license plate readers and enhanced cell phones while implementing better policing strategies.

Students and staff can use the new one-touch personal safety app called TUSafe to report crime, get in touch with Temple Police and start a virtual safe walk.

"We have a whole lot of new cameras down here including several of the 360 degree blue light cameras one of which assisted in solving a shooting, not on campus may I add, but near campus where the 360 camera helped apprehend the bad guy," said Epps.

There’s also a new resource center opening called the Temple Community Gateway at 1510 Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

"It’s going to be a one stop shop for North Philadelphians who need help and that could be adult education or job opportunities at Temple or they want to know about mental opportunities in the city," said Epps. "You can’t police your way into safety and harmony, you really have to create the kind of community where everybody feels safe and values the importance of what it takes to be and stay safe."

Epps is not participating in the search for the new president, but hopes it’s someone who will stay committed to Temple for the long term.

"I want someone who is excited about leading an institution of higher education, if I had my druthers, over the next decade. That’s what I would really love," said Epps. "How does Temple position itself over the next decade? Who do we want to be in this next decade of existence? The advice that I would give to the next president is remember that you’re a servant. You are here to lead this great institution that belongs, not to you, but to thousands of other people, some of whom are present on the campus and some of whom are distant, and making sure you stay in touch with them and hear their thoughts and their ideas and to remember that some of their ideas are going to be better than your ideas."