Temple University Official ‘Cursed at, Berated & Insulted Student Reporter’; All He Wanted Was a Phone Number!

Patrick O’Connor must really dislike passing along phone numbersAccording to The Temple News, the chairman of the Temple University board of trustees “cursed at, berated and insulted a student reporter” at the paper last month after he asked O’Connor for the contact information of a fellow trustee who was “in the news for potentially unscrupulous practices outside of the boardroom.”

A portion of O’Connor’s response to the reporter’s request, recounted by the paper: “You call the chairman of the board asking for a f—ing phone number? Like I’m your secretary? Would you like a sandwich, too?”

That, my friends, is how you vault into the running for most memorable student press quote of the year. (Imagine if he’d been asked for an email address or Twitter handle.)


But seriously, is this guy O’Connor just a jerk or an ego-maniac? Maybe he was simply having a bad day? Caught off guard? Angry and defensive about a colleague of sorts in trouble? Regardless, his “f—ing phone number” shakedown of a hard-working, under-paid, heart-in-the-right-place student journalist doesn’t exactly scream professional or serve as evidence that he’s in touch with the campus community he is supposedly aiming to serve.

Ironically, News editors consider the exchange at least a tiny bit positive — because it happened at all. Apparently, O’Connor and other Temple trustees are extraordinarily tough to track down or actually speak to directly, in part because of a gatekeeping office that is more about clampdown than free-flow when it comes to providing information.

In an editorial, the paper’s top staff contend:

Unlike every other high-ranking official at Temple … the trustees do not have publicly listed Temple email addresses. … Interested parties are instead directed to send requests for comment or information to the Board’s Office of the Secretary, which serves as a liaison between the trustees and the public. While this is common practice among most publicly funded universities … the office exercises far too much discretion over the communication process, using its powers as a gatekeeper to divert any messages that are not expressly ‘Temple-related’ from ever reaching the desk of an actual trustee. In the event that a trustee may find him or herself in the news for potentially unscrupulous practices outside of the boardroom … ‘Temple-relatedness’ becomes an easily exploited excuse in order to keep the Temple community from pertinent information.”

Check out a few supportive responses to the editorial and Temple News efforts below. My favorite is the one mentioning the sandwich.



2 Responses to “Temple University Official ‘Cursed at, Berated & Insulted Student Reporter’; All He Wanted Was a Phone Number!”
  1. Larry says:

    This raises a serious issue concerning the lack of transparency when universities eliminate access to the board members who make the most significant decisions. And this, I believe, is a much greater problem at private universities where we have little to no access to public records beyond a two-year-old 990 from which to observe the business side of the school.

    So my congratulations to the student reporters making the calls to the trustees and for making their behaviors public. I suspect the experience will be one of the most meaningful the reporter will have as a college journalist — and it’s safe to say it won’t be the last time a source gets ugly if the student pursues a journalism career beyond college.

    Yet, I have to say — as a college newspaper adviser — that Dan’s headline made me chuckle, bringing to mind a great scene from the movie “Animal House:”

    “Hey, he can’t curse, berate and insult our student reporters. Only we advisers (during critiques) can curse, berate and insult our student reporters.”

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