January 19, 2022
Dr. Jason Wingard, President
Second Floor, Sullivan Hall
1330 Polett Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19122
xxxxxxxWe write again to urge Temple University to harshly discipline the student who targeted and harassed her former roommate and rowing teammate, Sasha Westrick, based on Ms. Westrick’s Jewish identity. In our January 17 letter, we described in detail the harassment that Ms. Westrick endured at Temple for months. It was so severe and persistent that it created a hostile educational environment for Ms. Westrick and interfered with her ability to participate in and benefit from the activities and opportunities that Temple has to offer. As a result of the harassment, Ms. Westrick reportedly stopped going to rowing practice, quit the rowing team and has actually left Temple to attend another school.
xxxxxxxPlease consider the swift and forceful actions that other university leaders correctly took when students engaged in offensive speech about Blacks and women. Unlike the situation at Temple, the offenses at these other universities were isolated incidents, and the offenders did not target anyone specifically based on their race or sex. The offenders were nevertheless harshly punished because they created a hostile learning environment for others.
xxxxxxxAt the University of Oklahoma, members of a fraternity were caught on video chanting the “n” word and referring to lynching. The university’s president wasted no time in expelling two leaders of the fraternity, disciplining over 20 other students and shutting down the entire fraternity – even though the entire fraternity had not been involved in the incident – because the “racist and exclusionary chant . . . created a hostile learning environment for others.” The president said, “Our purpose is to learn lessons and be held accountable and then move forward with our lives.”
xxxxxxxWhen fraternity members at Yale University chanted in a campus quad, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” and other revolting messages, the university suspended the fraternity for five years and penalized individual students for violating university rules relating to “harassment, coercion or intimidation” and “imperiling the integrity and values of the University community.” As the Yale College Dean wrote in her message to students and faculty about the sanctions imposed, “Every member of our community has a legal and moral right to an educational environment free from harassment and intimidation.”
xxxxxxxTemple’s own policies require a strong response to the harassment that Ms. Westrick endured. The policies specifically state that Temple “is committed to providing a workplace and educational environment, programs, and activities, free of unlawful discrimination and harassment.” Violators are “subject to the full range of disciplinary action, up to and including separation from the university.” While the policies also make it clear that “the curtailment or censorship of constitutionally protected speech” will not be permitted, Ms. Westrick’s harasser did not have the First Amendment right to create a hostile environment for Ms. Westrick. As the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education – whose very mission is to protect the individual rights of students and faculty at U.S. colleges and universities – so aptly explains: “While the First Amendment protects most speech, it is not a free pass to threaten, harass or violate the rights of others.”
xxxxxxxMs. Westrick’s harasser is not entitled to a free pass under the First Amendment or for any other reason. In addition to addressing the effects of the harassment with Ms. Westrick directly, Temple should, at a minimum, suspend her harasser from the university, and expel her from the rowing team. Anything less will demonstrate that while Temple claims to be committed to a safe and welcoming learning environment, that commitment does not extend to its Jewish students.
Very truly yours,
|Morton A. Klein
ZOA National President
|Susan B. Tuchman, Esq.
Dir., Center for Law & Justice