A Temple Alum Reacts to DeJohn's Dilemma
July 6, 2009
This past weekend, FIRE supporter Kenneth H. Ryesky took particular interest in our recent update on Sgt. Christian DeJohn's unfortunate situation. As a graduate of what is now Temple University's Fox School of Business, Ryesky was disappointed to learn that his alma mater has as of yet failed to address the academic limbo in which Christian now finds himself stranded. In response, Ryesky—a practicing attorney—decided to pen a letter to Temple President Ann Weaver Hart, urging her to do the right thing and ensure that Christian's thesis receives an honest review on the merits.
With his gracious permission, we're pleased to be able to share Mr. Ryesky's letter here on The Torch.
TO: Ann Weaver Hart, President, Temple University
Re: Sgt. Christian DeJohn
Dear President Hart:
If there is one word that is inextricably associated with Temple University, it is "diversity." Temple's cultural diversity is used in Temple's promotional literature, you yourself do not hesitate to tout the cultural diversity of the Temple community in your speeches, and I myself have spotlighted Temple's cultural diversity when participating at several Temple student recruitment functions in the New York City area over the years.
Temple's diversity is special because it goes beyond comparing the student body to a color chart such as those commonly available in the paint section of the hardware store -- Temple's diversity has also been diversity of ideas and diversity of thought. And freedom of expression has always played a key role in Temple's diversity of ideas and thought. During both of my stints as a Temple student, there always was a diverse spectrum of ideas presented in the classrooms, and in the halls, and on the streets and walkways of the Temple University campuses. Notwithstanding my frequent disagreement with many of the positions presented, I consider this diversity to be one of Temple's great strengths.
As matters currently stand, Temple University now gives the appearance that it is retaliating against Sgt. Christian DeJohn for asserting his rights of free expression. This is certainly an impression that Temple ought not allow itself to make to the world, for it is diametrically at odds with Temple's diversity. Sgt. DeJohn's course work should be fairly and objectively evaluated on its merits, in a matter which does not give the appearance of any improper bias, and by the same impartial standards merited by the course work of any other student.
As a Management major at what is now Temple's Fox School of Business, I was taught the principles of Management by Exception, which essentially means that managers should allow organizations to function normally unless and until an exception occurs where the organization's routine functions fail to adequately handle a given case. At that point, management must intervene to redirect the organization to the appropriate courses of action.
As you and I know, the great bureaucracy that is Temple University occasionally functions inefficiently, occasionally requires regrouping time in order to correct its dysfunctions, and occasionally requires attention and intervention from the higher echelons. In other words, Temple, like other large organizations, requires Management by Exception.
Given that Temple's routine handling of Sgt. DeJohn's situation has in fact gotten to a point which has necessitated intervention by an outside authority (and an appellate-level judicial authority at that), perhaps some specific attention from Sullivan Hall is now warranted, to ensure the proper handling by the University of a student who obviously is intelligent, motivated, and likely destined for future achievement.
At stake is more than Sgt. DeJohn's personal career. At stake is Temple's essential core attribute of diversity.
Yours very truly,
Kenneth H. Ryesky, Esq.
BBA 1977, JD 1986
I know I speak for both Christian and all of us here at FIRE in thanking Mr. Ryesky for his eloquent support—indeed, letters from citizens like him help FIRE secure favorable outcomes for the students and faculty we assist at our nation's universities. We rely on concerned alumni, parents, trustees, donors, and citizens who have both the common sense to recognize when universities mistreat members of their community and the courage to stand up and tell those in power that such behavior is entirely unacceptable.
While Christian, now training in the Mojave Desert, waits for word from Temple's Provost regarding the status of his thesis review, it's encouraging to recognize that many Torch readers stand in support.