The Office of Community Relations has held “invitation-only” meetings with select community leaders this semester, Stadium Stompers members said.
Several community residents see these meetings as a negative form of community outreach from the university.
A group of around 10 community leaders were invited to a recent meeting, said Capt. Eileen Bradley, the community liaison for Campus Safety Services who also attended these meetings. The meeting included Registered Community Organization leaders and block captains to discuss “student behavior.”
Brandon Lausch, a university spokesperson, wrote in a statement that the Community Campus Councils consist of community leaders and university representatives who meet “approximately two to three times a semester.”
At these meetings, which take place in Sullivan Hall, members of the city’s Streets Department and other city departments met with community leaders to discuss issues like trash and noise in the community.
“The representatives on the councils are community leaders who have shown that they have an interest in engaging with Temple, and they are residents we rely on for taking the pulse of the community and for communicating what’s happening at Temple,” Lausch said.
Bill Bergman, the university’s vice president of public affairs, said the Community Campus Councils are part of Temple’s outreach to community residents regarding the proposed on-campus stadium. But the topic had not come up in the meetings.
He said because the total concept of the stadium is not yet developed, the discussions with the Community Campus Councils focus on “correcting the problems that already exist.”
Kenneth Johnson, a North Philadelphia resident and Stadium Stompers member, briefly attended one of the meetings in March before he was asked to leave because he did not have an invitation. Johnson said he was under the impression that the meeting was open to all community residents before he was asked to leave.
No members of the Office of Community Relations were in attendance at the meeting in March, Bradley said.
Johnson said officials from the university asked him “how [he] found out about the meeting” and who invited him.
Before Johnson left the meeting, he said officials from the university “assured” him that he would be invited to any future meetings with community residents and the university. He said he has not yet been invited to any community meetings and is unsure if there have been any more meetings.
Some residents said these meetings lack representation and transparency.
“It presents the idea that something sneaky might be going on, when you have a whole community, and you handpick certain people and don’t put the information out,” Johnson said.
“It’s not like they are picking the people who represent the people in the neighborhood because we didn’t even know they were having meetings, so how can these people represent us if we don’t even know these people, who they are, where they’re going, why they’re attending these meetings,” he added.
Jackie Wiggins, a Stadium Stompers leader and community resident, also attempted to attend the same meeting and was unable to because she did not have an invitation.
“I’m tired of not being able to get into an institution to attend meetings as a Stadium Stomper and a regular citizen and resident when there are always people out front to prevent my entrance,” Wiggins said. “It’s a public institution. Everybody has rules and regulations, but it’s a public institution.”
After being told they could not attend the meeting in March, Wiggins and Johnson both said Bradley took them to the Campus Police Sub-station across from Sullivan Hall on Pollett Walk.
“She explained, as far as she knew, what the meetings were about, how people were invited, what they were trying to accomplish and things like that,” Johnson said. Bradley requested their contact information and said they would be informed about future meetings.
Bradley said she is unsure how people are selected to attend these meetings.
“Sometimes it’s better to deal with a smaller group because when you have a bunch of people screaming, nothing gets done,” Bradley said. “However, I understand [Wiggins’] point. I really do.”
Wiggins and Johnson said the university needs to improve its methods of engaging with the community.
“From my observation, it just seems like Temple does not want to have a firm grip with the community,” Johnson said. “They just put up a brick wall between them and the community. It doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way.”
“You don’t do that with closed meetings,” Wiggins said. “You don’t do with just a couple of people. You invite everybody to the table, not just select people.”
Kelly Brennan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_KellyBrennan.
Julie Christie contributed reporting.