I live on a pretty rocking block. Literally. Those of you familiar with the “flip the bus” video may understand, but those of you who live on the 1900 block of 18th Street can testify.
If neither ring a bell, let me explain.
The North Philadelphia neighborhood west of Temple is bad, but not for the reasons you might typically expect. Unruly behavior — like the incident on Aug. 26 when as many as 150 students tried to tip over a Temple shuttle bus — has recently become more prevalent in the area near 18th and 19th streets, prompting Deputy Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone to label it as “problematic.”
But having rented the same apartment as last year, I can attest that my block wasn’t always this out of control. So why are students acting out now?
Obviously alcohol largely factors into the equation. Having witnessed the mob trying to overturn the bus, I can confirm that students and other present party-goers were heavily under the influence of alcohol. But at what point do you drink so much that you lose sense of what is rational? That standing on a car or trying to topple a bus is OK?
When you feel like you can.
With a changing neighborhood marked by an influx of student housing and a shrinking number of resident occupied homes, students aren’t worried about waking the neighbors. Traditional considerations, like whether the music is too loud for the sleeping 5-year-old next door, are no longer cause for concern when students inhabit the entire block.
The 1900 block of 18th Street is a prime example of this development. At present, the total number of resident-occupied properties are outnumbered by student apartments 39 to eight.
The result is that every night of the week a party can be found raging into the morning. Destructive behavior, like trying to tear down a wooden fence, is commonplace. Thursday nights are celebrated by setting off fireworks in an empty lot. And everybody yells, a lot.
Ryan Rickus, a senior kinesiology major, has lived on this block for three years and has witnessed much of the development occur.
He said that when he moved in, “The only new apartment was across the street and students were moving into it for the first time.” As for most of the new apartments now occupied by students, “They were just vacant lots,” he said.
That means that even as local residents remain, they are becoming increasingly outnumbered as developers buy land to create more housing for Temple students. And once student apartments dominate the street, the remaining residents are less inclined to stay. Until just recently, there were nine — not eight — resident occupied homes on my block.
Why does it matter to us that all this is happening?
Because as student-dominated blocks grow more common, we must have an increased awareness of our responsibilities.
Unfortunately, on my block and others like it, we fail by mistaking those responsibilities for freedoms.
As the number of students living nearby rises, it should make my block feel safer, quieter and cleaner. But it doesn’t. Rather than paying each other respect, living amongst peers has created a student mentality where everyone feels free to behave however they want, without worry of discipline from an authority figure. Each week, the sidewalk is littered with just as much trash as the week before, and private property continues to be vandalized and destroyed.
Now, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
At a time when we invest so much effort into preparing for our futures and convincing others that we’re really adults, our actions should emulate our intentions — inside the classroom and out.
Bri Bosak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BriBosak.