Entering its second year, the Temple Made campaign has maintained some of the same concentrations on athletics and academics that were a staple to it last year. But two banners in the Student Center indicate a new aspect of it: the Good Neighbor Initiative.
Stemming from the university’s official Good Neighbor Policy that was created in 2011 with an aim at encouraging students to build relationships with their residential community and provide responsibilities for students in the community, the initiative came after administrators met with students to gauge how best to brand the policy.
“Students quickly said, ‘This should not be about a policy, it won’t go anywhere if it’s about a policy,’” said Andrea Caporale Seiss, senior associate dean of students.
After hearing from students about the way the initiative should be communicated, administrators gathered more information for the initiative outside of the policy itself.
While conducting focus groups with students for the Community and Student Off-Campus Issues and Concerns Task Force, which was commissioned by former President Ann Weaver Hart, administrators found that students needed more than just a policy that lays out what students should be doing in the neighborhood.
Rather, Seiss said, students reported needing references for things such as guides for when and how to take out the trash and ideas for connecting and communicating with community members. The initiative now includes not just the policy, but information including safety, neighborhood history and city ordinances.
Students are also able to contact administrators involved with the initiative for questions about their neighborhood. Acting almost as a “Temple 311,” Seiss said they have already received questions, including one student living off-campus who put her trash out like she was supposed to, but found that it wasn’t picked up. After consulting with a neighbor and Temple, she found out that she didn’t put the trash close enough to the curb.
“This is exactly what we want,” Seiss said, referring to the student inquiry. “We don’t want students to be afraid to ask us questions.”
Other than the Temple Made banners in the Student Center, the initiative is being advertised by an electronic sign at Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue, as well as magnets and decals.
As the initiative works through its first semester with heavy branding, Seiss said the overall goal of it is make sure that students feel what it means to be part of a community.
“Students are coming here for four or five years, but we want them to see that they should be part of this community, it’s a part of them and it’s part of their development,” Seiss said. “Whether or not you stay in Philadelphia, you’re going to be a part of a community somewhere.”
On the 1700 block of Willington Street, just above Cecil B. Moore Avenue, some new student residents are already practicing neighborly behavior. Owen Hobson, a junior broadcasting, telecommunications and mass media major, spoke about his experience living in North Philadelphia on the front steps of his recently constructed apartment building.
“This will be my second year [living off campus],” Hobson said. “Last year we live on Monument Street. That was more like, a closed-off street. It was kind of like a tighter neighborhood. There were a lot of Temple kids but there were a lot of locals too that we got to know.”
While sweeping debris from the sidewalk in front of his house, Hobson pointed down the street to his neighbor, Helyn Cheeks, who has lived in her house on Willington Street since 1960. Cheeks expressed positive sentiments about her student neighbors.
“The students along here seem to be very mannerly and helpful,” Cheeks said. “I can’t really speak for all of them because a lot of them just moved in but the ones that are already here are willing to pitch in and help me. When I go shopping for my groceries, they come and help me.”
Cheeks acknowledged that some students are less willing to engage than others.
“They don’t want to speak, you don’t speak,” Cheeks said. “You try, but it don’t work. But the group that’s in here now, they seem to be nice. They don’t come down and have dinner or anything like that, not to say they couldn’t.”
While his experience has been largely positive, Hobson acknowledges the potential for conflict between students and long-term residents of the area.
“It’s kind of a clash of cultures a little bit,” Hobson said. “You could say there’s a tangible tension between the two parties and it’s definitely worth starting [the Good Neighbor Initiative] to take a step forward in a good direction. [Students could] be more respectful to people who call this their home, who’ve lived here their entire lives but I mean, Temple kids are Temple kids. There are still going to be a lot of kids out here on Friday nights causing a ruckus and everything.”
Sean Carlin and Kate Kelly are community beat writers for The Temple News. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.