In response to the lockdown on Willington Street last weekend that temporarily prevented many students on the block access to their homes, the university is reviewing its action to what officials said was an unprecedented incident.
Dean of Students Stephanie Ives said the university does not have an official policy for providing emergency housing to displaced off-campus residents and it acted based on past experiences in resolving the incident.
“It is not standard for students to request emergency housing from the university,” Ives said in an email. “In the past, most preferred to stay with friends or commute from home when possible.”
As the standoff that left two blocks on Willington and Berks streets closed off extended into the evening, the university began to scramble to find temporary housing for displaced students.
“We were aware of what was going on at Willington from around the time before the first alert came out,” Ives said. “I think we anticipated that it would end quickly and safely. As we started moving into the evening hours, we did discuss whether or not students were able to return to their homes.”
The university sent out three email alerts to students and faculty warning them of increased police presence on the 1800 block of Willington Street, but did not mention alternate housing options to students who were not allowed access to their block.
“I think in our after action we will be looking at other ways to communicate with students,” Ives said. “I don’t know whether or not the best way of doing so is to send out advisories or emails or text messages to all the people signed up, because there were thousands and thousands of people who were not affected.”
The alerts themselves were administered by Campus Safety Services. Charlie Leone, the acting executive director of CSS, said alerts were sent out to make students aware of the situation, but info was left out to prevent the situation from escalating.
“We were concerned with putting out too much info because we didn’t know what [the suspect] had access to,” Leone said.
Several students reached out to the university and The Temple News through social media expressing their problems with finding housing.
Andrew Crerand, a junior management information systems major who was stuck in his home throughout the day Sunday, reached out to The Temple News through Twitter after he said he received no updates from police or the university, and was forced to follow the situation online and by listening to negotiators speaking through a megaphone.
“Being at Temple you become sympathetic towards these kinds of things,” Crerand said. “But it’s sobering to hear them try to talk to this kid.”
Darwin Paz, a senior strategic communications major and resident across the street from the scene said he was unaware of the ability of Temple to provide emergency housing until after he had made arrangements for lodging that night.
“I appreciate the police getting us out of the situation,” Paz said, “but it would have been nice if more than just the TU alerts were sent out.”
Four students who reached out to the Dean of Student’s Office directly were provided temporary housing in Conwell Inn at the university’s expense. Several other students who reached out to Temple police officers on the scene left before officers could gather their full information in order to provide housing assistance, Ives said. Closer to midnight, emergency sheltering was set up in the Student Centers, where any students who were displaced could show up and be provided blankets and sleep on the couches in the lobby. Ives said two students showed up, only to decide to take up shelter elsewhere.
Ives said the Willington lockdown was the largest displacement of students that her office has worked with, though they have offered emergency housing in the past. In 2010, Ives said eight students forced out of their house due to a fire were offered temporary housing in residence halls, though they ultimately declined, choosing instead to stay with friends.
The university also has agreed upon rates with several Center City hotels to house students in emergency cases.
In addition to reviewing its emergency housing action, Ives said the university has been involved this semester with gathering data from students living off-campus about where they live to aid in reaching out to those students in such emergencies. Upon logging into their TU portal accounts this semester, students will be asked one time to update their permanent and residential addresses.
Ives said her office has received no complaints from students or their families in regards to last weekend’s incident.
John Moritz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JCMoritzTU. Marcus McCarthy contributed reporting.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article that appeared in print on Oct. 22 incorrectly stated the duties of the Dean of Student’s office. The office does not oversee University Housing or Campus Safety Services.