The Stadium Stompers held a theatrical demonstration called “Meet Your Board of Trustees” in front of Sullivan Hall, where the Board met last Tuesday.
Barriers lined Polett Walk from Broad Street to 13th Street to section off protesters from the Board of Trustees during their meeting and later during the dedication of Lenfest Circle.
The Stadium Stompers are the main opposition group to Temple’s proposed on-campus stadium and have hosted several demonstrations since the group formed almost two years ago. But who are the Stadium Stompers, and what do they want from the university?
WHO ARE THE STADIUM STOMPERS?
The Stadium Stompers are an activist group made up of North Philadelphia residents, students and faculty who oppose the potential building of an on-campus stadium.
The group has been in existence since the university unveiled its plans for the stadium in October 2015.
Involvement in the Stadium Stompers has varied, with meetings filled with more than 150 people in March 2016 to less than 20 people at times. The group most often meets in the Church of the Advocate on 18th Street near Diamond.
The group meets twice a month and has been holding private “strategy” sessions where the press is prohibited from attending.
The Stompers have mainly focused their frustrations on the Board of Trustees. Since the group’s formation, the Stompers have made unfounded claims about Temple and its administration throughout the course of their protests.
WHAT DO THE STADIUM STOMPERS WANT?
The main goal of the Stadium Stompers is to prevent an on-campus stadium from being built in North Philadelphia.
But recently, the group has presented a new list of demands in addition to its opposition of the stadium. The Stadium Stompers have demanded that the Board of Trustees be dissolved and be replaced with a group of “democratically controlled” community residents, students and university workers.
The Stompers also call for the university to reinvest the $130 million that would be spent on the stadium to be spent on public education and affordable housing for veterans and senior citizens.
Oftentimes, the Stompers will host demonstrations with other organizations like minimum wage increase advocacy group 15 Now, which some Stompers are also members of.
The Stompers are also attempting to uncover trustees’ alleged corporate ties, making claims that trustees are responsible for corporations’ alleged wrongdoings. For example, the Stompers accuse trustee Christopher McNichol of being involved in his employer Citigroup’s 2008 “policies that led to massive foreclosures and debt, especially among people of color and the elderly,” the Stompers wrote on its Tumblr page. This claim is unfounded.
Some claims about other trustees, like Dennis Alter, are true. Alter was the chief financial officer at Advanta Bank Corp., which was sued by the FDIC in 2013 for charging its customers yearly interest rates of more than 30 percent between 2008 and 2009 through “repricing campaigns,” according to reports by The Temple News. The bank later settled with the FDIC for $23.5 million.
ARE THEIR DEMANDS POSSIBLE?
President Richard Englert said in September that the university is still pursuing the possibility of an on-campus “multipurpose facility,” so it is unclear if the Stompers will effectively prevent the university from building the facility.
Englert said the university is operating “multiple studies” into an on-campus stadium because the university would save up to $3 million annually if it had its own stadium, rather than renting space in Lincoln Financial Field, where the team has played since 2003.
Football coach Geoff Collins alluded to the stadium being likely at a press conference earlier this month.
“I think it’s special,” Collins said. “I think having a place right here…is going to be great. Whatever time frame it happens, we’re going to make the absolute best of it.”
One of the Stompers’ other demands — to disband the Board of Trustees — is also unlikely. Every major university and college in Philadelphia has a board of trustees. It is a common practice at major institutions in the United States to have university boards that are run by alumni donors.
Despite this, the Stompers believe they can create change with these demands, said Anna Barnett, a 2017 women’s studies alumna and Stadium Stompers leader.
“We wouldn’t be fighting for [our demands] if we didn’t think that they were possible,” Barnett added. “Anything that’s been won in the past has been won through struggle…We want to push people to reimagine how Temple could function as an institution.”
The Stompers also call for the university to reinvest the money it wants to spend on the stadium, and instead spend it on education, senior citizens and veterans. But they offer no clear path as to how the university should do so.
The $130 million price tag for the stadium is made up of funds from the governor’s office, donors and from a debt service. The money for the stadium from the state government is specified to be spent on this construction and may not be able to be reinvested. The money from donors is also specifically given for the erection of a stadium.
HAS THE UNIVERSITY ADDRESSED THE STADIUM STOMPERS’ DEMANDS?
Englert met with the Stadium Stompers for the first time in August. He told the members that the stadium could not be discussed “with any specificity” because the university had not completed the $1.25 million feasibility study.
Englert made no commitment to halt plans for a stadium at the meeting, but was still deciding whether to move forward with the proposed stadium, according to a Facebook post from the organization.
In the past, the Stadium Stompers has invited the Board of Trustees to attend its meetings at the Church of the Advocate, but none of the trustees attended, The Temple News reported in March 2016.
Stadium Stompers members were allowed to attend the Board of Trustees meeting last week, with about 10 members inside the meeting. When Englert gave his abridged State of the University address to the Board and mentioned the university’s efforts for a stadium, one resident said “No, no thanks. We don’t want that.”
Englert did not stop his speech and residents were not directly addressed during the meeting.
The Stompers have halted and disrupted forums on the stadium with former President Neil Theobald.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE STADIUM STOMPERS?
The Stadium Stompers are going to continue to oppose the stadium, “no matter what happens,” Barnett said.
Temple Association of University Professionals has said they are open to working with the Stadium Stompers. Several members, like adjunct intellectual heritage professor Wende Marshall, are also Stompers.
The Stompers will host its next meeting on Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. in the Church of the Advocate. The group has not announced any future demonstrations.
“We’re still saying ‘no stadium’ no matter what, and we’re not gonna concede,” Barnett said. “Our demand is no new stadium, ever. And we’re going to continue fighting for that.”