In the four weekends since school began, 270 students have met sobering ends after becoming the latest recipients of alcohol-related citations due to a new push by the university to subdue party-related chaos.
During the first three weeks last year, only six were cited for alcohol.
“We never had a lot of activity the first two weekends of school,” Charlie Leone, acting executive director of Campus Safety Services, said.
As a result of crime data from the previous year, a partnership for weekend patrols has been forged between Temple Police, Philadelphia Police and the Liquor Control Board, Leone said.
“We try to learn from the previous year,” Leone said. “We found a lot of not-so-nice activities where students were assaulted. If you remember, [students] tried to flip the [Owl Loop] bus over, and the following weekend we had a party that stemmed out into an issue where one of our students got shot on Gratz Street.”
Leone said that in combination with the new partnership, forces will be concentrating on specific areas that have proven to be problems in previous years.
“What we have found was again in the north end around [the 2200 to 2300 blocks of] Park Avenue, and West 16th, 17th and 18th streets, there have all been big pockets of parties,” he said.
Leone said the new push is two-fold. Part one is a presence for deterring crime, and part two is the enforcement against underage drinking due to the events that stem from such activities.
“Parties are OK. It’s what happens after parties when people get too intoxicated,” he said.
After-party actions such as the throwing of trash, urinating on nearby properties and the vandalizing of cars have caused added strain between students and the residents of the area, Leone said.
“We can’t just sit back and say ‘Hey, let’s let it all happen,’” Leone said.
Leone said he hoped there would be a mutual feeling among local residents living in off-campus communities that the university was being proactive in slowing down destructive student activities.
“We want to make sure that we have a good neighbor thing going on out there, where it’s more of a community where you are helping each other, and most of our students do. It’s that small percentage of folks and the bad brush gets painted,” he said.
Adding to the negative perception is the university’s own weekend reputation as a place not only for Temple students, but for surrounding university students to party without fear of recourse, Leone said. He added that almost half of alcohol-related arrests have been on non-Temple students.
“We used to be somewhere around 20-25 percent [of non-Temple students cited for alcohol], then we got up to 30 percent, and now this year about 50 percent,” he said. “So, half of the people that were cited, that were stopped, that were involved in alcohol issues and things of that nature had nothing to do with the university.”
This issue of outside students on campus holds particular prevalence after the death of a West Chester student at a rooftop party during last year’s Spring Fling.
Dean of Students Stephanie Ives said she wishes the university’s reputation as a party haven would dissolve.
“It is absolutely a concern that visitors from around the area, be they college students or not, are coming to Temple and engaging in high-risk drinking,” she said.
Leone said that outsiders do not have the same feel for the area as Temple students do, thereby causing them to behave in a reckless manner while here.
Ives placed this reputation on the dramatic campus changes that the university has seen in recent years, mainly its switch from a commuter campus to a largely residential one.
“As Temple transitions to more of a residential campus, alcohol and high-risk drinking are a concern,” she said. “We are addressing it presently with education, proactively with intervention and also with enforcement. Any campus going through a transition as we are would likely have to make the same strategic efforts.”
Leone continues to stress that, first and foremost, the goal of the recent push of enforcement in relation to alcohol is safety.
“There are ways that you can drink but just be responsible about it,” he said. “Our goal is not to lock up every student. We’d rather just keep you safe and patrol.”
“Sometimes students are innocent, had one or two drinks and get caught up in things, but the people that wind up with an arrest, a lot of times they are just not cooperative – that’s the nicest way to put it,” he added.
Cindy Stansbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.