A sign placed on the striking red doors of the Church of the Advocate reads, “Sanctuary Entrance.”
The Church is a space North Philadelphia residents and Temple students felt safe to share their concerns about the possibility of an on-campus stadium for Temple’s football team. It is here, on the corner of 18th and Diamond streets, that the newly-minted “Stadium Stompers” hold its bi-weekly meetings.
On Jan. 28, members of the “Stadium Stompers” met to further discuss the possibility of an on-campus stadium.
“They are ravishing a neighborhood and a community for their own purpose, and it worked,” said William Mundy, the block captain of Page Street west of 16th.
Rumors of a new stadium for Temple’s football team gained traction last semester.
“It is just undemocratic,” said Anna Barnett, a junior women’s studies major. “Even if it is something we supported, we want students, workers and community members to have input into what happens at the university—which we don’t.”
“They didn’t even really tell students,” Barnett added. “We went to community members, and knocked on the doors of those who live where the stadium is supposed to be built. Some of them had no idea what was happening.”
Glenda Bryant, a 54-year-old senior social work major, said she is not happy about the idea of a stadium built so close to her home. She thinks Temple “doesn’t care” about the surrounding community.
“This matters to me,” she said. “I’m a Temple student and a community member. Of the two, I’m more of a community member that cares about Temple not building this stadium. They don’t care about involving the community.”
“They don’t care about talking to them, it’s like we don’t even exist,” Bryant added. “That’s what bugs me the most.”
The exclusion of students, faculty and community members from the Board of Trustees meeting on Dec. 8 was a particularly sensitive subject.
“The justification that they used for that was that it’s a capacity issue, but they very purposefully host the meeting in very small places,” said Pele IrgangLaden, a 2015 Jewish studies alumnus and a leader of the “Stadium Stompers.”
IrgangLaden said he believes a public university in the community can be a great resource—as long as it has the best interest of the community in mind.
Associate Vice President of Executive Communications Ray Betzner said Temple has actively considered the community throughout this entire process.
“There is a commitment on the part of the university to continue to talk with residents and to hear what their concerns are,” Betzner said.
Betzner added the project is still in its preliminary stages and has yet to be approved by the Board of Trustees.
“Quite frankly, we are looking for some of those answers too,” he said. “I’ve heard the claim that we are not sharing the answers. The fact of the matter is that we are still developing the information.”
Some of those in attendance, like IrgangLaden, said Temple’s community relations are the worst they’ve ever been.
Betzner believes the opposite.
“I’ve been here for 12 years, and in my view, I believe that the relations between the university and the community are actually improving,” Betzner said. “We have a Community Relations Office which we didn’t have previously. Folks know who to call if they have any concerns about things that are going on in the neighborhood.”
Although the two sides have opposing views, both believe their cause is in the best interest of the surrounding community.
“We believe that Temple has the ability to be a great institution,” IrgangLaden said. “Only if they start respecting the community, and really serving the community as the public institution that it is.”
Erin Blewett can be reached at email@example.com.