Students gathered and rallied yesterday in protest of a state representative’s threats to cut some $175 million in funding to Temple, leading to a possible $5,000 per year tuition increase.
Organizers garnered the support of hundreds of students via various methods and social networking outlets, including e-mail, Twitter and Facebook. Though more than 400 students responded via Facebook that they’d attend the rally, approximately 20 students showed for the planned three-mile march to state Rep. John Taylor’s (R) office at Thompson and Cambria streets in Port Richmond.
In spite of the low turnout, reporters from Philadelphia media outlets lined up outside the Student Center, hoping to gain insight from the students on how they would be affected.
Jon Borowski, a 2008 criminal justice and political science graduate, organized the rally through a blog called “Save Temple Students,” a “SaveTemple” Twitter account and a Facebook event page.
The initial plan was for students to meet at the Student Center then march to state Rep. Taylor’s office. Because of the low turnout, the march turned into a rally outside the center. By 2:45 p.m., the small crowd dispersed, leaving the sidewalks empty of voices speaking out and filled with students going to summer classes and potential freshman and their families touring the university.
“To be honest, this [rally] was a big let down,” Borowski said, “I didn’t expect much of a turnout because of the summer and short notice, but I was hoping more students would come.”
Of the handful of students that showed, all were angry and were empowered with enough energy and fierce spirit to represent the Temple student body in its entirety. As crowds of incoming and current students walked by the Student Center entrance, they shouted out about the incident and yelled chants such as “not tuition, raise your voices,” and “hey, hey, ho, ho, student debt has got to go.”
The possibility of losing $175 million from the Commonwealth appropriations that Temple University has been counting on for state funding for the 2009-2010 school year could mean an increase of $5,000 in tuition for undergraduate students.
“$5,000 a year means I have to work more and harder, and possibly cut back to being a part-time student,” junior vocal performance major Shauna Howard said.
Many students echoed Howard’s sentiment.
Junior secondary education and English major Tracy Rossi said, “We just went through a 125th anniversary and so far we’ve had [professors’] contracts go unsettled, and now we’re dealing with this.”
A group of student workers from the Honors Program heard about the rally today, and said they were disappointed to see the lack of students in attendance. Still, they took time from helping incoming students select courses to show their support.
“The appeal of Temple is that it has the same quality education as a private institution without the high costs, and raising tuition is going to take that appeal aid away,” Lindsey Bitler, an Honors Program student worker and sophomore broadcast, telecommunications and mass media major said.
State Rep. Taylor, who represents the district where Northeastern Hospital was closed, said he welcomes and encourages students to get involved in the matter but finds the action premature.
“I don’t think anything is affecting anybody at this point,” Taylor said, “I think that their upsetment [sic] should be directed at [Temple’s] administration.”
The potential to pull Temple’s funding came from the administration’s decision to close Northeastern Hospital.
“We have to get [the administration’s] attention. Why did we do what we did? Because it worked,” he said. “[Temple University] has the potential to lose every dime.”
And when it comes to students facing tuitions hikes while also living in the communities that have been affected by the closing hospital, they are just going to “have to deal with it,” Taylor said.
He stressed in his phone interview that the reason Temple chose to close Northeastern Hospital was because the administration doesn’t make money off of the poor.
“The incredible thing is they didn’t want to continue a hospital there because their ‘pay mix’ was not good. ‘Pay mix’ is another term for they don’t want to serve the poor,” he said, “They wouldn’t dare [close] Temple University Hospital, and that’s just as unprofitable as Northeastern Hospital was.”
Temple students should be scrutinizing the university’s administration’s actions rather than blaming state officials, Taylor said.
“I think that the university is certainly trying to initiate a negative response to what I’m doing to deflect the real issue,” he said, “which is the university’s complete disregard of the care of a large section of Philadelphia that they have previously cared for.”
In order to secure funding from the state, all public institutions, not just Temple, are accountable to the taxpayers and residents of Philadelphia, he said, adding that institutions have the responsibility to provide for the taxpayers who play a role in its funding.
Kristi Herrera, a sophomore psychology and business major and student worker from the Honors Program, pointed out that the increase won’t just hurt Temple.
“It will also hurt the city as well, because of the large number of students having to transfer to cheaper universities,” she said.
While the official vote on the appropriations has not been made, students, parents and alumni are up in arms as to the possibility of an increase in tuition. With the current economic crisis still headlining broadcast news and papers, a tuition hike could have devastating results to those attending Temple University.
Borowski recognized that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students could potentially be displaced if Temple is forced to enact the 45 percent tuition increase
“It sucks that the state reps are holding $175 million hostage over 25,000 students’ heads given the economic situation we’re facing.”
Amanda Fries and Josh Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.