Diversity lacking at campus construction

Advocacy groups fight for minorities, women at job sites.

Alan DeSanto and his son, Alan DeSanto Jr. | Alisa Miller TTN
Alan DeSanto and his son, Alan DeSanto Jr. | Alisa Miller TTN

Community members and activists are trying to change the hiring practices of construction companies at Temple after complaints about diversity in the workforce and lack of community input. 

PHAIR Hiring Coalition began holding protests in late 2011. The group is an offshoot of Occupy Philly and led by local electrician Fermin Morales. While the coalition no longer does public protests at Temple, they continue to meet on a regular basis.

Mary Stricker, a Temple sociology professor, acts as the liaison between the university and the community.

“We would like Temple to work for female and minority representation on all of these sites that is equivalent to their representation in the community surrounding Temple,” Stricker said.

In 2008, a Mayor’s Advisory Commission set a goal of 32 percent minority and 7 percent women as the minimum numbers for building trades employment. Statistics from the two current building sites show that the university has only met one of the quotas.

Upon completion of Morgan Hall, 39 percent of workers were minorities and slightly more than 2 percent were female, according to statistics provided by the university.

James Creedon, senior vice president for construction, facilities, and operations, said the low numbers of women are a result of women tending not to pursue construction as a career.

Creedon said he is satisfied with the current amounts and is optimistic that they will increase.

“To me, those are healthy numbers and so what we wanted to make sure was that when we went over to the science building that we tracked the same way,” Creedon said.

As of July 28, the workforce at the new Science and Technology Building included 34 percent minority and two female workers. Construction is scheduled to conclude in spring of next year.

John DeBernardi, the site manager for the private Wanamaker Plaza building being developed by the Goldenberg Group, said 7 percent of the workforce on the building site are women, a fairly large number compared to other building sites run by the univsersity.

Turner Construction Co. manages Temple’s two construction projects and the university brought in Baker Group, a consulting firm, to aid in the hiring of community members. Baker Group’s contract expired on Oct. 11, and out of more than 100 people who applied through the company, seven were hired.

“We would like Creedon’s office to invest time and energy in finding out why folks who went through [the consulting firm] weren’t hired.  We would like to know what “good faith

efforts” are being used to increase female and minority representation by both Temple and the contractors,” Stricker said.

Creedon said Visualize Temple, which will supersede Temple 20/20 as the newest master plan when it is released next year, will include input from community members. However, before the university seeks input, Creedon said preliminary models must first be approved by the Board of Trustees.

For now, Morales said he is happy with the current percentage of minority and women workers, but would like it to increase. He hopes to have a workforce comprised of 60 percent non-white employees in 10 years.

“[University officials] don’t have a vision of where we need to go,” he said.

Christina Morgeneier can be reached at Christina.morgeneier@gmail.com or on Twitter @Christinamorg.

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