Dorms to teach neighbor relations

Owl Standup program aims to ease community tensions through education.

Students living in residence halls will be pledging responsibility this month as part of the five pillars of the Owl Stand Up Program directed by University Housing and Residential life.

Created by Shondrika Merritt, the assistant director of Residential Life, the program aims to educate students living on campus about their responsibilities once they live in the surrounding community and how they can be good neighbors. The program stems from the Good Neighbor Initiative, which also focuses on improving relationships with residents.

“You want to be able to take away what you learned from Temple besides what you learned in a classroom,” Merritt said. “‘What did you learn from living inside a residence hall?’ I want [students] to be able to say, ‘We learned that responsibility, integrity, respect, leadership and support is something that we gained from living there or something we strive to create in a residential community.’”

With the student body increasing at record numbers – this year’s incoming class of nearly 7,100 is the largest in five years, according the university – the Owl Stand Up Program works to address issues students may face when they move off campus. Working closely with the Good Neighbor Initiative, the program aims to minimize local residents’ complaints about noise, trash, littering and vandalism by raising student awareness of their responsibility as neighbors.

Caleb Hussack, a risk management major who lives on 7th and Diamond streets, said he does not believe the Owl Stand Up Program will be effective.

“The area’s already trashed and littered,” Hussack said. “Look off campus and then look on campus – there’s definitely a difference between the maintenance. On campus, like White Hall, there’s people paid to clean up. There’s nobody paid to clean up [off campus].”

University officials estimate there are more than 7,000 students living off campus in the surrounding community. The rise of students living off campus has impacted the neighborhoods near Temple.

Hunter Butler, a youth mentor who lives at on the 1800 block of North Bouvier Street, comes from a family that has lived in the community for more than 90 years.

“The transition happened about seven or eight years ago,” Butler said. “This is when in your junior year you couldn’t live on campus anymore. You had to move off campus, out of the dorms. Most of the original owners sold their houses and they sold them to people buying property for profit.”

“In the beginning what happened was we felt disrespected because a lot of the students were partying with no respect for the original home owners,” Butler added. “And I’m pretty sure when they go home to mom’s house they don’t act like that.”

Although exclusive to students living on campus, the Owl Stand Up Program will be marketing a campaign focused on raising awareness on one of its five standards for a few months at a time during the year. The standards are themes created by students on Merritt’s committee.

This month, the program is focusing on responsibility. Merritt, along with a committee of six students including resident assistants, will be attending university events to market their campaign. They will also be hosting activities in and out of residence halls centered on this month’s theme.

“Respect is the one thing that we’re going to start with, and we’re going to post it all throughout the community to say we all can, in our own different ways, embody the act of showing appreciation for people and community,” Merritt said. “We want our students to leave and go into the neighborhoods remembering and then leave Temple University representing it with these standards.”

Part of the Owl Stand Up Program’s campaign includes T-shirts, banners, posters, bracelets and water bottles. These items will be handed out during activities in an effort to get the word out within the student body.

“I guess the [Owl Stand Up] Program can help everybody coexist,” said Griffin Morrow, a freshman sports and recreation management major who lives on the 1400 block of North 15th Street, said.

Committee members from the Owl Stand Up Program will be working to get a website up this year and will continue to market its standards in residence halls.

Sarai Flores can be reached at

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