University Housing reversed a brand-new provision that would ban minors from campus housing.
When Syreeta Martin first set foot on Main Campus, she had $700 in the bank and a 15-month-old daughter, Arionna, on her hip.
“I always knew I wanted to go to Temple,” Martin, a 21-year-old junior journalism major originally from Pittsburgh, said. “But I can’t afford [off-campus housing] for me and my daughters. The three of us are living off of $500 a month.”
When she first came to Temple three years ago, Martin, who now has a 14-month-old daughter, Gabrielle, learned through word of mouth about Triangle Apartments at 1924 N. Broad St. The apartments serve as a source of graduate housing that, after residents are approved through a screening process, can double as family housing.
“They’re still expensive for a one-bedroom apartment holding three people,” Martin said of the apartments, which run at a rate of up to $5,921 per semester for a one-bedroom furnished apartment. “But at least it doesn’t come straight out of my pocket. It’s charged to my tuition.”
On Feb. 26, William Fenton, resident director of graduate housing, sent an e-mail to all graduate housing residents stating that beginning in the 2010-2011 academic year, “minors will no longer be allowed to live in graduate housing.”
The change would have affected four students with children, including Martin and her two daughters. Martin said she works at Student Financial Services and Northwest Community Coalition for Youth.
“I would have to quit school and move back home, or if that isn’t possible, be homeless,” Martin said.
She said that possibility alone was enough to make her take instant action. On Feb. 27, Martin issued a petition, ordering for the policy to be reversed. The petition garnered more than 300 signatures in a week.
Martin said about two hours after the petition was released, she received an e-mail from Michael Scales, associate vice president/director of university housing and residential life, requesting to meet with her to “address any of [her] concerns.”
When The Temple News inquired about the possibility of a policy reversal and any future plans for family housing to President Ann Weaver Hart and her cabinet, they were unaware of the policy change.
On March 5, Hart stated in an e-mail that Martin had been “told in error” about the policy’s changes.
“I personally intervened as soon as I became aware of this matter,” Hart continued in the e-mail to Martin. “As someone who studied for a master’s and Ph.D. while my husband and I were raising our four daughters, I understand the difficulty of balancing family responsibilities with academic pursuits.”
Sean Killion, assistant director for assignments and billing in the office of university housing and residence life, told The Temple News that “after review, the decision has been made to reverse the policy change.”
Attempts to get comments from Scales and Fenton went unanswered.
Martin said that in a meeting with housing officials, Scales told her the decision made to ban minors from graduate housing was made because of “safety concerns” in Triangle Apartments. She said he proposed to her that if she would remove the petition, he would officially reverse the policy. She has since removed the petition, but said she is keeping a close eye on relations between housing officials and tenants.
“If I do not see change, I will put it back up,” Martin said. “I can be in the kitchen and deal with the fire.”
The change Martin hopes to see in regards to student-parent life on campus does not stop with family housing. Her goal is to help Temple follow in the footsteps of other universities and, for starters, instate official family housing, parent resource center and a day care.
Currently, Martin drops her daughters off at YMCA North, located at Broad and Master streets. Because she is classified as low-income, she qualifies for subsidized childcare through the Child Care Information Services of Philadelphia, paying only $14 per week for both daughters.
Martin said while such assistance programs do help families in need, universities with childcare institutions, such as similarly structured schools like the Pennsylvania State University and University of Pittsburgh, have been known to benefit more individuals than just parents.
Pitt’s University Child Development Center, which charges its fees through tuition, is open to both full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students and employs student assistants.
Penn State participates in the Child Care Access Means Parents In School Program, a grant eligible to institutions of higher education to fund childcare programs.
The daycare on Main Campus dissolved in 1995 due to budget cuts. Martin said she hopes Temple will follow Penn State’s suit and apply for CCAMPIS funding.
“A daycare center is something the whole campus could benefit from,” Martin said. “It could produce student jobs, internships for education majors, a lot.”
She said Scales has been a resource in helping her determine her next move. He recommended she start up a student organization to gain university recognition and funding, which could turn her hopes into a reality.
“I’m doing most of this work pretty much on my own,” Martin said. “But it’s just what I have to do. I don’t have the support system here I did at home. … I’ll be graduating, but what about the sophomore mother who doesn’t know where she’ll be in a year? We’ll just have to keep working on it.”
Maria Zankey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.