“We chose Temple, but did Temple choose us?” This message was written on one of many signs held by the interlocking arms of a human chain stretching across Broad Street last week. The March 17 protest not only blocked traffic, but also brought the members of the Association of Latino Students (ADEL) together to address a contract made with the University in 1994.
Jackeline Aponte, president of ADEL, said the rally was the next step following a series of failed communication attempts with President Adamany.
“On Feb. 23, we sent a letter to Adamany to talk to and acknowledge us, but he never got back to us,” Aponte said. “If this was important to him, he would have gotten back to us.”
“We were tired of being ignored,” said Daisy Valero, a member of ADEL. “We wanted to let [the administrators] know we won’t go away until we get a meeting,” she said.
But Mark Eyerly, chief information officer of University Relations, said President Adamany sent a letter to ADEL to suggest a meeting.
“I would be pleased to arrange appropriate meetings between representatives of ADEL and University officers and deans to allow you to express your goals and learn about efforts that Temple is making,” Adamany wrote in the March 8 letter.
Aponte said ADEL never received that letter.
A contract signed in 1994 by ADEL and then-President Peter Liacouras required a “five percent increase [in the Latino population] for each of the following divisions: students, faculty and staff.”
But this quota has been interpreted in different ways. The administration noted a nominal increase of Latino students by 37 percent between 1993 and 2003.
But ADEL said Latinos, as a percentage of the student population, falls short of the criteria in the agreement.
Temple’s Factbook, which assesses university demographics yearly, reports the total student population (including all campuses, undergraduate and graduate, excluding Japan) in 1993 was 27,157. Of that number, 2.5 percent were Latino students. The total student population in 2003 was 33,286, where 3.3 percent were Latino. Although the entire student population grew as a whole, the percentage of Latino students increased less than one percent.
“[The percentage] does not represent the rising number of Latinos in the Philadelphia community,” Valero said. “The percentage of Latinos should have gone up to 7.8 percent according to the agreement.”
Adamany also said in the letter that he had not learned of the agreement until he read the copy that ADEL provided on Feb. 23. He also noted that even though ADEL had never requested a meeting or called his attention to the 1994 agreement, ADEL chose to hold a demonstration at Sullivan Hall (on Feb. 23) and only delivered their letter after that demonstration.
“This does not appear to me to be a good faith attempt to engage the University in a discussion about your concerns,” Adamany said in the letter.
Although the letter proposed working together, Valero said Adamany has not contacted ADEL. “If he was working cooperatively, we wouldn’t be making a fuss,” Aponte said.
Adamany also addressed the Latino staff and faculty in his letter. He stated the University had taken substantial steps over the past year to widen the opportunity for people to seek employment.
“The University is interested in constituting the widest possible pools of candidates for employment…and qualified applicants for admission,” Adamany said. “Recently a Latino was named Dean of the Graduate School and another as chair of a major department of the Medical School.” Adamany also reported an increase in Latino staff by 35 percent.
ADEL is also requesting for expansion of the Latin American Studies Center. Aponte said the association wants the program to concentrate on all countries with Latin heritages.
“Latin America isn’t only Puerto Rico, Mexico and Brazil,” Aponte said. “We want anything that represents Latin America [in the program].”
The Latin Center offers three academic programs: the Latin American Studies major, the minor and the semester. In regards to the expansion of the program, Adamany said, “We do not know…whether the student demand for courses in the Latin American Studies or history department would warrant additional courses or offering existing courses more frequently.”
But ADEL is not the only group pushing for an increase in the Latino population at Temple. Valero said both the Latino community in the Philadelphia area and Temple’s black community are backing efforts to increase minorities on campus.
The total student population of 1998 was 27,157. Of that number, about 21percent were black students. The total student population of 2003 was 33,286. Of that number, about 18 percent were black students. While the entire student population continued to increase, the percentage of black students decreased by about 3 percent.
The fight, Aponte said, is not only for Latinos, but for all minorities. “They are very under-represented,” she said. “Temple seems to be going backward, not forward…Temple should be embracing minorities, not pushing them away.”
“With the explosive, drastic growth in student population there would be some fluctuation in numbers,” Eyerly said. “We have no quota system, but we are constantly taking steps to provide equal opportunities within the guidelines of law.”
Aponte said ADEL will give Adamany two more weeks to form a “tangible commitment to work on the problem.” If no line of communication is made, Aponte said the group would not hesitate to block Broad Street again.
“We hope it won’t go to that level,” she said, “but if we have to do that to get ourselves heard [we will].”
Adamany could not be reached for comment.
Another protest regarding “race at Temple” is planned for March 28 in conjunction with TSG.
Alysha Brennan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.