Local flavor fizzles while suburbanites flock Philly

I grew up in Philadelphia – home of the Liberty Bell, Elfreth’s Alley, and most importantly, soft pretzels and cheesesteaks.

Philadelphia is one of America’s most historical cities. However, the residents are not exactly standing in lines to see those historical sights. Sure, the Betsy Ross house is interesting, the Christmas tree in City Hall is tall and sparkly, but Philadelphia residents are drawn to this city because of its lesser-known attractions.

The Philadelphia I grew up in is a grid of streets that make up the many neighborhoods of the city; Old City, Society Hill, Mayfair, Fishtown, etc.

When I chose to attend Temple, I expected many more Philadelphians than I encountered. Few people here are familiar with the Lord & Taylor Christmas Light Show, the Firemen’s Hall Museum, or even … SEPTA.

The Southeastern Philadelphia Transportation Association draws blank stares from many Temple freshmen. ‘Huh? Public transportation, what is that?’ The fact is, most of Temple’s urban campus is composed of suburban students who wanted to get a taste of ‘the city.’

You cannot set foot on campus without seeing people wearing shirts with popped collars, eating soft pretzels, and asking for directions to South Street. What I thought would be a campus in the middle of my familiar city is just a school full of tourists who decided to enjoy the view while they receive their educations.

These students are here to experience what they believe is “urban living.” However, South Street, Urban Outfitters and Geno’s Steaks are not examples of life in Philadelphia.

These locations have become tourist attractions for suburban Pennsylvanians. The real Philadelphia has been overshadowed by suburban shoppers and tourists.

Temple is in the middle of North Philadelphia, and yet the campus draws white, middle-to-upper class students who come here fearing the neighborhood, asking Philadelphia residents if they’ve ever heard gunshots or seen a crime.

I did not come here to see polo shirts or hear people asking me if ‘it’s OK to drink the city water.’ (of course, they pronounce it like ‘wahter.’) When I chose Temple, I did so with the hopes that I could remain in the city that I love while receiving my education. I might as well have gone to Boondocks University.

I am sure that the university’s goal when they highlighted the City Life section of their brochures was to draw students from rural and suburban areas in order to diversify the campus population, but they may have gone a step too far. The school was so focused on acquiring more suburban students that it has created an entirely suburban campus.

Philadelphia high school seniors are reluctant to attend Temple because they do not want to live smack in the middle of North Philadelphia. Little do they realize, they would be located in the middle of Small-Town, USA, formerly known as Philadelphia.

Where have all the Philadelphians gone? They were probably driven out by the soccer moms in minivans and those horrible New Jersey drivers.

So is there a solution to this problem or is Philadelphia destined to become Pennsylvania’s newest suburb? It’s not that I am completely against the idea of Temple attracting suburban students, but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore potential students from Philadelphia either.

President Adamany should spend more time trying to attract local students. Temple once consisted only of inner-city students, and now it seems to be just the opposite. Maybe prospective students should be able to spend some time on the campus before applying.

The only chance new students have to get a feel of Temple’s campus is at orientation, and that may be just a tad too late to realize that the school of your choice is not exactly what you expected.

We do not have to kick the suburbanites out, but we do need to make some room for the locals.

Shannon McDonald can be reached at shannon.mcdonald@temple.edu

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