When I finally did look up, I was caught off guard by the bursts of cherry and white now interrupting the familiar green decor of the Cecil B. Moore subway station.
Over the summer, the university expanded Temple’s branding to both the interior and exterior of the station, after SEPTA approached the university with an advertising opportunity.
The Cecil B. Moore subway station is now overwhelmed by Temple advertisements and large, red glass displays, featuring Temple’s signature “T” as part of the university’s “Take Charge” advertising campaign.
The station’s exterior is especially disconcerting. Large, white print is plastered across a red backdrop. The outside covering of the station’s Northbound entrance reads: “Temple University.”
Murray Peet, associate vice president of integrated marketing, said the university’s name, visible from Broad Street, allows people “to see and acknowledge that they’ve arrived on campus.”
While I don’t think Main Campus is very hard to miss in the first place, I do understand Temple’s need to advertise.
I don’t understand why the subway stop’s actual name isn’t more visible in some way.
While SEPTA should be held accountable for this misleading outside display, Temple should take responsibility for going along with this move and for its lack of communication with the Cecil B. Moore Community about the new signage.
According to Beverly Coleman, assistant vice president in Temple’s Office of Community Relations, no outreach efforts were made by her office to alert or consult community members about the subway displays. Peet said the university simply served as an advertising partner with SEPTA and does not know if SEPTA consulted community members about Temple’s branding.
The university should have facilitated some means of communication among itself, SEPTA and larger voices in the Cecil B. Moore Community, like the Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters and Beech Community Services.
“I know you have to advertise,” said Karen Asper Jordan, president of the Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters. “But where was the compassion? Where was the empathy?”
She felt slighted by the university’s lack of communication with its neighbors and believes Temple’s actions sting of “paternalism.”
Dialogue between the university and community members during the planning stages of this branding decision could have stifled any tensions that have since surfaced.
“If you get everybody at the table it could be a win-win situation,” Jordan said.
Coleman had no comment when asked if she personally believes the university should have consulted or warned community leaders about the subway advertising.
Peet offered a glimmer of consolation for community members in saying that Temple has commemorative displays planned for the station to honor Cecil B. Moore, the civil rights activist influential in the desegregation of Girard College in 1965.
“Because Cecil B. Moore is an alum, we will honor his legacy for sure with regard to the station,” Peet said.
Moore graduated from Temple University Law School in 1953 and became a civil rights activist during his time as a lawyer, president of a chapter of Philadelphia’s NAACP and city councilman.
While commemorative displays could serve as a promising olive branch, the real problem with Temple’s takeover of the Cecil B. Moore station is the lack of outreach to community members in the first place.
While Temple has no requirement to consult Cecil B. Moore community members about advertising, some consultation would have served as a simple sign of courtesy and would have been in line with Temple’s “Good Neighbor Initiative.”
Under the “Community Responsibility” section of the policy, the university calls students to “foster and maintain good community relations.”
Why isn’t the university doing the same?
Temple should be making an effort to improve its relationship with neighbors, which has been strained for years as a result of an expanding university.
Just this past August, Temple appeared in the No. 17 slot for the ranking category of “Town-Gown Relations are Strained” in the The Princeton Review’s “The Best 380 Colleges.”
It doesn’t seem to me that these tensions will be clearing up anytime soon, especially now that the Cecil B. Moore subway station has been visually claimed by the university.
Going forward, Temple should take a hint from Cecil B. Moore himself and try to be more inclusive, while remembering that communication is key when being a “good neighbor.”
Jenny Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jennyroberts511.