Young men in North Philadelphia first attended Russell Conwell’s Temple College in the late 1880s. They worked during the day to earn a modest living, and at nightfall became bespectacled pupils seeking education and personal refinement.
Conwell’s well-known statement boasted of his working-class hero students – “The owl of the night makes the eagle of the day.” The Temple community has stretched and grown across a few more streets since Conwell’s days, but the night owl moniker still lingers.
The many street lights cast a glow on the night owl going for a very late-night stroll around campus. Lingering on Liacouras Walk or bundling up against the cold on North Broad Street at late hours provides a glimpse into the lives of Temple’s insomniacs.
While most students choose to remain in their rooms, a few excitement-seekers gather around a guitarist on Liacouras Walk to trade folk lyrics. Contemplative smokers huddle outside 7-Eleven for a break. It is evident that there are only a handful of people out late at night. But the few that are out and about don’t mind shedding light on the reason for their nightly activities.
“There’s always something to do here,” said David Paley, a freshman advertising and marketing major. “If I went to bed early, I feel I’d be missing out. On the weekends I go to bed around 3 a.m. or 4 a.m.”
Paley, who sits with a group of friends outside of 1940 residence hall, is a first-year night owl. Like many of his freshman peers, he is intrigued by the idea of college life. His sleeping habits, though, sometimes take a toll on his body.
“I usually underestimate how much sleep I need,” Paley said. “I have an 8:40 class. I’m not going to miss that, but I don’t want to go to bed early and miss out on the fun, either.”
The first year of college is always a struggle between balancing a social life and grades. The sizeable amount of freshmen out late at night on a weekend provides food for thought – the question is whether these students are prepared for the next five days of classes since they’re clearly not getting enough sleep.
“Well, I run on Red Bulls and coffee,” Paley said, smiling.
Dr. Dustin Kidd, professor of sociology, is not overly worried about freshmen indulging in the night owl habit.
“There’s a long history of young people staying up late and an even longer history of young people making bad decisions,” Kidd said. “They grow out of both. I doubt seriously that fast food or Red Bull make a difference. We’ve always had coffee. And people knew how to entertain themselves late at night long before the Internet, whether by reading novels or drinking in bars.”
The availability of a constant caffeine supply at 7-Eleven and Starbucks seems to help students stay up later and run on less sleep. However, night owls are faced with the dilemma of where to congregate during the cold weather seasons.
“There definitely needs to be a place to hang out inside when it’s cold,” Paley said. “All-night movies or a lounge would be cool.”
Kidd said the primary reason students, especially freshmen, love staying out late is because they’re intrigued by their new lives, lack of sleep and bad grades aside.
“The best explanation is college,” Kidd said. “Freshmen have just had their lives disrupted pretty significantly, especially if they move out from their parents’ homes. They move from a place where the schedule is clear and regular to one where it is highly variable and not well-governed. They eventually adjust and find a regular sleep pattern, or they fail out for missing class.”
The TECH Center at 3:30 a.m. is another place to find some night owls. Juniors Ben Schefer and Philip Holmes, both political science majors, loiter outside the building.
“I became a night owl in college,” Schefer said. “It was a steady transition from going to bed early first semester of freshman year to staying out late. In the beginning, I stayed up late because of my classes. Staying up late to do work then became an excuse in general to stay up all night.”
Holmes said he is a night owl because he has to be.
“I have classes in the mornings and work in the afternoons, so the only time to get anything done is at night.”
Both self-professed night owls believe that staying up late is a part of college living and believe Temple’s administration shouldn’t cater to the few that burn the midnight oil.
“I have no problem with the night offerings here,” Schefer said. “I make my own fun. In fact, it’s a ritual of mine to stay up in order to watch the sun rise.”
“There’s enough stuff here to keep me occupied at night. The Starbucks at the TECH Center is open for a late-night snack,” Holmes said. “I don’t feel it’s a good idea for restaurants to stay open late at night anyway – they would probably lose money with the lack of business.”
Schefer’s and Holmes’ responses show that the relationship between Temple and its night owls should remain laissez-faire. With upperclassmen already having formed friends and knowledge of the city, they do not need the university to interfere with their nocturnal habits.
Freshmen, however, still search for friends and fun and would like to see Temple provide around-the-clock activities for those who don’t want to retire to their dorm rooms early.
Outside Johnson and Hardwick residence hall is another group out late.
“Why am I up so late? I was dragged out of my room by my friend,” said Ronnie Galindo, an undeclared freshman. “Plus, I need to finish a paper at the TECH Center.”
Kidd said although students’ fascination by late nights keeps them out in the beginning, when the physical and emotional shortcomings finally catch up with them, their late-night rides will end fast.
“Either way, the situation normalizes after a period of adjustment,” Kidd said.
But Galindo, like most night owls, loves college life and the new lifestyle that comes with it.
“I went to bed very late in the summer, and college feels like an extension of summer,” Galindo said. “Most of my classes begin at 11:40 a.m., leaving me time to party on Thursday and wake up for class. There’s no reason for me to get up [early] in the morning.”
Mark Newman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.