North Central residents wary of Temple student neighbors

Community members are concerned about students who live off campus spreading COVID-19.

With the start of the fall semester, the neighborhoods surrounding Temple University have become increasingly populated with students. | JULIA LARMA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As thousands of Temple University students flock back to Main Campus, community residents in North Central are worried about the public health risk their behavior could pose to the neighborhood.

“I think we’ve kind of enjoyed the break,” said Janet King, 67, who has lived near 15th and Diamond streets since 1983. “The streets have been quieter, parking is easier, there’s not an excess of trash, which has always been a problem.”

Students were largely absent from Main Campus and surrounding blocks during the spring and summer after Temple suspended in-person instruction on March 16 and required most students to vacate on campus housing by March 21, urging those in off-campus housing to do the same, The Temple News reported. 

The university announced on June 18 its decision to reopen residence halls this fall, The Temple News reported. With Temple embracing a hybrid of in-person and online classes, many students have also moved back to off-campus residences.

Now that students are back, King is careful to put her mask on before leaving her house because she never knows what is outside her front door, she said.

“I see signs all over campus about wearing a mask on campus,” King said. “My biggest gripe is that the mask goes over your nose, not under.”

Freeman Miller, 77, who lives on Carlisle Street near Norris, is happy to have students back in the community but worries they will become COVID-19 “super spreaders” by holding large gatherings, like parties.

“Temple has tried, but off campus, they can only do so much,” Miller said. 

Temple cannot control what students do in their off-campus apartments, said Chris Carey, senior associate dean of students. However, Carey said the size of indoor gatherings is a matter of state law, not a university regulation.

As part of its final reopening phase, Philadelphia limited the size of indoor gatherings to 25 people and outdoor gatherings to 50 people, and required masks in all public spaces, The Temple News reported.

While Temple won’t enforce mask-wearing while walking outdoors on campus, the university will require masks to enter all campus buildings and suggest wearing them elsewhere, in accordance with its public health pillars.

Temple hopes and expects students will recognize the importance of following health regulations, Carey said. 

Emily Marder, a senior childhood education major who lives near 11th Street and Susquehanna Avenue, said bringing students back to campus is irresponsible. Marder chose to live off campus this semester in the case Temple required her to student-teach in person.

“I truly do not believe that Temple should be having in-person classes because there’s no way realistically that everybody is going to follow protocols, so it is just creating an unsafe environment for everybody, no matter where they live,” Marder said.

Gail Loney, 59, a retired compliance officer who lives on Lambert Street near Susquehanna Avenue, said the university should do more to regulate student behavior in community spaces, like laundromats, convenience stores and supermarkets. Loney also wishes Temple involved community members more when it was developing its return plan and response to the pandemic, she added.

“There’s no excuse for the lack of communication that goes on between Temple and the community,” Loney said. “I should not have to find out in the news that a bunch of Temple students have already got COVID.”

Temple has reported 10 active cases of COVID-19 among students on and off campus as of Monday night, The Temple News reported.

Miller is hopeful this academic year will be successful and safe if students and residents practice mutual respect and communication. 

“Temple neighbors want to be good neighbors,” Miller said. “As long as students return to favor, we can be good neighbors and have good neighbors.”

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