By Shannon McDonald
Stories of tension between Temple students and their neighbors are commonplace, especially as the university expands. The recent attacks against students are particularly worrisome, but so is the response from students.
The victims of these attacks are in no way at fault for this violence, and no one — student or not — should feel unsafe in his or her neighborhood. But the response from students in the days following the assaults shows the naiveté and sense of entitlement that Temple students seem to have about their college experience.
In particular, a Change.org petition, which calls for Temple Police to expand its boundaries to protect students who live off Main Campus, displays a level of ignorance toward reality that makes me cringe with each new signature. By that logic, Temple Police should also patrol the Broad Street Line, the area around Temple’s Center City campus and Lincoln Financial Field during Temple football games. The idea that Temple students should get more protection in the city at large simply because they are college students is selfish and absurd, and the university shouldn’t enable this behavior.
Though carefully and thoughtfully worded, the petition overlooks the bigger picture: Students who choose to live off campus want all the benefits of living on campus. And here’s where I’ll invoke a phrase I recite to my students often.
Get out of the Temple bubble.
Students who want to experience living on their own in a large city need to accept the responsibilities and risks that come with that choice. This unfortunately means a higher risk of crime than they’ll find within the brightly lit bubble of Main Campus. It’s time to find solutions for these realities, not shield students — adults with free will — from issues they need to face head on.
Not once since the recent attacks have I seen or heard a student suggest ways to better foster a relationship between students and the Philadelphia Police Department’s 22nd District. Are the students who live in the neighborhood going to the PSA and community association meetings? Is the district making an effort to keep its younger residents informed?
As development directly west of Temple increases, students will move farther out. Students are asking Temple Police to increase its boundaries by a few blocks. What will they ask for two years from now?
The university has a role here, too, but it has nothing to do with policing. Make neighborhood immersion part of the general education requirement. Connect students with city planners, with cops, with SEPTA, with the community organizations. Students should be able to make informed decisions about housing, and to recognize all the consequences of leaving cushy campus life behind.
Shannon McDonald is a SMC adjunct instructor, a former TTN staff member and a reporter at NewsWorks. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.