It’s time to separate the hype and paranoia from reality at Temple.
“I would rather go halfway across the country than commute to Temple,” said 27-year-old Laura Irwin, who, in lieu of coming to Temple for her bachelor’s degree, is choosing to take a year off in Florida. “I mean, my God, in that neighborhood, people die all the time.”
A number of people fear wandering beyond Main Campus’ borders, leading the university to become a punch line rather than a symbol of progress and diversity.
“The history of crime and poverty in the North Philadelphia area is important with people’s perceptions of Temple,” said psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Lawrence D. Blum.
Today’s prospective students, in searching for their collegiate playgrounds, want educational excellence, as well as a picturesque campus – something they don’t always think they can get at Temple.
It’s these types of preconceived notions that have kept Temple’s name in the gutter in the past.
It doesn’t help that Philadelphia suffers from an inferiority complex.
Blum said the city’s inhabitants fight the “middle child” image, sandwiched between the United States’ political capital, Washington, D.C., and its economic capital, New York.
“I came from Boston, and when I came [to Philadelphia], I saw what a great city this is and how little pride was in it,” Blum said. “If someone told you how great Philadelphia was, it was almost a guarantee the person wasn’t from Philly.”
It’s not unreasonable then to believe Temple, which is intertwined in Philadelphia’s urban landscape, is a casualty of that self-disparagement.
Philadelphia residents often remark about the historically impoverished North Philadelphia area, adding to people’s misconceptions of Temple. Sometimes, the city looks down on Temple, which was once a large commuter school.
There are serious potholes in the major urban setting, but those problems could be fixed in 20 years with expansion and development.
No school should be shielded from criticism, but condemning a respectable institution because it’s so embedded with the urban setting associated with Philadelphia speaks more about the city’s inhabitants than the school itself.
Tom Rowan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.