Students must remember to respect community members in order to cap any growing hostilities.
The Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation recognizes institutions across the United States that are active in community involvement.
Classifiers must voluntarily submit data and information to be selected for this national acknowledgment, and, through hard work, Temple was among 115 colleges and universities selected for the 2010 Community Engagement Classification.
Although the university has earned the classification, certain factors and recent incidents near Main Campus could negatively affect community relations.
Although there is a great divide between students and North Philadelphia residents, students need to be an active member in their community, through community involvement or simple kindness, to ease hostility.
As the student population continues to grow, so does the need for student housing. Students look for places off campus to live, which places them further into the North Philadelphia community.
Though Campus Safety Services’ crime statistics are not yet available for the Fall 2010 semester, the number of stories surrounding violent attacks on students has made the crimes feel more real.
This encouraged Ryan Dadalski, a senior film major, to create the Facebook initiative, “Eyes Around Temple.”
Daldaski, who has been living off campus for three years, was concerned about the recent crimes.
“I know students are concerned about this issue so I made this group to stand together and think of ways to protect ourselves and fellow students,” he wrote on the Facebook event’s wall.
“Eyes around Temple” has become a forum for students to share their own experiences with crime and give advice to other students who are also worried.
“People’s concerns are reasonable,” Dadalski posted. “Temple does a good job taking care of those concerns, but the students have to look [out] for themselves.”
With more than 5,000 students participating in the event, a wide range of views and opinions have appeared on the group’s wall, including jabs at Temple and Philadelphia’s Police Department and the encouragement of gun ownership – and actually using them – in addition to discriminatory comments toward Philadelphia residents.
Even with Dadalski reminding guests to be respectful and clean up the group’s wall, comments, such as “You need us [students] to be here. So in the words of a younger me, ‘na ne na ne boo boo,’” continue to appear.
It is attitudes like this that show we need to evaluate the way we talk about the community especially on “Eyes Around Temple.”
“I think it is a good first step … it offers a space for students to discuss the problem, with no censorship,” said Jamie Smolen, the president of the Student Peace Alliance. “At the same time, it is also acting as a place for debate, with different egos looking for credibility.”
“The tension emerges – or at least I think it emerges – at the definition of ‘off-campus neighborhood,’” Smolen added. “Temple is in North Philly and students should be respectful towards the community.”
Main Campus and areas surrouding it, stretches from approximately Girard Avenue down to Susquehanna Avenue and 10th to Sydenham streets, which includes the Yorktown neighborhood that is within Ninth and 13th streets and Cecil B. Moore Avenue and Jefferson Street.
The Yorktown neighborhood has been highlighted as Philadelphia residents have tried to stop Temple students from moving into the housing complex. Complaints of students throwing parties, parking in driveways and showing no respect for the community forced tenants to seek legal means to maintain the family atmosphere.
The worries of Yorktown residents are similar to those of students living in off-campus areas. In the same way local residents are stereotypically marked as criminals to some, Temple students are marked as late-night-party-goers and disrespectful tenants, but these are assumptions and not the full truth.
Creating a divide between students and local residents is the easiest way to deal with any growing hostility, but it’s far from being the best solution.
The university presents numerous opportunities to be an active member of the community through the Office of Community Relations. Providing services and volunteer opportunities for Temple’s neighbors, Community Relations aims to encourage community engagement.
Student groups, such as Student Peace Alliance, do the same thing. It betters the community and the student by teaching selflessness.
There is no simple solution, but the best way is to be a part of the community – not just by doing service in the area but also through the everyday small, kind acts, such as saying, “good morning” to your neighbor.
Samantha Byles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.