A forum about a potential $100 million on-campus stadium, limited to students, President Theobald, Athletic Director Pat Kraft and Student Body President Ryan Rinaldi was forced to end early after protests broke out among the crowd.
The Q&A, held by Temple Student Government and moderated by Rinaldi at 4 p.m. in the Student Center, attempted to address questions submitted over a two-week period by students concerning finances, impact and community. A TSG spokesman said the event had about 250 confirmed attendees.
Less than half an hour into the discussion, students began to chant phrases like, “Where is the community?”, “Stop the stadium, raise the wages” and “Community says no to the stadium.”
The issue of an on-campus stadium has raised questions since it was proposed to the Board of Trustees in October 2015. Any plans are in the very preliminary stages—not even the location has been determined, though Kraft said Geasey Field is a projected site during the forum.
Some students, however, have advocated against its potential construction. Protesters rallied outside Sullivan Hall on Dec. 8, 2015 before a Board meeting where members were scheduled to discuss details of the stadium.
Even Mayor Jim Kenney told Temple administrators they must address the needs of the community before moving on with concrete plans in a private meeting held in December 2015.
After Rinaldi made attempts to calm the audience down, the proposed hour-long discussion ended about 15 minutes earlier than planned, moments after Glenda Bryant—a 54-year-old social work major who was born and raised in North Philadelphia—spoke out as an advocate for the community.
“It’s just shameful to me that in your feasibility studies, we’re not included,” she told The Temple News after she left the meeting. “You know, we’re people. We are people. Stop acting like community is some abstract thing. That’s all I’m saying.”
Community members were not allowed into the forum; only students with a valid OWLcard. Any protesters were removed by security.
Rinaldi said he expected the protests and met with Zoe Buckwalter, president of Temple’s chapter of 15 Now, prior to the forum to see if protest efforts could be minimized.
“I asked the tough questions,” he said. “I asked the questions the students submitted, and that’s my job, so I can say I did my job, but it’s a shame that an organization that has been literally shouting for this opportunity to ask questions to the president, to meet with the president and the athletic director, to take that opportunity and then shut it down.”
Rinaldi said the community wasn’t invited because TSG’s first priority is to make sure as many students could get in as possible. Moving forward, invitations will be extended to the community to join in town-hall style meetings with Theobald and Kraft, he said.
Kraft also said he expected protesters to attend the forum. As to if the strong reaction changed his mind: “Not at all.”
Kraft added he “believes in” the stadium.
“I think what we wanted to do when [TSG] asked us to speak was to have that dialogue and to have it voice your opinion,” he said. “That’s what this is about. Not everyone is going to agree, not everyone’s going to disagree. Some people want it. But at least we were able to get that out there, so I thought it was good.”
Theobald announced during the forum that the Board of Trustees would hold a public meeting Feb. 8 at 3:30 p.m. Board Chairman Patrick O’Connor called the meeting, a university spokesman said.
Patricia Madej can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @PatriciaMadej
For the entire audio of the forum, listen below.
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