Faltermayer discusses Temple’s changing demographics and how this has affected surrounding communities. He suggests that students should be oriented into Philadelphia in a more realistic way.
For those who grew up in and around the city, choosing to attend Temple was about as enchanting as choosing a grocery store. Though there are more than five amazing schools within the city, some of us simply followed the crowd.
Yet, the influx of rural and even out-of-state students has grown to such a large percentage that urban schools throughout the city have struggled during the past 20 years to maintain a welcoming, yet realistic model of assimilation for those new to Philadelphia.
Programs like CampusPhilly and Philadelphia Experience Passport attempt to channel the best parts of the city to four-year residents, encouraging them to “study, explore, live and work within the Philadelphia Tri-state region.”
These glorified coupon books can appear unsettling to a city that thrives on its casual stubbornness. Philadelphia’s genuine character has never been found in a student discount to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, nor can the best neighbors be found in one of the many over-priced cellblocks listed on Temple’s website for off-campus living.
There’s something distressful and cyclical about watching starry-eyed freshmen first inhale Philadelphia through the starch, prison-like windows of an overpriced dorm room.
However, when price is removed from the equation, the culture-less refugee camp surrounding Temple is a terrible substitute for a neighborhood, even though ex-dormers are dragged through each tier of the residential pyramid.
Meanwhile, Temple perpetuates this unrealistic model by further squeezing its growing residential body into this 8-foot by 8-foot block area, to the detriment of both long-time neighborhood residents and students.
The Sept. 5 shooting between Temple student Robert Eells, 21, and a 15-year old boy is continual evidence of Temple’s unrealistic demands on a neighborhood battered by collegiate congestion. Temple is not only unable to keep up with the housing demands of its students, but has created a Philadelphian purgatory, where culture cannot thrive.
After this most recent transgression, it’s clear that the tension in Temple’s surrounding community must be resolved. I’m not talking about community relations and flowery rhetoric. I’m talking about college students saturating an area that used to have some semblance of unity.
Brenda, the captain of the 2300 block of North 12th Street offered her opinion in a Sept. 5 Metro Philadelphia article, claiming that “the neighborhood is overpopulated with students… [which] is starting to affect the community.”
Though the recent increase in Temple’s fluctuating off-campus demographic follows a wider urbanized culture, it is clear that the university still has a responsibility to preserve the city’s unique and dignified character, while coming to terms with the issue of safety for its non-Philadelphian student body.
According to a recent scholarly article, “The Impact of an Urban University on Community Development,” by George Hamilton and David Higham, universities must “directly intervene to stem the decline of the neighborhoods that surround them.” However, apart from sending police patrols a few blocks off campus, the school has remained laissez-faire about students’ decisions to live in off-campus apartments.
Maybe the most effective way to assimilate new students into the Philadelphian society and economy is by helping them find their own slice of the city, rather than battering an exhausted neighborhood.
In an attempt to escape this over-priced isolation from the city at large, many out-of-town students have taken matters into their own hands. It is not uncommon for first-year students just leaving the comfort of their mother’s cooking to end up blindly jumping into a row home in Oxford Circle, Fishtown or Queen Village.
Thus, the only students who have taken advantage of this city and avoided the residential “trap,” began commuting from a real neighborhood, rather than join the accumulating tension in the blocks directly surrounding Temple. Not only do they fully immerse themselves in communities throughout the city, but they realize how much Temple has overcharged them for a residential prison cell.
Lehigh Valley native Devon Letko, a senior Russian major, just recently moved to an apartment on South Street.
“Even though it’s South Street, it feels like more of a neighborhood than ‘Templetown.’ When I lived [at Temple], I was paying Center City prices for a closet in a neighborhood where I was clearly not welcome,” Letko said.
If the only way that students can afford to live within walking distance of Temple is by moving out of dorms, then we need to facilitate a guide for students who are not from the city, but want to immerse themselves in the true culture of Philadelphia.
Joel Faltermayer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.