The first thing everyone said when I decided to attend Temple was some variety of “Be safe,” or something along the lines of “Stay on campus.”
It was surprising when I arrived at new student orientation to be shown a video on the Good Neighbor Initiative, which taught me not only those fears were wrong, but I should make a greater effort to be conscientious in everything I do.
The Good Neighbor Initiative is a program focused on teaching students how to be considerate of community residents in North Philadelphia. Students are urged by the initiative to keep streets clean, be involved members of their neighborhoods and be respectful of their neighbors with low noise levels, according to this policy.
Last week, Stephanie Ives, associate vice president and dean of students, sent out an email to Temple students encouraging them to get educated on the Good Neighbor Initiative and to find ways to shift behavior to be more conscientious of the community.
Students need to take greater strides to abide by this policy, because the moment we arrive at Temple, North Philadelphia becomes our home. The people living in it are our neighbors, so it is important that we treat them and the neighborhood with respect.
But this disrespect persists.
Students leave trash all throughout the streets and proceed to call the neighborhood dirty. They party throughout the night when they know that their neighbors have jobs and families.
We claim that North Philadelphia is a problem, but in reality many issues with this neighborhood can be traced back to ourselves, disrespectful students lacking regard for others.
It’s proof that we need to make an effort to get educated on and abide by the Good Neighbor Policy.
“The overall purpose of the Good Neighbor Initiative is to create better relationships between students and long term residents, primarily through educating our students about what it means to be a good neighbor,” said Chris Carey, senior associate dean of students and chair of the Good Neighbor Committee.
The Good Neighbor Committee has worked to improve community relations, but ultimately the responsibility falls on students to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner, Carey said.
One of the easiest ways to be a better neighbor is to simply introduce yourself to develop friendly relationships, according to this policy.
Other ways to be a good neighbor are to keep noise levels down, offer to help neighbors shovel snow, participate in events and cleanups and learn the history of the neighborhood.
“Universities are really important and need to have good relations with the communities around them,” said Christina Rosan, a geography and urban studies professor, who’s involved in community cleanups.
Something we don’t think about is when we graduate, the mess we leave behind doesn’t just disappear. Long-term residents have to choose between cleaning up after students once they leave or being forced to live with the mess, neither of which is fair.
“Our neighbors are going to be here after our students graduate,’’ said Andrea Swan, the community and neighborhood affairs director for the Office of Community Relations. “We should certainly treat our neighbors the way we would want our parents, our grandparents and our loved ones to be treated.”
This is a neighborhood with people who have lived here for years and will long after we are gone, and the least we can do is be neighborly, kind and respectful.
Temple is a college, but North Philadelphia is not a college town, and the sooner we realize that, the greater change we will make.