As summer approaches, Temple University parents are determined to continue advocating for increased campus safety.
A group of 40 to 50 Temple parents, part of the Rapid Response team, have called and emailed university and city officials and state lawmakers about campus safety issues since November 2021. Parents also discussed their concerns with university leadership on April 6, April 19 and April 25.
Additionally, parents formed and self-appointed members to a Safety Advisory committee after the fatal shooting of a Temple student in November 2021 to advocate for campus safety initiatives on and near Main Campus.
Despite many students leaving campus during the summer, the Rapid Response team plans to continue advocating for a more efficient FLIGHT system, walking routes with a heavier police presence near Main Campus, safety education for students and creating a list of trusted local landlords for off-campus housing, said Fadia Halma, parent of a junior political science and global studies major and a freshman communication and social influence and Spanish major.
The Rapid Response team, led by Halma and another parent, Hillary Fletcher, advocates for parents’ campus safety initiatives to university, city and state leaders. Every Monday or Tuesday, Fletcher sends out a new advocacy topic on Facebook and provides parents with the necessary information and scripts to contact university, city and state leaders.
“Every week we’re just coming up with more and more things that we’re seeing and talking to the students when we can, but it’s mostly feedback that we’re getting from parents online of their concerns,” Halma said.
Parents have reached out to Philadelphia city councilmembers, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, said Fletcher, parent of a senior legal studies major and a junior art history major.
This week, the Rapid Response team plans to campaign for collaboration between local business owners and the university to create well-lit, walking routes with a heavier police presence, on streets like Cecil B. Moore Avenue or Willington Street, Halma said. Halma said local businesses have shown interest in this program, but could not disclose which businesses.
Henry Collins, owner of Mecca Unisex Salon on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 15th Street, supports an increased police presence on Cecil B. Moore Avenue.
“The crime is terrible,” Collins said. “We need more police presence on this street. We want our customers to walk out and feel safe.”
Jason Dafis, the manager of City View Pizza on Cecil B. Moore and 15th Street, hopes the parents’ efforts help decrease crime.
“Crime is bad here, but it’s bad everywhere,” Dafis said. “Here we need more accountability from the police officers when making arrests. I hope what they’re doing works.”
Last week, the Rapid Response team’s messaging to leaders revolved around a project by senior industrial and systems engineering major Daniel Hedberg that offers ways to improve FLIGHT, Temple’s shuttle bus system, by changing bus routes to decrease wait times.
During the Fall 2021 semester, the shuttle service struggled to keep up with demand on weekends amid capacity limits. This semester, FLIGHT added two shuttles and tentatively plans to add four in the fall.
“Largely, those points have been about what we see as potentially low hanging fruit,” Fletcher said. “Things that maybe could be addressed a little easier, but really, it’s always with the intention of hearing something and moving some safety measures forward.”
Parents at discussions with Charles Leone, departing executive director of Campus Safety Services, Ken Kaiser, senior vice president and chief operating officer, and Denise Wilhelm, soon-to-be interim executive director of campus safety, are also reinforcing these points.
The conversations were planned in response to the Rapid Response team and Temple’s self-appointed Safety Advisory committee’s efforts on campus safety and to provide a space for face-to-face conversations, Leone said.
“When you talk to somebody, it’s really more like you start breaking down some barriers,” Leone said.
Kaiser informed parents that their Rapid Response messaging on Hedberg’s FLIGHT project caught the attention of university officials and that they had plans to review it, Halma said.
The university will create a tiered landlord list, Kaiser said during a press conference on April 14.
Halma acknowledges that partnerships between the university and the neighborhood are key to addressing campus safety issues.
“My long term goal would be to develop a partnership with Temple University and the North Philly community so that we can address crime,” Halma said. “This isn’t just something like we’re going to put a bandaid on right now.”
Fallon Roth contributed reporting.