Temple students and faculty protest opening campus for the fall semester

RAFT and the Student Coalition for Change organized a car caravan on Monday coinciding with Temple’s move-in day.

Organized by the Temple Coalition for Change, protesters participate in a car caravan around Temple's campus protesting the University's reopening on Aug. 8. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

About a dozen cars and five bicycles drove around Temple University’s Main Campus campus Monday afternoon shouting “shut it down” and “people over profit.” 

The Rank-and-File Temple Caucus, a group of Temple faculty and students, and the Student Coalition for Change, a group of students and alumni, organized the car caravan protesting the university’s decision to reopen campus this fall on Temple’s early arrival move-in day for new students.

The protesters, who started at Broad Street and Spring Garden Street, drove around the campus perimeter from Diamond Street to Cecil B. Moore Avenue and from Broad Street to 12th Street three times. 

“We are advocating Temple not reopen,” said Debi Lemieur, an adjunct instructor in the intellectual heritage program and member of RAFT. “It is unsafe to reopen. Move-in day, which is today, should not be happening.” 

Protesters decorated their cars with balloons and slogans like “Temple: built on a cemetery. Don’t add to it,” “Faculty Against Reopening Temple” and “Faculty and students don’t want to die.” 

The university is continuing to reopen with a hybrid learning model because many students told Temple they wanted to be on campus this fall if it could be done safely, wrote Ray Betzner, a spokesperson for the university, in an email to The Temple News.

Betzner highlighted the university’s return plan, which was approved by the city department of health, and that Temple is continuing to be in contact with the department ready to switch to all online learning if needed. 

Abby Jones, an adjunct professor of communication and social influence and a member of RAFT, believes it is not a safe time to allow students to return to Temple’s campus, she said.

“I’m here because I care just as much for my students’ safety as my own safety,” Jones added.

Max Avener, an adjunct instructor of mathematics, said they would like to have a vaccine before returning to campus. 

“I know that it’s not an ideal option,” Avener added. “I don’t like teaching my classes online. I teach better in person. But I think it’s much better than the alternative right now.”

Both organizations demand defunding Temple Police, while the Coalition for Change demands include requiring an additional race and diversity general education requirement for all students and increasing funding for investigations into and education surrounding sexual harassment and assault, The Temple News reported

Teresa Swartley, a senior political science major and founding member of the Coalition for Change, said it is “irresponsible” for Temple to open for the fall semester. 

“Temple hasn’t considered the factors of off-campus activities and the realities of what college students do, the way they mingle,” Swartley said. 

Bianca Blu Lazuli, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, who lives on A Street and Wyoming Avenue, is worried opening campus will invite a pandemic onto the campus and into the community. 

“We are killing our North Philadelphia neighborhood by reopening this campus,” Lazuli said. “It is going to be a plague.”

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the proper pronouns of a faculty member quoted.

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