Former pride and joy of the university, Bill Cosby, dragged the Temple name through the mud after allegations of sexual assaults surfaced against him. The university announced last week that alumna Tamron Hall, a national correspondent for NBC News would be taking Cosby’s seat on the Board of Trustees at Temple, becoming one of the few women—let alone women of color—to ever hold the position.
While it is good to see Temple making strides to patch up its reputation and tout its other famous former students, alumni presence and involvement is still disappointingly low. This year’s homecoming, an event created to celebrate and welcome back former students, backed this theory.
It may not have felt this way, walking through Lincoln Financial Field’s Lot K Saturday where thousands of current and former Owls mixed and mingled during Temple’s homecoming tailgate. Game announcers told the crowd around 35,000 seats were filled, a figure some students and recent alumni probably thought wouldn’t be possible at a Temple game.
While 35,000 people decked out in cherry and white was an empowering sight, I wondered why there weren’t more. With an alumni base as big as 300,000, we could have sold out the Linc again this season.
In January, Karen Clarke, Temple’s vice president of strategic marketing and communications told The Temple News at least 89 percent of the alumni body were not engaged with the university.
The university breaks down alumni into four groups: 7.1 percent are “well known/not engaged,” 2.7 percent are “very engaged/well known,” 89 percent are “not engaged/not well known” and 1.2 percent are “engaged/not well known.” It defines engagement by the alumnus’ participation—if they attend events or are a member of an alumni group and if they have given any gift to the university in the past three years or ever.
Temple’s engaged alumni only rests at around 11,500 people, or just under 4 percent of its total population.
“There’s this huge group of people who have experience with Temple,” Clarke said, “and it’s my belief that their perception, for whatever reason [is] they’re not engaged, they don’t feel like it’s relevant or they have a misinformed view of what Temple is.”
The “Take Charge” campaign aims to keep students involved once they leave Main Campus. Penn State, a state rival of Temple, banks on its strong alumni presence, a feature that draws many students to the university in the first place.
“We have to have more people embrace us. If you did this [data research] for Penn State, it would almost be exactly the opposite,” Clarke added.
She was right. Penn State celebrated its homecoming this weekend, drawing in 97,873—almost triple that of the Linc’s attendance, PennLive reported.
It is not for a lack of trying. This year, Temple involved alumni in multiple aspects of the weekend’s festivities, from tailgating to performing in the university’s Diamond Marching band. We are a generation of students who are actively bred to be #TempleMade and to want to share pride for our university.
With Temple rising in national rankings academically, athletically and in its alumni base, let’s decide to stick around in the years to come to celebrate the hard work and drive it takes to join the ranks of the successful Owls who came before us.
Paige Gross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @By_paigegross.