The face of this university is set to drastically change over the next few years. Student Center renovations are set to enter their next phase at the end of the semester, and the much-talked about Richard J. Fox School of Business expansion is slated to follow in the summer of 2005. Elsewhere on campus, Temple Towers and the row houses of 1800 Liacouras Walk are also facing renovation in the near future.
But among the numerous capital projects Temple is undertaking, the one that has raised the most debates and questions is the proposed relocation of the Tyler School of Art, from Elkins Park to Temple’s Main Campus.
The proposed site at the corner of 13th and Norris streets for Tyler is directly adjacent to the Engineering and Architecture Building and the largest parking lot on Main Campus. While students continue to question the motivations behind the move, administrators for decades have been relatively clear on the issue.
In a 1999 Question and Answer section, the proposed move is said to “represent the first relocation of a business from the suburbs in 45 years.”
Part of the problem with this move stems not just from the idea of it as a business relocation project, but that it will be a business relocation project gone chaotically awry.
With more than 750 students attending Tyler, more questions need to be asked before a definitive decision is made to move the school. For one, Tyler’s Beech Residence Hall houses 153 students, meaning that 153 Main Campus students will be without beds after the relocation.
The remainder of the Tyler students, provided they don’t feel the urge to transfer to a university that works for its art students rather than against them, would remain commuters. What does this mean for Main Campus? An already horrible parking situation will become worse.
The differences are so abundant that it’s more difficult to find a reason to move Tyler than it is to leave it where it is. First, Tyler’s current residence hall uses lounge space for studio space, while Main Campus lounges are used as bedrooms for students.
Tyler’s campus is lush with greenery and natural landscaping. On Main Campus, the status quo is marigolds in planters and green space only in moderation. Tyler buildings are beautifully constructed stone edifices. Main Campus? Steel and cement monoliths, neglectful of the University’s humble storied beginnings. Tyler: safe. North Philadelphia? You get the idea.
The Tyler move is just another item on the list of poor decisions for the University, and ultimately reflects a deplorable lack of judgement on the part of the administrators supporting the plan.
When examining one of the most compelling pieces of evidence in support of relocation, the Tyler Task Force report, the cost of relocating Tyler listed at $18 million while the cost of renovations would be $17 million plus $800,000 a year in upkeep. In the face of such glaringly clear statistics, the argument may seem moot.
But when remembering the project’s $75 million price tag, including the new building’s construction, it is again difficult to argue that the move possesses even a shred of intelligible thought. Essentially, the cost of the new construction is equal to the cost of Tyler renovations plus more than 72 years of maintenance on the current facilities.
At that rate, it hardly seems worth the exorbitant expense to displace nearly 900 students who pay Temple tuition, some to the tune of $25,000 a year.
No matter how the University tries to slice it, the Tyler move is unjustifiable and fiscally irresponsible. Yet, the University still ignores common sense objections from faculty and students alike.
This move is not an invitation for Temple’s art community to join its Main Campus brethren, it’s merely an invitation for culture shock, insecurity, financial burden, and, in the end, the dismantling of one of the nation’s premiere art institutions. It’s time for this university to work on solving the problems it already has, rather than creating new ones for generations to come.
Ryan M. McKeon can be reached at email@example.com.