Recently, Temple University was recognized by the Princeton Review as “The Fourth Most Connected Campus,” an impressive accomplishment that has been wisely transformed into an opportunistic public relations campaign. While it is certainly an achievement, the issue of its relevance is raised in the shadow of Temple’s current status as a commuter school. A cyber community connecting the dispersed student body is hardly a substitute for a tangible community where peers coexist with one another.
For years, Temple fought the stigma of a commuter school and had indeed made substantial achievements in solidifying a stronger community. Then the infamous decision to remove all upper classmen from campus housing was decreed last year, subsequently pushing aside all hopes of establishing any basis for a community.
For many universities, this would not be such a terrible development if the area surrounding our campus were anything resembling decent or clean. Plausibly, decent independent housing would be available and a strong local off campus presence could be established. Many large educational institutions, such as New York University and Boston University, have accomplished this within the bustle of large cities.
As we all know, however, Temple is an oasis amidst poverty, high murder rates and unemployment. One block in either direction is anything but safe, promoting commuter status for a significant portion of the student body. Thus, there is a remarkable lack of camaraderie or school spirit present.
This became embarrassingly clear last year when Owls basketball player David Hawkins grumbled quite adamantly about the lack of fan support. As an ardent member of the Nest, I can attest to the rabid loyalty of those who showed up for home games, but such fans were constantly in short supply last year. For a nationally renowned basketball program headed by NCAA legend John Chaney to be so shunned is wholly ridiculous and indicative of the state of our campus community, or the lack thereof.
Temple seems inexplicably content to revert back to a commuter school, valuing the tuition dollar of excessive acceptances rather than the quality of the student body. One could question why this must be, and sadly the only answer is that Temple has ceased to function primarily as an institution of higher education in the pursuit of continued excellence. Rather, it has become a factory pumping out graduate after graduate, having succumbed to the lures of big business and corporate America. Apparently, President David Adamany’s steadily increasing salary and luxurious penthouse is of far greater value than our college experience.
The first step in fixing this escalating problem would be the marked improvements of the immediate areas around Temple so as to establish a community that students would actually want to live around and participate in. The most obvious starting point would be the strip mall on 13th and West Oxford streets. Imagine what the presence of such simple businesses like a Blockbuster Video and coffee house featuring local performing musicians would do for the campus. And even with the currently scant life on campus, those places would be packed on weekends.
Such an initiative would obviously have to be fronted by the university itself and, while certainly a vast undertaking, there’s no reason to believe it impossible. Funding is certainly an issue considering the vast cuts made by the state in recent years, but that simply means the fat needs to be cut from a few choice areas for the sake of these lofty motives.
For instance, why not cut some of the trimmings on the ballooning front office salaries that were exposed last spring in The Temple News?
Weakly-attended but exuberant festivals at the bell tower, blaring obnoxious music in the Student Center and other random promotions advertised throughout campus neither mask nor make up for the severe lack of a campus community. Temple’s electronic networking efforts are certainly admirable, but it would be a far greater use of time and resources to network their students into a cohesive community rather than treating them like factory workers.
Noah Potvin can be reached at email@example.com.