Students and faculty at Temple University in Philadelphia are no strangers to TU Alerts.
These notifications alert anyone attending or teaching at the university through text or e-mail when a potentially dangerous situation arises on or around campus. Those who sign up to receive these messages usually are alerted of an armed robbery or other incident about once a week.
However, on Friday, October 21st, at 9:25 PM, Temple students and faculty were issued an interesting TU Alert. The text/e-mail read:
"Increased police activity due to large groups of juveniles along Broad St. on Main Campus. Police are responding. Avoid the area."
While many students simply ignored the alert, others drew conclusions about the language and meaning of the message. Temple’s campus was buzzing with questions and rumors about the message for about a week after the incident. In fact, when acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates made an appearance on the TU campus on October 26th, several students read him the message and asked his opinion during the audience Q & A session. Coates responded eloquently,
“What is the relationship of the university to the community? I am about to go home, and you’ll still be here . . . I do want to discourage the idea of people coming here and putting on a crown and presenting themselves as authorities and using that to divide.”
But Coates wasn’t the only person who felt prompted to ask questions about Temple’s relationship to the surrounding community after the October 21st TU Alert.
Fresh U caught up with two Temple students and one faculty member to discuss the incident, as well as the relationship between Temple University and the North Philadelphia community.
Corinne Rocke, a senior at Temple University majoring in global studies and minoring in African American studies, noted:
“The word choice of the text was not well selected. Only a few [people] were involved in violence, and we shouldn’t be grouping people. Our urban neighborhood is already divided, and we need to be working on connecting people rather than dividing them.”
Although the language of the text was offensive to some students, Brad Pearson, advisor in the Temple University Honors Program, specifically commented on the use of the word “juveniles:”
“I don’t know if that’s police speak, but TU Alerts is about not taking chances often. They’re trying to make the best use of technology in a quick manner.”
Although Pearson wasn’t sure of the effects of the message’s wording, he was sure that the University equips its students to get involved in North Philadelphia.
“The resources and opportunities are there to integrate with the community, but the common motivation isn’t to do that.”
This incident on the Temple University campus raises some interesting questions about the role that we as college students are expected to play in the communities where our universities are located. It’s important for university students to represent their schools well wherever they go, regardless of the type of neighborhood they visit or live in. As the next generation and the future leaders in American enterprises, we should set an example of respect and grace in our college’s town or city.
The importance of improving the way college students integrate with their communities is echoed in statements from Shawn McLaughlin, a freshman at Temple University studying psychology and Spanish:
“I think that the relationship Temple students have with the community of northern Philadelphia is poor, especially among those students living off campus . . . I believe that being disjointed in the community brought the situation about.”
The incident on October 21st at Temple University involving “large groups of juveniles” sparked an important conversation about what college students should do when a situation like that arises on their campus. It is also important for college students to represent their campus’ neighborhood with pride and dignity, and in order to do so, students and faculty should work together to establish a strong relationship between their school and its community.
Serving as a worthy representative of your school is not always going to be an easy task, but stepping up to represent your new home is a responsibility that all college students should be proud to take on. If being disjointed with our neighboring communities can bring about incidents such as the one at Temple two weeks ago, then we have some work to do.
Lead Image Credit: Jacob Culp via Unsplash