Temple students and community members denied access to Board of Trustees meeting.

On Tuesday December 8th the Temple Board of Trustees held a public meeting. The Board of Trustees have four meetings during the school year where students and community members are invited to participate and voice their concerns. In this meeting the board intended to vote on the plan to build a new 40,000 seat stadium in the heart of North Philadelphia.

This meeting was a PUBLIC meeting. But anyone who was there yesterday knows that it was not public. Students, members of the community, alumni, and faculty were not allowed into the meeting.

Members of the North Philadelphia community, Temple students, faculty, and alumni gathered outside of Sullivan Hall before the meeting to rally against the stadium. At 3:30 pm, the official start time of the public meeting, the students and community members attempted to enter the building. We were met with rows of police with nightsticks blocking all of the entrances into Sullivan Hall. When we attempted to walk in, we were shoved back, and told we were not allowed into the meeting.

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Students and Community kept out of meeting by police

We explained  that we were members of the North Philadelphia community, tuition paying students, alumni, and faculty and we had a right to go into the public meeting where choices were being made that greatly affect our futures. While we watched white men in business suits and student government being escorted into the building, students, members of the community, faculty, and alumni who are opposed to the stadium were met with violence.

 

This is a moral outrage. Temple University plans to build a 40,000 seat stadium in the heart of historically Black North Philadelphia, and they refuse to hear the voices of community members or students. They allow corrupt student government, white businessmen, and wealthy donors a seat at the table while they attempt to keep students in the dark and displace an entire community.

Inside the meeting, President Theobald spoke about Temple’s commitment to North Philadelphia. However, during pauses in his speech you could hear students and community members outside chanting, “up with community, down with the stadium.” Student government president Ryan Rinaldi said that the students are proud of their football team and university, all while students and community members were stuck outside chanting, “let us in!”

Temple University showed its true colors yesterday. The Board of Trustees is a corrupt body governed by Patrick O’Connor, the same lawyer who defended Bill Cosby in the case of sexual assault against a Temple employee. President Theobald has refused to meet with students and community members, and has no respect for the Black community he has entered. Temple Student Government President Ryan Rinaldi has shown he does not represent the students, will not defend students when treated unfairly, and certainly has no respect for the North Philadelphia community.

These shameful leaders are not interested in serving the students or faculty and are responsible for terrorizing and disrespecting surrounding North Philadelphia communities. They do not represent the needs of community members, and they do not seek to educate students. They seek to build a stadium despite disagreement from students, employees, and community members. They seek to maintain a Board of Trustees made up almost exclusively of white men speaking for corporations and keep the voices of students and community members silent.

Yesterday was a shameful display of what Temple University has become. A university that values the voices of rich white men over the voices of students and community members. A university that chooses football and profit over education and living wages. A university that will use its police force to attack students who try to enter public buildings and public meetings. The only way to describe Temple University today is shameful, corrupt, immoral, and an embodiment of the white-supremacist terror that has harmed students and residents for decades.

As students, faculty, and alumni it is our responsibility to uphold Temple’s founding principle: to serve the people of North Philadelphia. It is our responsibility to hold ‘rape defender’ Patrick O’Connor accountable. We must hold gentrifier Neil Theobald accountable. It is our responsibility to listen to the community in North Philadelphia and stand with them to say NO to the stadium, NO to gentrification, and NO to poverty.

Here is our pledge to the community of North Philadelphia, students, workers, and faculty at Temple University:

We will not let our voices be silenced, we will fight this university until they have no choice but to hear the community and the students.

We demand that Patrick O’Connor and Neil Theobald respect students and community members and act in the interest of the people and not in the interest of profits. If they fail to do this, they must resign.

We will continue organizing on campus and in North Philadelphia to build student, worker, and community power. We will stand with the community always. We will continue to fight against gentrification, against the stadium, and against poverty. We will continue to push for a $15/hr minimum wage for all Temple workers including students and subcontracted workers.

Board of Trustees, President Theobald, we will be back. And next time, we will do whatever it takes.
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Up with Community Down with the Stadium

Up with Workers Down with the Stadium

Up with Students Down with the Stadium

Signed,

15 Now of Temple University

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15 Now Statement on Temple Stadium Plans: Democracy, Funding, and Gentrification.

Last week Temple administration announced their intention to build a football stadium in North Philadelphia. President Theobald and the Board of Trustees intend to raise 100 million dollars for the project. The administration has not consulted with students, faculty, or the community about the massive project to tear up city blocks.

President Theobald and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Patrick O’Connor have made this decision without the approval of students, faculty, and the community. Temple University intends to use private funds from unnamed donors and $20 million dollars in state funds to move ahead with plans to further gentrify North Philadelphia, displace community resources and imperil funds needed to pay campus workers and minimize tuition costs . Temple University is a public school that belongs to its students, its workers, and the residents of North Philadelphia.  It can not function as a corporation where presidents and chairmen are CEO’s; Temple is a public university and the people have a right to a voice in decisions that affect all aspects of the community. Our school is funded by student tuition money and taxpayer dollars. We as students and workers will be held accountable for misspent funds as we pay down student debt, and we deserve a voice in making decisions about how Temple utilizes its funds. 

In a recent article published in the Daily News, staff writer David Murphy demonstrates that many other universities in similar locations and financial situations, like the University of Central Florida and Akron, have invested in on-campus stadiums with negative financial results. Schools have lost millions of dollars on stadiums and the extra administration they maintain to manage them and have used student tuition to pay for the extra costs. These stadium plans have frequently coincided with layoffs, wage cuts, and tuition hikes to offset million dollar deficits created by the football program.

In addition, the $20 million dollars of state funding pledged to Theobald by much-maligned former Republican Governor Corbett is taxpayer money that should be used to ease the burden of tuition and raise wages for workers. Public funds do not exist to build fiscally risky football stadiums, but to make college more accessible to all. This is our money, we have a right to say where it is spent, and we do not want the money spent on a stadium, we want it spent on students, workers, and community programs.

For years Temple has had negative relations with the community. From buying up properties and building the university out into local communities to over-policing of residents, Temple continues its assault on North Philadelphians day in and day out. While Temple claims to have good relations with its neighbors we know from extensive testimony and input from community leaders that the neighborhood has nothing but disdain and contempt for the university. Already Temple uses gentrification and police force to push residents further and further out.  Already residents complain of the disrespect shown by some Temple students who engage in destructive and reckless behavior at late hours, littering the streets with trash and broken bottles. The South Philly stadiums are separate from the city itself, not placed in the middle of a residential neighborhood. An on-campus stadium will dramatically shift the culture of North Philadelphia from a residential area to a clogged commercial sporting complex filled with belligerent drinking, excessive noise, and unpredictable traffic patterns. President Theobald has already admitted there are no plans in place to handle the traffic of thousands of fans in a residential neighborhood.  

Temple’s decision to build a 100 million dollar stadium shows where Temple’s priorities lie. While the board intends to raise tuition by 3% this year, they want to spend 100 million dollars to build a stadium. While campus workers are still paid under $15 an hour and students are the lowest paid workers, Temple decides to spend public funds on building a stadium. While adjunct professors, who make up the majority of the faculty, fight for the right to unionize and higher pay and benefits, Temple decides to spend money on building a stadium. While Temple has been instructed to build a sexual assault crisis center on campus and take rape and assault seriously, Temple decides to spend money on building a stadium. While the North Philadelphia community continues to suffer from deep poverty, food deserts, and lack of access to quality education, Temple decides to invest in building a football stadium. Temple president Neil Theobald and Chairman of the Board Patrick O’Connor are clearly out of touch with the everyday struggles of students, faculty, campus workers, and the surrounding community. Who does Temple have in mind in building the stadium? We can only assume the administration is looking to benefit investors, the corporations like Comcast and Duane Morris that dominate Board of Trustees, and the out-of-state students looking for a football centered school.

Temple was founded on the principle that higher education should be accessible to all and that working class people in North Philadelphia deserve affordable access to higher education. Temple is for the working people of Philadelphia, for people who live in North Philadelphia, and for students who are trying to get an education and better themselves.

We will not let this stadium plan pass through the board quietly. In the weeks to come we will be garnering support from students, workers, and the community. Temple must listen to the people that make up this university and the people that live in North Philadelphia. Here is a short list of things Temple university could be spending money on instead of building a football stadium.

  1. Pay all workers including student workers and subcontracted workers at least $15/hr.
  2. Provide scholarships for students.
  3. Immediately freeze tuition hikes
  4. Allow adjunct professors to unionize and provide full pay and benefits.
  5. Invest in a sexual assault crisis center and making Temple a rape-free campus.
  6. Invest in community relations and public access to university resources.
  7. Build a program that provides a pathway to affordable higher education for North Philadelphia youth.

As students, faculty, workers, and community we deserve more from our public university

15 Now of Temple University

15 Now Temple Responds to President Theobald’s “State of the University”

On Thursday October 8th the President of Temple University Neil Theobald addressed a crowd behind closed doors in a gathering not open to the student body. He delivered his state of the university address boasting Temple’s football record and the massive new buildings Temple is constructing on and around Temple’s campus.

As mentioned above, students were not invited to this event. Students in 15 Now Temple wrote a response to Theobald’s state of the university. Here it is:

On Thursday, October 8th, President Theobald gave his “State of the University” address.  Students were not invited to this event. While President Theobald celebrates Temple’s football record and the new buildings Temple has constructed, the community surrounding the university, which is primarily Black and Latino, is one of the poorest zip codes in the nation. While President Theobald pats himself on the back for attracting new donors and an increase in Temple’s US News and World Report ranking, thousands of student workers, who are already facing rising tuition and a mountain of student debt, are paid poverty wages.  

Temple claims that paying higher wages would mean an increase in tuition and that it is not fiscally responsible. Is President Theobald’s six-figure salary, personal driver, and penthouse in Rittenhouse square fiscally responsible? Is the 35 million dollars Temple spends on advertising and building gaudy monstrosities like Morgan Hall while eliminating affordable housing fiscally responsible? Are the exorbitant salaries of coaches and millions poured into the football and basketball programs fiscally responsible? Temple University’s financial woes are not a matter of lacking funds but a failure of priorities.  

The State of North Philadelphia is that of a crisis. Temple University can either exacerbate or it can help alleviate this crisis. Currently it is doing the former. Temple gentrifies and forces community members out of their homes. Temple Police act as conquistadors establishing and maintaining the borders of the Temple Colony of North Philadelphia. The militarization of the campus creates an artificial border between the university and the surrounding community, which encourages hostility and violence. The Temple board of trustees is occupied by the super rich, governing as a dictatorship, ignoring the cries of students, faculty, staff, and the community. President Theobald has consistently refused to meet with students to address these concerns, using police force to prevent even a letter from being delivered.

As an institution Temple University condones sexual violence, while simultaneously using the threat of violence as an excuse for further militarization and surveillance. Despite recommendations after a Title IX investigation, Temple refuses to establish a rape crisis center on campus to support and aid victims of sexual violence. The fact that Patrick O’Connor, the lawyer who defended Bill Cosby after he was accused of assaulting a Temple employee, is the chairman of the board of trustees makes it clear that sexual violence is institutionally sanctioned at Temple University and indicates an absolute disregard for students’ safety, specifically for the safety of women and LGBTQ people.

Temple University operates like a corporation with regards to it’s students and employees and much like an occupying force with regards to the surrounding community. President Theobald’s restructuring of funding and purging of radical professors has been part of a large scale neo-liberalization of higher education. Departments such as African American Studies, Latin American Studies, Women’s Studies and the liberal arts as a whole have been sacrificed on the altar of profit and gutted of substance. President Theobald and the board of trustees fear the ideas and concepts discussed in these departments and want to keep students ignorant in these subjects.  

Temple can become a great institution that serves the community and educates young people towards a better future. Temple can become a cornerstone of Philadelphia when as an institution Temple pays workers living wages, respects North Philadelphia, rededicates itself to liberal arts education, and when Temple makes campus a rape-free environment that is safe for all students and faculty. Towards this possible future, we call on Temple to make very necessary changes to the function and priorities of the university.

We call on Temple University to pay all it’s employees at least $15 an hour, including student workers, and require all businesses that it contracts with to do the same.  

We call on Temple University to respect the rights of Adjunct professors and all other workers to unionize.  

We call on Temple University to actively engage with the residents of North Philadelphia and address the concerns and demands from community members including Temple’s role as a gentrifying force in North Philadelphia and the relationship between Temple’s police force and the local community.

We call on Temple University to create a rape crises center on campus in accordance with the recommendations from the Title IX investigation.

We call on Temple University to stop the assault on liberal arts programs and its faculty and rebuild liberal arts with the integrity of academic freedom and full funding.

Temple Students, faculty, campus workers, and North Philadelphia community members will be speaking out on these injustices and delivering 15 Now’s State of the University to President Theobald tomorrow at 1:45 pm.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1671288133111519/