October 8, 2018

Temple Forced Back: Stadium Stompers Delay Construction Plans

Stadium Stompers provides insight into the kind of multiracial, intergenerational working class movement that will be necessary to truly fight back against gentrification and for racial and economic justice in our city and across the country.

Temple Forced Back: Stadium Stompers Delay Construction Plans

Trigger Warning: mentions of sexual assault

Temple Stadium Proposal Delayed

For the third time since their initial announcement in October 2015, Temple University has pushed back the timeline for the construction of a $130 million 35,000 seat on-campus football stadium. This is a clear victory for Stadium Stompers and the broader movement that has been organizing against this plan since it was made public. Although Temple would never admit this, it is clear that the broad opposition and fightback against the stadium proposal has thrown a wrench in their gears, leading to the repeated, indefinite delays. Stadium Stompers has managed to change the conversation about the proposed stadium, shifting public opinion, putting the issue on the agenda, and forcing elected officials and Temple administrators to address criticisms of the proposed stadium and take a public stance.

This delay has been won as a result of years of community organizing. Stadium Stompers has held rallies, marches, interrupted Board of Trustees Meetings, blocked Broad Street with our "traffic studies," surprised Councilman Darrell Clarke at his office demanding an impromptu meeting, all supported by years of sustained door knocking and bi-weekly organizing meetings. In March 2018, together with allies from the No Stadium No Deal Coalition, we held a town hall meeting with over 400 people, forcing Temple to finally hold a public event of their own about the stadium, two and a half years after their initial announcement. The mounting public pressure rendered it politically impossible for Clarke to introduce necessary legislation for construction, and compelled him to pen an op-ed advising Temple to return to the drawing board. One of the major strengths of the anti-stadium campaign has been its ability to cut through some of Temple’s divide-and-conquer strategy and build a united coalition of North Philly community residents, Temple students and alumni, and Temple workers. Stadium Stompers provides insight into the kind of multiracial, intergenerational working class movement that will be necessary to truly fight back against gentrification and for racial and economic justice in our city and across the country.

Socialist Alternative has been proudly involved in Stadium Stompers since its inception.

A Series of PR Nightmares

The past four years have been a one publicity crisis after another for Temple University. In 2016 an internal crisis involving a $22 million deficit in the financial aid budget and a vote of no confidence in the University president led to the firing of both President Neil Theobald and Provost Hai-Lung Dai. In the months leading up to the firings, student activists in Stadium Stompers and 15 Now rallied under the slogan "Where's Theobald?", and adjunct faculty led a successful union drive opposed by Provost Dai. In 2014 the White House released a list of 55 colleges and universities under Title IX investigation for possible mishandling of sexual assault. The investigation recommended that Temple establish a "centralized sexual misconduct office"; Temple declined to follow that recommendation.

After the long brewing Bill Cosby sexual assault scandal came to light, feminist and socialist activists at Temple launched the O'Connor Step Down campaign calling on Patrick O’Connor, president of the Board of Trustees and Cosby’s former lawyer, to step down and demanded centralized and improved sexual assault resources. In an arrogant and aggressively offensive response, the University instead spent $3.5 million to refurbish Founder's Garden, Temple founder Russell Conwell’s burial site, and rename it O'Connor Plaza. In January 2018 Temple was hit with another scandal when it surfaced that the University's Fox School of Business had been reporting inaccurate information to US News since at least 2014 in order to pad their rankings. In April, the Temple chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity was suspended after their president was arrested on an attempted rape charge. Four months later, eight new sexual assault charges were added.


The pressure rose further in August when State Auditor General DePasquale announced an investigation into Temple’s tuition rates, accuracy of academic statistics, effectiveness of the sexual harassment prevention policy, and capital improvements including the stadium proposal. DePasquale stated that his look at the stadium proposal would be limited to making sure no state dollars would be spent on the proposed football stadium. However, Temple's initial funding plan did include $20 million from the state for the stadium, promised by former Governor Corbett. This newfound funding gap does not inspire confidence in Temple's claims that no tuition money will be spent on the stadium.

Although it may seem absurd that an institution in such a state of internal disarray would be pursuing such a controversial stadium proposal, it is really no surprise when you look at the real interests of Temple University. Their Board is made up of representatives of the 1% of Philadelphia: big corporations, law firms, and developers. The institution is driven not by a motivation to provide quality education or healthcare as they claim, but to maximize profits for its investors and its Board. Temple has been backed into a corner and forced to backpedal on their stadium proposal. They claim to be working on their relationship with the North Philly community. This is a disingenuous claim; in reality the strength of the anti-stadium movement and Temple’s tenuous internal situation have made the stadium proposal politically untenable for the moment.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The delays of the proposed stadium plan and successes of the movement have not materialized overnight and were not granted by the goodwill of City Council or Temple. Every small victory and every delay has been wrenched from the hands of these politicians and Temple, who are working hand in hand with big corporations across the city. Unfortunately a delay is only a partial victory; Temple is playing a waiting game, hoping to wait out opposition to the stadium until people get distracted or the movement loses momentum. But even if Temple President Englert or Councilman Clarke were to publicly denounce the plans for a stadium, they would be absolutely unaccountable to working people because they are in the pockets of big business.

The movement can claim credit for the delay of the stadium proposal and should celebrate this victory against one of the largest and most influential institutions in Philadelphia. However, this face off with Temple University and the Democratic Party establishment has really just begun. We have succeeded in shifting the narrative on the stadium question for the time being, but Temple is a fierce, well-funded opponent. Now is the time to use this victory to propel the movement forward while Temple is weakened by PR nightmares and politicians are in the hot seat gearing up for the 2019 City Council elections.

There is an opportunity to push beyond a defensive fight toward a dynamic campaign made up of community residents, students, and Temple workers calling on Darrell Clarke and the rest of City Council to stop legislating gentrification through policies like the 10 year tax abatement, to fight back against Temple University tuition hikes, and for living wage union jobs for all Temple employees including subcontractors. Stadium Stompers has helped lay the foundation for just such a campaign and has worked hard to develop the ideas, organization and leadership that can help point the way to the next steps forward. Ultimately, to fulfil its mission to serve the community, the University must be run not by the corporate Board of Trustees, but by a democratic board of students, faculty, staff, and neighborhood residents.