Outside of Temple University’s Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, members of the Stadium Stompers used a megaphone to publicize several trustees’ alleged ties to corporations and conflicts of interest.
Stadium Stompers — a collective of university students and North Philadelphia residents who oppose building a Temple football stadium in the community — used placards with photographs of several trustees to impersonate them and theatrically introduce the university community to the individuals who make financial decisions at Temple.
The university is conducting a $1.25 million feasibility study of a multipurpose facility with retail space. The current projected cost of the stadium is $126 million.
The organization has been meeting at the Church of the Advocate at 18th and Diamond Streets in North Philadelphia since January 2016, about a month after the university announced its interests in building a stadium.
Stadium Stompers members handed out pamphlets with a caricature of Patrick O’Connor, the Board of Trustees chair, with a tophat and monocle on the front page. Nine of the BOT members’ business interests were detailed inside the pamphlet.
Residents living near Temple are worried they will be pushed out to make room for a stadium. Patricia Simmons, who lives on Cecil B. Moore Avenue, said she got involved with Stadium Stompers after she felt concerned about the university’s expanded development into her neighborhood. She’s lived in North Philadelphia since 1947 and recalls learning how to swim in the university’s pool when she was 12 years old.
“This is our home,” said Simmons, who is fearful that being displaced will force her into a nursing home. “We want to stay here. I like my house and I like traveling wherever I want without the assistance.”
Kenneth Johnson, 58, along with other North Philadelphia residents, met with Temple University President Richard Englert several months ago to discuss their concerns, such as the proposed stadium. The meeting was facilitated by state Rep. Curtis Thomas.
“I think it was positive that we got to have a meeting first of all and we felt listened to,” Johnson said. “If anything was done about it, that’s a different story.”
Jared Dobkin, a recent Temple graduate and Stadium Stompers member, said the goal of Tuesday’s action was to educate students on whom the Board of Trustees are and who they represent.
Simmons and Alexandria Dotson, students studying political science and economics respectively, attended the Board of Trustees meeting, but were disappointed there was no chance for them to speak. The stadium proposal was not on the board’s agenda.
Englert says the idea is still under consideration, but the board has not decided to move forward on it.
“It didn’t appear to be very democratic,” Dotson said. “The Board of Trustees have yet to engage with the community, sit down and have a public forum with community members. They’ve taken it upon themselves to make decisions about the community without actually sitting down or having a discussion.”
Along with the pamphlets and photo placards, the Stadium Stompers painted a large depiction of the proposed stadium on cardboard with the words “Down with the stadium” written beneath the illustration.
Brandon Lausch, a university spokesman, wrote in an emailed statement that no final decision on the multipurpose facility has been made. “That decision will be made based on what is best for the university and the North Philadelphia community,” Lausch wrote in an email.
Jacqueline Wiggins, an organizer with Stadium Stompers who also spoke on the megaphone, said the group will meet on Wednesday at the Church of the Advocate where the group will discuss its next steps in protesting the proposed stadium.
Johnson added that he would overall like to see the university communicate more with North Philadelphians.
“If we mesh together than we could have a beautiful community, this neighborhood,” he said. “But when you have one entity overriding the other, it’s just not going to work so I would just love see more communication, more of us coming together than just a stadium.”