What is the responsibility of an urban university to the—often—neighborhoods of color that surround it? How should universities manage the tension between growing and gentrification? How should they address the concerns of the community?
These are, for Philadelphia, perennial questions with often unsatisfying answers. On Friday, WURD talk radio is bringing together a panel of people uniquely positioned to address them: The top-ranked African American administrators at Penn, Drexel, Temple and Rutgers-Camden. The panel, moderated by WURD host and community activist Eric Grimes, will include Penn Provost Wendell Pritchett; Drexel Provost Brian Blake; Temple Provost JoAnne A. Epps; and Rutgers-Camden Chancellor Phoebe Haddon.
“There’s something unique about Philly that we have these African American top administrators at our major universities, who are wielding a lot of power and influence,” says WURD President & CEO Sara Lomax-Reese says. “It should be interesting to have them in conversation together about their commitments and relationships with the black community.”
That relationship—as evidenced by the brouhaha over Temple’s plans to build a football stadium near its North Philly campus, or the perennial upset about Penn’s expansion beyond University City—has often been fraught. “Universities are major developers—developing and gentrifying these communities of color,” Lomax-Reese says. “We want to know, what are the considerations that they are looking at to impact and influence the surrounding communities? And what, as top academic officials at the universities, is it within the scope of their jobs to do?”
Lomax-Reese says Friday will not be the first time these academic officials have met—though it is a rare opportunity to see four university officials on stage at the same time, talking to and about the city. The event, at The Barnes Foundation, is the first of two parts under the station’s Walter P. Lomax, Jr. M.D. Speaker Series—named for Lomax-Reese’s legendary father, the founder of the radio station. In November, WURD will bring together the presidents of the area’s three historically black colleges and universities: Lincoln, Cheyney and Delaware State.
Friday’s event will be followed by the Barnes’ First Friday celebration of Afro Brazilian music and culture, with Project Capoeira.
Friday, September 7, 5:30 pm-7 pm, discounted tickets here, Barnes Foundation, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway.Brian Blake presenting; photo via Wikipedia (CC-BY-SA-4.0)