At Owls on the Hill, students make the case for Temple’s funding
Owls on the Hill is an annual tradition in which Temple students travel to the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg and advocate for the commonwealth’s continued funding of the university. This year marked the first time the Owls had the opportunity to visit the Capitol in person since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
On Oct. 26, a group of 28 Temple students gathered on Main Campus before dawn to take a bus to the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg for Owls on the Hill: an annual tradition during which students visit members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to make the case for the commonwealth’s continued funding of Temple.
The Owls in attendance represented a range of university organizations, including Temple Student Government (TSG), Temple College Democrats and the Temple Political Science Society. And, in keeping with the safety restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, they all sported the university’s signature cherry and white face masks.
Gianni Quattrocchi, Class of 2024, the director of government affairs of the Temple Student Government (center) at Owls on the Hill. (Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg)
During Owls on the Hill, Temple students handed members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly folders containing a rundown of statistics about the university, including admissions, programs and enrollment, along with a letter on behalf of the Temple student body expressing how the commonwealth funding continues to be beneficial for them.
Under this current fiscal year, Temple receives $158.2 million in funding from the commonwealth, which goes directly to subsidizing in-state tuition for Pennsylvania students and provides affordable access to a high-quality education at the university, which is an R1 institution, a category that the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education assigns to universities that engage in the highest levels of research activity.
Grace Spurrier, Class of 2022, president of Temple College Democrats, said that as a Pennsylvania in-state student, the funding has made it possible for her to attend Temple.
“The commonwealth funding is why I have been able to have such a high-value college education for an affordable cost,” she said.
Bradley Smutek, Class of 2022, president of TSG, said the Owls on the Hill event helped show state leaders that there is a face to these issues of needing continued commonwealth funding to lower a student’s tuition.
“It lets students take the front seat when it comes to advocating for institutional issues and to keep tuition low for Temple students,” he said. “Being in person at the State Capitol adds to that element of building relationships and we’re able to talk about what an affordable education means to us.”
Gianni Quattrocchi, Class of 2024, director of government affairs of TSG, had a leading role in coordinating the event and said that as students are emerging out of the pandemic, it was important to reestablish face-to-face relationships.
“Meeting a senator or representative, shaking their hand and talking about Temple is more impactful in person. It shows that Temple has an involved student body that we’re advocating on their behalf for important causes that the state government handles,” said Quattrocchi.
Bradley Smutek, Class of 2022, speaking with Rep. Mike Zabel (D-163, Delaware County), LAW ’10, in the Pennsylvania State Capitol cafeteria. (Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg)
During lunch in the East 157 wing of the Capitol, the students were introduced to Rep. Mike Zabel, LAW ’10, who, as a Temple alumnus, spoke about the importance of Owls on the Hill.
“I think it’s really important that legislators hear directly from the students who are benefiting from Temple. As a Temple grad myself I know what a wonderful place and an affordable institution it is,” said Zabel. “Having students advocate for their school really makes a difference and is really a testament to how good of a program that Temple is running for the students.”
Bridget Frame, Class of 2024, said the experience of going to Harrisburg and meeting face to face with legislators was impactful.
“So many of us in Temple Student Government come from single-parent households and working class families,” said Frame. “When we are lobbying directly with representatives it deepens that connection.”
Rep. Perry Warren (D-31, Bucks County) pictured on the left speaking with a group of Temple students, including Shawn Aleong, Class of 2024 (right). (Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg)
Rep. Perry Warren also spoke with the group of Owls about the opportunity that this visit to Harrisburg provides for Temple students who advocate in person for state funding.
“Temple being a relatively affordable institution gives world-class education to students from our communities as well as the entire state, so state funding is critical to maintain that quality of education and also make it affordable to the students who live here in Pennsylvania,” said Warren.
“It gives students the opportunity to maybe see some divergent views and present Temple’s case and themselves as real people who are benefiting from the Temple education,” added Warren.
Kendall Stephens, Class of 2023, joined other Temple students who traveled to Harrisburg to advocate for commonwealth funding on behalf of underrepresented communities. (Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg)
Kendall Stephens, Class of 2023, who is a Black trans woman, said this experience allowed her to advocate for the communities that she represents.
“I am Black, I am trans, I do live below the poverty line [and] I do have mental health issues. So there must be some diversity of experience that represents a university,” said Stephens. “When they see someone like me who is prospering despite my circumstances, they see hope and you need hope to be present in these policies.”
Samantha Quinlan, Class of 2023, vice president of TSG and a native of New York, said it was her first time visiting the Capitol.
“Meeting the legislators that have an impact on all my fellow students is really powerful because they have our futures in their hands with the decisions they make,” said Quinlan.
A group photo of Temple students with Sen. John Sabatina Jr. (D-5, Philadelphia), Sen. Patrick Browne (D-16, Leigh County), LAW ’93, and Sen. Christine Tartaglione (D-2, Philadelphia), pictured in the center first row in the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber. (Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg)
In addition to meeting with members in the General Assembly, the Temple students took a group photo in the Pennsylvania Senate Chamber with Sen. Patrick Browne, LAW ’93, the Senate Appropriations Committee chair, and Sen. Christine Tartaglione, chair of the Pennsylvania Senate Labor and Industry Committee, who are also members of Temple’s Board of Trustees.
Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania John Fetterman speaks with Temple students in the Lt. Governor’s Office. (Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg)
The students then walked the steps of the Capitol rotunda and under its lofty ceiling, before touring the Governor’s Reception Room, where they met John Fetterman, lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania.
Jacob Golden, Class of 2023, external services officer at TSG, who hopes to run for office one day, said it was important to meet with every state senator and representative to continue advocating for tuition funding in support of Temple students.
“It was an opportunity for Temple students to show legislators that we are involved in this process, that we are stakeholders, our relationship to the commonwealth matters and our vote matters,” said Golden. “Also to show the work that is being done at Temple, the graduates who come out of Temple are the future of the commonwealth, and they need to ensure that their future is well-funded.”