Published in the Delaware County Daily Times Sunday, March 3, 2019
By Joseph Batory, Times Columnist
Criminal incidents on or near Philadelphia university campuses were the subject of a recent article in The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, February 17 (2019). This report was certainly newsworthy, and unfortunately, my alma mater, La Salle University, was at the top of the list with seven criminal incidents (five at gunpoint) this year.
La Salle students are certainly concerned. So too are university administrators who will undoubtedly be introducing some new approaches and initiatives to curtail such criminal activity. The Philadelphia Police Department also has a major partnership role to play here along with enhancements to La Salle’s campus security and electronic surveillance. But there are no easy answers to the problems faced by any inner-city university campus.
And there is much more to the La Salle story beyond this recent news coverage.
In the 1970’s, I was working at La Salle College (not then a university) in administration. At a meeting of LaSalle’s leaders at which I was present, there was a serious discussion about moving the campus out of its city environs to an available spacious green suburban area. As a young man, I thought this idea made great sense….but I had much to learn. The idea of leaving Philly never got off the ground. The Christian Brothers at this meeting argued that La Salle’s egalitarian philosophy and principles should never be about running away from its inner-city neighborhood. End of discussion.
So La Salle dug into its environs. The struggling Germantown Hospital was acquired by La Salle and renovated into offices as well as the La Salle nursing school. La Salle has kept a Neighborhood Nursing Center at the former hospital site. It received the 2017 Public Health Recognition Award from Philadelphia’s College of Physicians for their substantial contributions to the health community. Operated for more than 25 years by LaSalle’s School of Nursing and Health Sciences, it is one of the oldest nurse-led community wellness centers in the country and cares for at-risk families through screenings, immunization programs, disease-prevention services, and specialist referrals.
In another innovative endeavor, abandoned lots adjacent to the campus have long ago been developed into a shopping center for area residents and students.
The overall campus at La Salle has been greatly expanded and is greener than ever. La Salle’s relatively new Business School is as functional and beautiful as can be found anywhere.
Once an all-male institution, La Salle is now 60% female with a dynamic female president (the first even non-Christian Brother). True to its Lasallian mission, 30+% percent of La Salle’s students are the first in their families to pursue higher education. More than 40% of the student body describe themselves as diverse. There are 39 undergraduate programs and 28 graduate programs of study.
La Salle students are annually engaged in about 60,000 hours of community service.
La Salle University has been ranked in the top 6% in the U.S. by The New York Times for median income of graduates by age 34 ($58,700). Out of more than 1,000 U.S. colleges and universities, The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education once again ranked La Salle in the Top 300 in its second annual College Rankings.
La Salle’s full-time MBA programs has the fourth highest employment rate in the nation, according to a recent report from U.S. News and World Report. Among the MBA programs considered for the study, La Salle’s employment rate for graduates three months after graduation is 96.4 percent.
So here is the bottom line. Yes, La Salle is having some problems with campus security. And, undoubtedly these issues will be addressed. But, to me, a more important part of this story is about a university with Lasallian values which decided against moving out of the city even through the opportunity was there. The legacy of Jean Baptiste de La Salle, a Catholic saint dedicated to quality teaching, and outreach to all, continues to shine brightly. With 57,000+ graduates, including the mayor of Philadelphia, La Salle University continues to be a positive force for good in its urban Philadelphia location.
Joseph Batory is a 1964 graduate of La Salle.