Temple to Cut Recreational Therapy Program

In a move that confounded the program’s students, Temple University’s College of Public Health revealed plans to phase out the Recreational Therapy undergraduate program.

No public record of the initial announcement to the RT department’s advisory committee exists. However, the Dean of the College of Public Health, Jennifer Ibrahim, confirmed to Temple Update that the Bachelor of Science in Recreational Therapy (BSRT) will “welcome its last class” in the fall of 2024. 

The student body was not informed until March 20th, in an email outlining the department’s “task of restructuring itself.” Continuing on with a guarantee to the students that the recreational therapy faculty is “working hard to ensure that we can maintain the highest quality of education.”

Temple University’s RT program is well-known throughout the country and is utilized by Philadelphians. Of all cities in the United States, Philadelphia is the third-highest employer of recreational therapists, and Temple is the only school in the area offering an RT undergraduate degree. 

Abby Allen, president of the Recreational Therapy Student Association (RTSA), explains her field as “designed to support people in all aspects of their life… physical wellness, emotional wellness, and cognitive wellness, all in one space.” She continues by explaining the use of “wellness activities that are important to the client to improve aspects of their well-being.”

One of the few students present at the March 14th announcement, Cierra Loftin, shared her belief that “the care put into the community will definitely see a decrease.” Temple alum and Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) Erin Eastwick shared a similar thought: If the program changes, it will “negatively affect the clients we serve by offering a lower caliber of trained professionals.”

Members of the university’s Recreational Therapy Student Association (RTSA) spoke fondly of the ways their department helped them engage and uplift individuals in need. Several students point to Brandon Snead, a CTRS and Temple University professor who helped them find their passion for the program. Other students, Like 4 + 1 student Ana Canal, are passionate about the array of classes based on utilizing appropriate language and navigating professional issues. These aspects help prepare students for their “junior internship as well as their senior internship,” an aspect of the program that Ana views as fundamental to her peers’ success in the department. 

Canal was also present at the March 14th meeting and feels that the College of Public Health decided based on “how much money they get… rather than making a difference in the world.” Allen expressed similar feelings on behalf of RTSA: “We are in a student debt crisis,” “A lot of people want to work in health care but cannot afford to.” The Student Association’s Communications Chair, Sophia Paslowsky, said she “doesn’t understand” the administration’s decision to cut a major that “allows you to practice as a therapist in four years.”

A statement from RTSA drew ties from its program to Temple University’s mission and core values to provide an affordable and accessible education, opening doors for scholars “to make the possible real.” With graduate-level education growing costlier year by year, the program feels its practice will become out of reach to passionate individuals looking to support the communities they care about.

Temple University commits to shared governance, and RTSA does not feel that respect was given to their field. With no formal documentation of the meeting or room for public comment, Allen expressed a feeling shared by Temple alumni, CTRS’, and currently enrolled students: “We do constantly have to advocate for the importance of our major and our field.” Canal called the program a “hidden gem” and is hurt, saying that the support given to other departments “isn’t given to us.” 

Temple University’s Recreational Therapy Department is adamant about defending its major. Gordon Stamler, a Sophomore in the program, said students need to come together, “planting your feet or planting your wheels and not backing down.” He continued on, passionately voicing, “Being able to have a recreational therapist is incredibly important… accessibility impacts everyone, and this is something we need to fight for.” Paslowsky, in an impassioned statement, showed frustration and confusion with the College of Public Health’s decision: “I know [recreational therapy] saves lives; I know it saved mine. I just want to help people and have Temple help me.”

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