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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Operates Armory for Army National Guard

June 2, 2020

Dear members of the Drexel community,

I understand these are difficult and challenging times for everyone. I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the violence against African Americans and most recently the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police. I want to assure you that Drexel remains committed to addressing the deep-rooted history of racism and pain in the African American community, as well as exploring how we can be active allies in restoring trust, acceptance and inclusivity for everyone.

I also acknowledge the anger, frustration, pain and, frankly, fear that was caused by seeing National Guard vehicles on or close to our campus in the past 24 hours. I appreciate that was a shock to our community and has created concern and distrust. To that end, I want to explain why the National Guard is in the city of Philadelphia and on Drexel’s campus.

Let me start by clarifying that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania owns the Armory at 32nd Street and Lancaster Avenue, not Drexel University, and has independent control over its use. While the building is on Drexel’s campus and the University has leased part of the building from the Commonwealth since 2008, the Commonwealth owns the facility, maintains control of the rectangular portion of the facility, known as the annex, and has the right to occupy the annex as needed. The University does not fund this space in any way, and we cannot bar the Commonwealth from using its own facility.

In the wake of the unrest and violence throughout the city that has followed from recent peaceful protests, Gov. Tom Wolf and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency have placed National Guard members on state active duty to support local law enforcement in providing continued public safety and critical infrastructure security. At the request of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, National Guard members have also been deployed to Center City to protect government buildings. Many of you will be seeing National Guard members at the Armory, as they are using the space as a central command center for communications and operations.

The Armory has been the home of the National Guard’s 103rd Engineering Battalion since the 1920s and also serves as the home base of Drexel’s Army ROTC program. More than a dozen Drexel students are currently serving in the Selected Reserve, and more than 600 alumni work for the National Guard.

This isn’t the first time the National Guard has used the Armory to support public safety efforts. In 2015, more than 500 National Guard members were stationed at the facility to provide services for the visit of Pope Francis. The National Guard is also assisting with the Commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Again, I understand that this has been upsetting, particularly on top of the terrible incidents of the past week. Please know that the University is not condoning violence against peaceful protesters or efforts to silence the voices that have risen up against racism in this country. This is a troubling time for all of us, and the emotional toll many of us are feeling is real. Our promise as a university community is that we will always provide care and support, especially in such difficult and challenging times. Please know that all students in need of individual support in processing these events can contact the Office of Counseling and Health Services. Faculty and professional staff should contact the Employee Assistance Program.

The University will continue to monitor the situation and respond as necessary to safeguard everyone in the Drexel community.


John Fry