|Weekly News Digest
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The Scholarly Kitchen Digs Into the Problems With Private Universities
Karin Wulf writes the following in “What Universities Have Wrought: An Interview With Davarian Baldwin” for The Scholarly Kitchen:
Headlines remind us that the crisis of higher education in the United States, in which universities that are squeezed for resources are cutting programs and staff, has accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic. A review by the Chronicle of Higher Education estimated that the pandemic will have cost higher education $183 billion. Hundreds of thousands will have lost jobs in the sector. The impact on humanities programs and positions are likely to have been hardest hit. This is not unique to the US.
At the same time, another crisis has been long unfolding, mostly out of the headlines except when protests erupt. Mostly, though not exclusively, private universities in cities have expanded their real estate holdings, become substantial and sometimes dominant local (even regional) employers, and turned their security into police departments, all with serious consequences for urban communities—primarily communities of color. A longstanding ideal of higher education has underwritten both tax exemptions for universities and new public-private partnerships that further marginalize existing communities.
There may be a better path forward, and, post-pandemic, this may be exactly the time to commit to it. But we still need to have a clearer sense of just what’s happened. Davarian Baldwin’s new book, In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities are Plundering our Cities, takes a close look at universities in cities including Baltimore, Buffalo, Chicago, New Haven, New York, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh—and Winnipeg. Dr. Baldwin is the Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies and founding director of the Smart Cities Lab at Trinity College. … With research that included 100 interviews with administrators, faculty, students, and staff, as well as community activists, he shows the impact of university expansion and intrusions. A believer in higher education and its public mission, he also has ideas—and an example—of how things could be different.
I sat down with Dr. Baldwin across Zoom, to ask more about how he’s come to understand the role—and the potential—for universities in American cities. … Dr. Baldwin addressed a host of related issues in our conversation, including the history of racist urban development, the explosion of student loans, the experiences of low wage workers including graduate students, and the history and recent steps at his own university. …
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