How Major Universities in the US Are Negatively Impacting Local Black Communities

American studies professor Davarian Baldwin’s new book, “In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities Are Plundering Our Cities”, is about high-end universities and their often negative impact on local residents of color. He explains to Hari Sreenivasan from Amanpour & Co. about how the influence of American universities might better be used.

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> NEXT, DAVARIAN BALDWIN IS A PROFESSOR OF AMERICAN STUDIES AT TRINITY COLLEGE IN CONNECTICUT.

HIS NEW BOOK ‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE IVORY TOWER, HOW UNIVERSITIES ARE PLUNDERING OUR CITIES,’ IT IS ABOUT HIGHER EDUCATION’S SOMETIMES NEGATIVE IMPACT ON BLACK AND BROWN LOCAL RESIDENTS.

HERE IS HARI SREENIVASAN SPEAKING TO HIM ABOUT THIS.

THIS IS PART OF AN ONGOING CONVERSATION CALLED ‘CHASING THE DREAM’.

THANKS FOR JOINING US.

YOUR BOOK LAYS OUT AN ARGUMENT THAT ESSENTIALLY UNIVERSITIES HAVE AMASSED ENORMOUS, UNCHECKED AMOUNTS OF POWER.

YOU’RE NOT JUST LOOKING AT SMALL SCHOOLS OR BIG SCHOOLS OR LESSER KNOWN SCHOOLS OR IIVIES.

YOU TAKE APART YALE AND NEW HAVEN, WHICH ARE IN MANY WAYS SYNONYMOUS.

HOW DOES YALE GET MORE OUT OF NEW HAVEN THAN NEW HAVEN DOES OUT OF YALE?

COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES ARE DESIGNATED AS NONPROFITS.

THEIR PROPERTY IS TAX EXEMPT.

NOW, THE MONEY THAT COMES FROM PROPERTY TAXES IS WHAT DIRECTLY UNDERWRITES THINGS IN THE PUBLIC GOOD LIKE SCHOOLS, SECONDARY SCHOOLS, TRASH REMOVAL, SNOW REMOVAL.

THINKING ABOUT TEXAS A MONTH AGO, THE ELECTRICAL GRID.

SO THE BASIC INFRASTRUCTURE OF CITIES COMES FROM PROPERTY TAXES.

SO AS YALE BECAME NOT ONLY THE BIGGEST LANDHOLDER IN NEW HAVEN, THE BIGGEST EMPLOYER IN NEW HAVEN, PEOPLE BEGAN TO SEE A DIRECT CORRELATION BETWEEN THE MONEY THAT YALE WAS NOT PAYING IN PROPERTY TAXES AND ITS GRAND EXPANSION AND THE STRUGGLING CONDITIONS OF THE CITY OF NEW HAVEN.

BECAUSE THE CITY STILL HAS TO PICK UP THE TRASH ON CAMPUS.

THAT’S RIGHT.

AND THE CAMPUS STILL BENEFITS FROM THE INFRASTRUCTURE THAT THE CITY PROVIDES.

SO WHEN YOU LOOK AT THIS, COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES ARE GOING TO SAY WHAT ABOUT ALL OF THE BENEFITS THAT WE BRING TO THE PUBLIC GOOD?

FOR EXAMPLE, YOU LOOK AT PRINCETON AND YOU SAY THEY’VE GOT A BUNCH OF PATENTS, THEY’VE GOT AMAZING DISCOVERIES, THEY’VE GOT LOTS OF THINGS THAT THE CAMPUS AND THE STUDENTS AND FACULTY HAVE HELPED DISCOVER IN LOTS OF DIFFERENT FIELDS.

WHAT’S GOOD FOR PRINCETON, ISN’T THAT GOOD FOR THE TOWNSHIP OF PRINCETON?

FOR SOME, BUT NOT FOR OTHERS.

I WAS ABLE TO CONDUCT OVER 100 INTERVIEWS.

I FOCUSED ON THE STORIES OF PEOPLE WHO I SAY LIVE IN THE SHADOWS OF THE IVORY TOWER.

ONE EXAMPLE OF THOSE KINDS OF PEOPLE ARE THE RESIDENTS OF THE HISTORICALLY BLACK WITHERSPOON JACKSON NEIGHBORHOOD THAT SURROUNDS THE CAMPUS OF PRINCETON.

IN 2015, IT BEGAN TO REALIZE THAT THEIR PROPERTY TAXES OF THE HOMEOWNERS WAS GOING UP.

THEY WONDERED WHY.

THEY INVESTIGATED AND REALIZED THAT BECAUSE THEY WERE SITTING NEXT TO PRINCETON BUILDINGS THAT WERE PRODUCING MILLIONS IN ROYALTIES BUT REMAINED TAX EXEMPT, THEIR TAXES WERE GOING UP AND THEY WERE REAPING NO BENEFIT FROM THESE DISCOVERIES AND INNOVATIONS BEING CREATED ON THIS CAMPUS.

SO THEY FILED A LAWSUIT AND WON MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, BECAUSE IT BECAME CLEAR THAT, AGAIN, THERE WAS A DIRECT CORRELATION BETWEEN THE COSTS THEY WERE PAYING, THE BURDEN THEY WERE TAKING ON IN THE CITY INFRASTRUCTURE AND THE MONEY IN PROPERTY TAXES THAT PRINCETON WAS NOT PAYING WHILE REAPING BENEFITS FROM THAT VERY EXEMPTION AND FINANCIAL SHELTER.

ONE OF THE PLAINTIFFS IN THAT CASE WAS SO DISGUSTED THAT HE CALLED PRINCETON A HEDGE FUND THAT CONDUCTS CLASSES.

AREN’T THERE UNIVERSITIES THAT DO CONTRIBUTE BEYOND TAXES?

IS THERE SOMETHING THAT UNIVERSITIES ARE DOING BESIDES THE TAX EXEMPT STATUS THAT MAKES SUCH LAND OWNERSHIP PROBLEMATIC FOR THE COMMUNITIES?

THEY’RE SETTING THE LAND VALUE OF THESE PROPERTIES.

NOT ONLY ARE PROPERTY TAXES OF HOMEOWNERS INCREASING, BUT LANDLORDS ARE RETRO FITTING RENTAL PROPERTIES TO MEET THE NEEDS OF STUDENTS AND FACULTY AT THE COST OF WORKING CLASS FAMILIES.

AT THE SAME TIME, THEY ARE ENGAGING IN HEALTH CARE WORK.

THEY RECEIVE A TAX EXEMPTION, THE MEDICAL SCHOOLS AND THE MEDICAL FACILITIES RECEIVE A TAX EXEMPTION BECAUSE THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE PROVIDING INDIGENT CARE.

WE’RE FINDING OUT IN PLACES LIKE YALE NEW HAVEN HOSPITAL AND JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL IS THAT THEY’RE NOT BEING TOTALLY TRANSPARENT ABOUT THE KINDS OF INDIGENT CARE THEY COULD PROVIDE.

SO THEY’RE FOCUSING ON PROFITABLE CANCER RESEARCH AND PLASTIC SURGERY, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME WHEN THEY DO SERVE THESE COMMUNITIES, WHEN THE NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENTS AREN’T ABLE TO FULLY PAY, THEY’RE PUTTING LIENS ON HOMES WHEN IN SOME CASES THE CARE THEY’RE OFFERING PROBABLY COULD BE COVERED BY THE INDIGENT CARE MANDATE AND THE COSTS COULD BE REDUCED.

THEN ALL OF THESE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS THAT ARE COMING OUT OF THE UNIVERSITIES ARE PROTECTED BY PRIVATE AND QUASI PRIVATE UNIVERSITY POLICE FORCES THAT ARE ENGAING IN ACTS OF RACIAL PROFILING.

WHEN YOU HAVE PREDOMINANTLY WHITE UNIVERSITIES IN BLACK AND BROWN NEIGHBORHOODS, LOCALS ARE HAVING TO WEAR THE UNIVERSITY PARAPHERNALIA SO THEY DON’T GET PROFILED.

AS THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO’S JURISDICTION EXTENDED BEYOND THE CAMPUS, IN HIS NEIGHBORHOOD HE GOT STOPPED FOUR OR FIVE TIMES A WEEK BY UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT SOMETIMES BEFORE THE CAR EVEN STOPPED, POLICE OFFICERS JUMPED OUT WITH THE STANDARD MANTRA, WHERE ARE THE DRUGS AT, WHERE ARE THE GUNS AT.

THIS IS A YOUNG MAN WHO NEVER HAD BEEN IN THE POLICE SYSTEM WHO ENDURED THIS.

YOU CAN SAY HE DIDN’T GET SHOT OR BEAT UP, BUT THE TRAUMA AND THE INCONVENIENCE AND THE FEELING OF ALWAYS BEING UNDER SURVEILLANCE IN A QUASI UNIVERSITY REPUBLIC WITH ITS OWN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND ITS OWN POLICE FORCE — SENATOR MARY WASHINGTON IN BALTIMORE, WHEN JOHNS HOPKINS WAS ATTEMPTING TO CREATE ITS OWN POLICE FORCE, SHE DESCRIBED IT AS PUTTING LIKE A VATICAN CITY IN THE MIDDLE OF BALTIMORE BECAUSE OF THE CONTROL THAT THESE UNIVERSITIES HAVE OVER THESE NEIGHBORHOODS.

WE’RE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION IN THE WAKE OF THE VERDICT OF GEORGE FLOYD.

I’M WONDERING WHAT KINDS OF MEASURES DO YOU THINK COULD TRICKLE DOWN FROM WHAT POLICE DEPARTMENTS ARE LOOKING AT NOW AND WHAT CAMPUS POLICE SHOULD BE LOOKING AT?

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT AS — LET’S BE HONEST — WHITE PARENTS SEND THEIR CHILDREN TO THESE SCHOOLS IN THESE BLACK AND BROWN NEIGHBORHOODS, THEY BEGIN TO LOBBY UNIVERSITY PRESIDENTS TO DO SOMETHING AS THEIR KIDS BEGIN TO LIVE IN OFF CAMPUS HOUSING.

SO IN CITIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY, UNIVERSITIES HAVE ENTERED INTO MEMORANDUMS OF UNDERSTANDING WITH CITY GOVERNMENTS TO GIVE UNIVERSITY POLICE EITHER JURISDICTION OVER AREAS, TARGETING AREAS BEYOND THE MAIN CAMPUS OR EITHER JURISDICTION OVER THE ENTIRE CITY.

SO ON TOP OF THAT, IF THESE ARE PRIVATE UNIVERSITY POLICE, THEY ARE NOT SUBJECT TO FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT POLICIES.

SO THEY CAN POLICE AND NOT EVEN TALK ABOUT IT.

THESE, AGAIN, ARE PRIVATE SECURITY FORCES.

EVEN WHEN THERE ARE PUBLIC UNIVERSITY POLICE, THEY POLICE IN WAYS THAT ARE GOVERNED BY PROTECTING THE UNIVERSITY’S INTERESTS.

SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND DRUG USE.

TO MAKE CONTINUAL ANNOUNCEMENTS ABOUT THE SEXUAL VIOLENCE AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE ON CAMPUS, THAT’S NOT GOOD FOR THEIR BRAND.

EVEN THOUGH WE ARE IN A POOR BLACK AND BROWN NEIGHBORHOOD, YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE PROTECTED THROUGH A SHOW OF FORCE.

SOME OF THE RECOMMENDATIONS WE’VE SEEN IN THE BROADER SENSE CAN BE APPLIED AND CAN COME OUT OF UNIVERSITY.

THE UNIVERSITY CAN BE A MODEL FOR POLICE REFORM AND IN SOME CASES POLICE ABOLITION OR DEFUNDING.

FOR EXAMPLE, WHEN I SPOKE TO SENATOR WASHINGTON IN BALTIMORE, SHE POINTED OUT THAT AS WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THINKING ABOUT WAYS TO SHIFT SERVICES AND RESOURCES FROM POLICE, BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT 80% OF POLICE STOPS DON’T REQUIRE AN ARMED CONFRONTATION.

IT’S PRIMARILY SOCIAL SERVICES, DOMESTIC DISPUTES, ET CETERA.

WE NEED TO SHIFT THE MONEY THAT HAS BEEN FUNNELED INTO POLICING BUDGETS TOWARD SOCIAL SERVICES THAT HAVE BEEN CUT.

AT A UNIVERSITY WHEN YOU HAVE AN INSTITUTION OF HIGHER LEARNING WITH A PUBLIC HEALTH OR MEDICAL SCHOOL, WHERE ELSE CAN WE START THAN TO HAVE AT LEAST A POLICE OFFICER PAIRED WITH A PUBLIC HEALTH PROFESSIONAL, OR SHIFTING THE BURDEN FROM POLICING TO PUBLIC HEALTH AND COMMUNITY SAFETY.

THE UNIVERSE COULD BE A MODEL FOR DEFUNDING OR POLICE REFORM, POLICE ABOLITION ACTIVITIES.

COMMUNITY RESIDENTS ON THESE CAMPUSES HAVE BEEN CALLING FOR IT FOR DECADES.

BEING ONE OF THE LARGEST LANDOWNERS IN A TOWN, I’M ASSUMING, COMES WITH SOME POLITICAL POWER, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A NEW REALITY DEVELOPMENT PROJECT THAT HOPES TO BRING NEW FUNDS, NEW ENERGY INTO AN AREA.

WHEN THE COLUMBIA WAS PUSHING TO BUILD ITS WEST HARLEM CAMPUS, JOURNALISTS FOUND THAT THE UNIVERSITY HAD PUT MONEY INTO STATE AGENCIES AS A WAY TO ENCOURAGE THEM TO USE THEIR IMMINENT DOMAIN POWERS TO IDENTIFY CERTAIN AREAS AS BLIGHTED SO THE UNIVERSITY COULD GAIN CONTROL.

WHEN THIS WAS DISCOVERED, A LOWER COURT JUDGE DESCRIBED THE UNIVERSITY’S EFFORTS TO USE EMINENT DOMAIN AS MERE SOFT INDUSTRY.

IT PRODUCES JOBS AND CAN BRING INVESTMENTS TO THE AREA, SO IT IS LEGAL.

IT WAS LEGAL TO SAY THAT IMMINENT DOMAIN COULD BE USED NOT JUST FOR BRIDGES AND TUNNELS AND ROADS, BUT FOR GENERAL PUBLIC GOOD THAT DIDN’T EVEN REQUIRE PUBLIC ACCESSIBILITY.

IF A UNIVERSITY COULD GAIN ACCESS TO A WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD AND DEVELOP DRUGS AND TECHNOLOGICAL DISCOVERIES — WHAT’S THE PUBLIC GOOD?

YOU’VE STILL GOT TO PAY INTO IT EVEN IF IT’S DISCOVERED ON A UNIVERSITY CAMPUS WITH FEDERAL MONEY THAT IS FREE TO THE UNIVERSITY.

YOU COULD TURN IT TO THE PRIVATE MARKET.

THE UNIVERSITY COULD MAKE MILLIONS.

IS THAT A PUBLIC GOOD?

GOOD QUESTION.

WHAT HAVE YOU NOTICED DURING THE PANDEMIC?

WE’VE SEEN STATISTICS THAT EL ENROLLMENTS ARE DOWN.

WE’VE ALSO SEEN WHAT QUALIFIES AS AN ESSENTIAL VERSUS AN EXPENDABLE WORKER.

MOST PEOPLE DON’T EVEN ACKNOWLEDGE THAT BECAUSE UNIVERSITIES ARE IN MANY CASES THE LARGEST EMPLOYER IN OUR CITIES — AND WE’RE NOT TALKING ABOUT FACULTY.

WE’RE TALKING ABOUT LOW WAGE WORKERS IN THE CAFETERIA AND MAINTAINING THE GROUNDS, SUPPORT STAFF.

THESE ARE PRIMARILY BLACK AND BROWN WOMEN.

THE UNIVERSITIES SET THE WAGE CEILING IN MANY CITIES.

WHATEVER THEY PAY WILL DETERMINE WHAT OTHER INDUSTRIES HAVE TO PAY IN THEIR CITIES.

SO DURING THE PANDEMIC, SCHOLARS AND ACTIVISTS DISCOVERED THAT, FOR EXAMPLE, HARVARD, WHICH MADE MONEY IN THEIR KIND OF FINANCIAL COFFERS DURING THE PANDEMIC AND ALSO RECEIVED MILLIONS FROM THE CARES ACT.

THEY’RE USING THE PANDEMIC TO IMPLEMENT MEASURES.

THOSE WHO ARE EMPLOYED THROUGH A SUBCONTRACTOR, WHICH IS BECOMING A LARGER TREND, THAT MOST UNIVERSITIES ARE NOW WORKING ON CONTRACTS WITH SUBCONTRACTORS, SO THAT EVEN IF YOU HAVE A UNIVERSITY UNION, THOSE CONTRACTS DON’T APPLY TO THE SUBCONTRACTED WORKERS, WHICH HAVE BECOME THE MAJORITY.

AT HARVARD THE SUBCONTRACTOR WORKERS DIDN’T GET COVERED BY THE FURLOUGH AGREEMENTS.

THEN THE LAW SCHOOL STARTED PUSHING BACK ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

IT FORCED HARVARD TO INCLUDE SUBCONTRACTED WORKERS UNDER THE FURLOUGH.

IN CHICAGO THEY STARTED TO TAKE THEIR UNUSED CAFETERIA FOOD OR EXCESS FOOD AND PACKAGE IT INTO MEALS FOR FAMILIES IN NEED DURING THE PANDEMIC.

THEY BEGAN TO OFFER LOANS TO STRUGGLING SMALL BUSINESSES, ALL GREAT.

ESPECIALLY WITH THE FOOD ISSUE, I ASKED WHY ISN’T THIS THE STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE?

IF YOU CAN DO IT DURING THE PANDEMIC, WHY CAN’T WE CREATE AN INFRASTRUCTURE WHERE THESE INSTITUTIONS CAN TAKE THE FOOD THEY’RE GOING TO THROW AWAY THE NEXT DAY AND DISTRIBUTE IT TO COMMUNITIES OF NEED?

IN THE EPILOGUE YOU TAKE US KIND OF IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION AND SHOW US THAT THERE ARE WAYS THAT CAN IMPROVE THE RELATION BETWEEN THE UNIVERSITY AND THE COMMUNITY IT’S IN.

YES.

I ANCHORED THIS DISCUSSION IN WHAT I SAW AT THE UNIVERSITY WINNIPEG.

THEY BUILT HOUSING THAT WAS AVAILABLE TO BOTH UNIVERSITY AFFILIATES AND RESIDENTS AT A RANGE OF FINANCIAL LEVELS, FROM PREMIUM TO MARKET RATE TO AFFORDABLE RATE TO INCOME.

THEY PUT IN ARRANGEMENTS WITH THE STUDENT GOVERNMENT TO OPEN UP DAYCARE SLOTS FOR PEOPLE THAT WERE IN NEED THAT WERE LIVING IN THIS HOUSING AS A MORE AFFORDABLE RATE.

WHAT THEY DID WAS THEY FIRED ONE OF THOSE MULTINATIONALS AND CREATED THEIR OWN CALLED DIVERSITY FOODS.

65% OF THE EMPLOYEES COME FROM MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES, WHETHER THAT BE PEOPLE OF COLOR, NEW IMMIGRANTS, RECENTLY INCARCERATED, SINGLE MOTHERS, PEOPLE FROM LGBTQ COMMUNITIES.

AND THEY’RE BEGINNING THE PROCESS OF CREATING THEM AND TURNING THEM INTO SHAREHOLDERS.

WHEN PEOPLE SAY TO ME WE HAVE TO BE PRACTICAL, WHAT ARE YOUR SOLUTIONS?

THESE ARE MY SOLUTIONS.

WE DON’T HAVE TO GO NORTH OF THE BORDER TO THINK ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY CITY RELATIONSHIP IN A MORE JUST AND EQUITABLE WAY.

WE JUST NEED TO SHIFT OUR VISION FROM A PROFIT ORIENTED UNIVERSITY TO A PEOPLE ORIENTED UNIVERSITY.

THAT’S ALL WE HAVE TO DO.

THESE SOLUTIONS ARE RIGHT BENEATH OUR FEET.

THE BOOK IS CALLED ‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE IVORY TOWER.’

DAVARIAN BALDWIN, THANKS FOR JOINING US