The University as Neighbor

Colleges and universities tend to argue that gentrification and the presence of resource-heavy institutions improves cities. This claim has become so normalized and accepted, that colleges and universities regularly characterize the presence and practices as necessary for revitalizing cities. University expansion has hidden costs for black, brown, and working-class communities, which include: the displacement of residents; the criminalization of surrounding areas, residents and neighborhoods as well as the exploitation of labor. 

Davarian Baldwin, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor at Trinity College discusses his research on Universities and urban development.

Paru Brown, BYP100-Chicago Chapter, discusses the campaign to win a Community Benefits Agreement in the South Side of Chicago.

Demands

The issues examined above provide a broad overview of how universities have engaged in unethical and devastating practices, which have stripped community members and workers of economic security and rendered them vulnerable to hyper-policing. Universities clearly owe a debt to the communities, workers, and neighbors they have exploited and marginalized in order to grow and attract resources to campuses.

Following the pioneering 2012 agreement reached in Boston which required nonprofit groups with more than $15 million in tax-exempt property to volunteer 25 percent of the property taxes they would owe if not exempt, we call for a city-enforced payment in lieu of taxes. To enforce such agreements, cities can include consequences for reneging on these commitments such as denying necessary permits and other municipal resources universities require for their expansion and operation.  

Colleges and universities must create community benefits agreements to allow their neighbors access to campus resources. Institutions of higher education must prioritize hiring local people, providing job training for service workers, providing community access to libraries, investing in affordable housing for its employees, and providing leadership and financial support for neighborhood improvements, including public spaces and schools.

Universities can support community self-determination by assisting in commercial and housing development subsidies to prevent the removal of their neighbors and contract with local businesses to keep resources in the immediate community.  Universities are not only major employers, but they are also major consumers.  Universities can implement practices to ensure they are seeking out contractors from local communities for construction projects, legal counsel, as well as financial services.

Universities can bridge the divide between campus and community by creating community oversight boards to collaborate on development projects, campus police departments, as well as creating impact surveys to guide campus planning.

For more on unionization see section on the University as Employer

Considering the racial dynamics of college athletics, we recommend the distribution of athletic revenues to community-based initiatives. These resources can be used to fund commitments agreed to in Community Benefits Agreements.

Demands

The issues examined above provide a broad overview of how universities have engaged in unethical and devastating practices, which have stripped community members and workers of economic security and rendered them vulnerable to hyper-policing. Universities clearly owe a debt to the communities, workers, and neighbors they have exploited and marginalized in order to grow and attract resources to campuses.

Following the pioneering 2012 agreement reached in Boston which required nonprofit groups with more than $15 million in tax-exempt property to volunteer 25 percent of the property taxes they would owe if not exempt, we call for a city-enforced payment in lieu of taxes. To enforce such agreements, cities can include consequences for reneging on these commitments such as denying necessary permits and other municipal resources universities require for their expansion and operation.  

Colleges and universities must create community benefits agreements to allow their neighbors access to campus resources. Institutions of higher education must prioritize hiring local people, providing job training for service workers, providing community access to libraries, investing in affordable housing for its employees, and providing leadership and financial support for neighborhood improvements, including public spaces and schools.

Universities can support community self-determination by assisting in commercial and housing development subsidies to prevent the removal of their neighbors and contract with local businesses to keep resources in the immediate community.  Universities are not only major employers, but they are also major consumers.  Universities can implement practices to ensure they are seeking out contractors from local communities for construction projects, legal counsel, as well as financial services.

Universities can bridge the divide between campus and community by creating community oversight boards to collaborate on development projects, campus police departments, as well as creating impact surveys to guide campus planning.

For more on unionization see section on the University as Employer

Considering the racial dynamics of college athletics, we recommend the distribution of athletic revenues to community-based initiatives. These resources can be used to fund commitments agreed to in Community Benefits Agreements.