Change and Crisis in Universities: Research, Education, and Equity in Uncertain Times

This semester I have the pleasure of acting as an embedded Futures Initiative fellow in “Change and Crisis in Universities: Research, Education, and Equity in Uncertain Times,” a Futures Initiative course taught at the Graduate Center, CUNY, by Professors Katherine K. Chen and Ruth Milkman.

This course examines recent trends affecting higher education, with special attention to how those trends exacerbate class, race/ethnicity, and gender inequalities. With the rising hegemony of a market logic, colleges and universities have been transformed into entrepreneurial institutions.  Inequality has widened between elite private universities with vast resources and public institutions where students and faculty must “do more with less,” and austerity has fostered skyrocketing tuition and student debt. Tenure-track faculty lines have eroded as contingent academic employment balloons. The rise of on-line “learning” and expanding class sizes have raised concerns about the quality of higher education, student retention rates, and faculty workloads. Despite higher education’s professed commitment to diversity, disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups remain underrepresented, especially among faculty. Amid growing concerns about the impact of micro-aggressions, harassment, and even violence on college campuses, liberal academic traditions are under attack from the right. Drawing on social science research on inequality, organizations, occupations, and labor, this course will explore such developments, as well as recent efforts by students and faculty to reclaim higher education institutions.

Professors Chen and Milkman began the first day of the course with Wendy Brown’s wonderful essay, “Neo-liberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy.” What I loved about being a part of this discussion was hearing from students and librarians from different disciplines and different places in CUNY approaching the same ideas with different insights. You can read the syllabus for the course here.

I’m looking forward to working with students in the class on their presentation at the Futures Initiative’s 2018 Spring Symposium “Publics, Politics, and Pedagogy: Remaking Higher Education for Turbulent Times” on March 28, 2018. You can register for this event here, and read a re-cap about last year’s event here.


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309