In cities large and small across America, universities have become the dominant companies — and our cities their company towns. But there is a cost to those who live in their shadow.

Urban universities play an outsized role in America’s cities. They gentrify neighborhoods and exacerbate housing inequality in an effort to enrich their campuses and attract students. They maintain large private police forces that target the predominantly Black and Latinx neighborhoods nearby. They become the primary employers, dictating labor practices and suppressing wages. And they shape the cultural life of cities.

In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower takes us on a journey from Hartford to Chicago, from Phoenix to Manhattan, using the stories of ever-expanding campuses to illustrate the increasingly parasitic relationship between higher education and our cities. As scholar and author Davarian L. Baldwin illustrates, urban planners have used the model of the university campus as a blueprint for the city as a whole. Through eye-opening conversations with city leaders, low-wage workers tending to students’ needs, and local activists fighting encroachment, Baldwin makes clear who benefits from unchecked university power — and who is left especially vulnerable.

In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower is a wake-up call to the reality that higher education is no longer the ubiquitous public good it was once thought to be. But as Baldwin shows, there is an alternative vision for campus life and urban life, one that centers a more equitable relationship between our cities and our universities.

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