Judith Rodin transformed the relationship between the University of Pennsylvania and its Philadelphia neighborhood. What can she teach Lee Bollinger about Columbia and Harlem?
by Matthew Schuerman Published: July 31, 2007
Tags: Real Estate, The City, Columbia University, Judith Rodin, Lee Bollinger
This article was published in the August 6, 2007, edition of The New York Observer.t is not clear what exactly Judith Rodin, former president of the University of Pennsylvania, has been whispering in the ear of Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, but trust that it has something to do with Harlem.
Just as Columbia presses its case for its expansion into Manhattanville, Dr. Rodin, now president of the New York–based Rockefeller Foundation, has published a book on her decade at Penn, where she initiated a number of town-gown projects that both improved the surrounding neighborhood and eased animosity toward the Ivy League school. Ever since, she has been widely lauded as the arbiter of modern, enlightened community-university relations. When she announced she would leave Penn, the Philadelphia Daily News, a tabloid, put her photo on the cover above the words: “Judy! Judy! Judy!”
“He and I have talked several times,” Dr. Rodin said about Mr. Bollinger, without elaborating. “We’ve talked very minimally. The work is still ahead.”
Her book, The University & Urban Revival: Out of the Ivory Tower and Into the Streets (University of Pennsylvania Press), came out July 24. Already, Robert Kasdin, Columbia’s senior executive vice president, said he is reading it. Mr. Bollinger was traveling, but a spokesman said he had eagerly been awaiting its publication.
All of which should counter the refrain that some detractors of Columbia’s plan to rezone 17 acres of West Harlem for a third campus have been voicing recently, which is, “Do it like Penn!”
Penn, for example, donated land for a public school and helped plan and run it. The university set up a business-improvement district that picked up litter and brightened street lights. It gave university employees cash to buy homes near campus and invested in renovating rental buildings. This all happened, however, not to butter up neighbors for an expansion, but because crime and blight were threatening the university’s survival.
Columbia has been eyeing Penn’s example for a while: David Stone, who was hired last year as executive vice president for communications, worked for Dr. Rodin as a consultant on the West Philadelphia initiatives, and a couple of other high-level hires worked for Penn or are otherwise familiar with the collaborations.
“There are a number of us here now that were involved in the West Philadelphia initiatives who are here to ensure and clarify the focus that universities are important civic and economic actors in the community,” Mr. Stone said.
Latin America and Beyond
The sleek red bus zooms out of the station in northern Bogotá, a futuristic symbol of an (almost) transformed city. Nearby, thousands of cyclists of all ages enjoy a sunny morning on Latin America's largest bike-path network.
The TransMilenio, as the modern bus network is called, moves 750,000 passengers per weekday-almost 100,000 more than Washington D.C.'s subway system. And Bogotá's citizens are proud of their transportation, proud of their city.
That wasn't always the case. In 1988, during Colombia's first mayoral elections, a local radio station launched its own "virtual" candidate. The candidate's transport platform was simple: instead of fixing all the roads, why not remove the pavement remaining to level out potholes. Vehicles would then no longer have to "sink" into potholes-instead they would simply ride over the unpaved street.
The first time I heard anything about people in the sewers in Colombia was back at the beginning of the 90s when ABC Primetime Live did a piece about all the children living down there. It became a fairly big humanitarian story in the media for a while, with other networks in America and Europe sending in crews to cover it and folks setting up charities abroad. And rightfully so—the situation at the time was a complete fucking nightmare. The sewers were filled with packs of kids living waist-deep in shit and taking in copious amounts of glue and crack in order to cope.
This was at the height of Colombia's "Dirty War", and the whole reason the street kids had gone down into the sewers in the first place was to get away from the violence. But then the paramilitary death squads who had chased them off the street started to come into the pipes and shoot them or douse them in gasoline or rape them. Ten-year-old girls were giving birth and trying to raise babies in the middle of sewage (the early onset of puberty having been brought on by the constant molestation by adults and older kids as well as the general stress on their bodies). It was about as fucked as things get.
From Social Justice Wiki
SOCIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENTS
This website was first developed by students at Columbia University and Barnard College enrolled in "Black Movements in the U.S." taught by Professor Robin D. G. Kelley. The purpose of the site is to introduce students and the general public to a few of the most dynamic social justice organizations in New York City. Students worked in groups of three and each group was responsible for creating a web page devoted to one organization. Students were required to interview organizers and conduct library research on the history and current activities on the organizations for which they were responsible. Each page includes a link to the respective organization's website, thus our site serves as a kind of portal into some of the key social justice movements in the city.
The site is really just the beginning of a much larger project and does not claim to be comprehensive. Indeed, as Professor Kelley continues to teach this and other courses in the future, new groups of students will add more organizations to the website. All of the movements included here represent one or more of the following categories: labor, civil rights, black liberation, reparations, socialism/communism, feminism, welfare rights, youth/Hip Hop activism, education, peace, environmental justice, and anti-globalization. In each case, students explore the broader political vision(s) of each of these movements (what are they trying to accomplish); the context for their emergence; their strategies and tactics; the impact they have had on the communities they serve as well as on struggles for social justice as a whole; and the kind of support they need to sustain the work they are doing.
We are working from the following mission statement with the hope that community residents will give us additional feedback about how students can best support the needs and concerns of people who would be affected by the proposed West Harlem expansion:
University expansion and gentrification are processes that affect everyone in our community. As students we recognize our unique position in relationship to the university and community at large, and simultaneously, the necessity of our action in support of an equitable and just conclusion. To this end, we are unified in our commitment to continue to work and stand in solidarity with those most affected by the process of gentrification, and in our commitment to educate and mobilize the student body towards a goal of greater university accountability.