When the Big Get Bigger

This is a great 10 minute video of a panel discussion from The Municipal Art Society and the Rockefeller Foundation exhibit on "Jane Jacobs and the Future of New York"

Judith Rodin explains 4 reasons why UPenn played a critical role in Philadelphia:

  1. Universities are engines of economic development and have the capacity to stimulate the economy in a way that has the potential to be a "win-win"
  2. Many urban universities have played a role in the destruction of the neighborhoods around them
  3. Universities have great capacity (faculty, students) to be partners with communities and yet universities are often the 4,000 pound gorilla exercising their interests in a way that is not always neighborhood-friendly.
  4. If we are training our students to be the leaders of the future we need to teach them to be great citizens.

Presidents from NYU and Columbia, James Traub from the New York Times ("universities have deeper obligations and we should hold them to a higher standard when it comes to issues like relationships with the surrounding community"), and others talk about the role of universities and their expansion. One questioner strongly challenges Columbia's Lee Bollinger.

YouTube - When the Big Get Bigger: NY's Universities & Their Neighbors


  1. While those points are true, and she is not responsible for the past decades of Penn's expansion, Penn certainly has it's own Harvard-like history of buying-up neighborhoods (in this case a very depressed one) and turning the surrounding area into a student-centric concrete wasteland. She says nice things, but so does Harvard when you're almost 300 miles away. I bet if you asked people who are being displaced by Penn (ie not professors or students or Penn employees) they might have a different take on things - just like we do. I grew up in Philly, my Mom worked at Penn and the topic of Penn's expansion and how it was killing the surrounding community was often discussed in our house.

  2. I'm not saying Penn is perfect and maybe this is some version of "the grass is always greener...", but I think there is some objective reality the Penn has done a million times more than Harvard to be a good neighbor.

    A lot of the land that Penn is using to expand was purchased from the U.S. Postal Service, so I don't know how many people are being displaced.

    Penn really does let local schools and the public skate on the ice at its hockey rink (more than one evening a year)

    Penn really did spend money to improve a shopping center in Philly.

    And Penn really does support a K-8 school.

    So I am sure there are people who have been harmed in one way or another in the last 20 years by Penn, but I think Penn has also helped a lot more people in Philly than Harvard has in Allston.