Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2021


This is a syllabus for a mixed MA/PhD level course, "Equity, Elitism, and Public Higher Education," taught in Spring 2021 at the Graduate Center by Matt Brim and Katina Rogers.

Higher education can be a powerful engine of equity and social mobility. Yet many of the structures of colleges and universities—including admissions offices, faculty hiring committees, disciplinary formations, institutional rankings, and even classroom pedagogies and practices of collegiality—rely on tacit values of meritocracy and an economy of prestige. For public universities like CUNY this tension can be especially problematic, as structurally-embedded inequities undermine the institution’s democratizing mission and values. It is no surprise that normative institutional structures correspond with normative formulations of sexuality, class, race, and gender such that sociocultural biases are built into the academy. This correspondence governs what counts as valuable intellectual work, and in doing so, it also overdetermines where and how and to whom resources accrue in the university. In other words, many academic structures actually undermine the values that we associate with possibilities for the most challenging and productive and diverse academic life.

In this course, we examine the purposes and principles of universities, especially public universities; consider whether various structures advance or undermine those goals; and imagine new possibilities for educational systems that weave equity into the fabric of all they do.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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