COOL CLASSES: “University City: Race, Power and Politics in Philadelphia”

This course focuses on the role Philadelphia’s colleges and universities — and their affiliated healthcare entities — play in organizing the region’s economy.

Class name: “University City: Race, Power and Politics in Philadelphia”

Taught by: Visiting Assistant Professor of Peace, Justice and Human Rights Dennis Hogan and Senior Associate Director of Swarthmore College’s Aydelotte Foundation Andy Hines

Says Hogan and Hines about their class:
Our class introduces students to the political economy of higher education in the Philadelphia area. We are used to thinking about colleges and universities as sites of teaching and learning, places students go to receive an education and become the people they are going to be for the rest of their lives. While this is undoubtedly part of what such institutions do, it is only one part of their activities. 

This course focuses on the role colleges and universities — and their affiliated healthcare entities — play in organizing our economy, with a specific focus on the Philadelphia region. We read from across a range of disciplines to understand the ways that colleges and universities have managed Philadelphia’s urban decline and urban growth, both fought and perpetuated racial segregation in housing, employment, education and opportunity, and have partnered with civic and community leaders to build the city of Philadelphia we live in today, both for better and for worse.

Hogan and Hines on why they wanted to teach this class:
We have been collaborating in the area of critical university studies, broadly defined, for a while now, and we’ve taught classes at both Haverford and Swarthmore that introduce students to this field and to the ways of thinking that it makes possible. We wanted to extend that collaboration into the space of the classroom, and to invite students into our collaborative process as well. 

We also think that this is a particularly interesting time for students to consider the issues our class raises: colleges and universities are particularly central to our current moment. Many of our students will go on to have some affiliation with universities, whether they pursue postgraduate education, go into healthcare or urban policy, or simply end up living in cities anchored by large higher education institutions. We think that making space for students to think through these issues in an informed and systematic way will enrich their educations and prepare them to better understand and shape the world they’ll be graduating into.

Hogan and Hines on what makes this class unique:
This course is unique because it is taught through the Tri-Co Philly program, which means that a substantial portion of the course involves on-site learning. 

We believe the best way to think about how colleges and universities have shaped the city of Philadelphia is for students to see the results for themselves: we’ve visited several college campuses, and their associated neighborhoods, together, and have met and learned from academic, labor, and community leaders who are working at the intersection of politics and higher education policy. We’ve gone on walking tours and have visited archives to work hands-on with historical material that informs our course readings. We also invited students to join us at a symposium we organized at Haverford that brought scholars and leaders together from across the Northeast to consider the role of universities in a democratic society. 

We believe our course is unique because of the uniquely interdisciplinary way we frame the issues we discuss, but also because of the way we invite students off campus and into Philadelphia. Learning about universities should not be an ivory tower exercise!