Saturday, December 12, 2015

Fordham, Gentrification and the University's Role in the Bronx

Fordham used to have a great reputation in the Bronx because it helped save the neighborhoods of the Northwest Bronx from the arson and disinvestment that swept through the Southern sections of the borough. But as the danger of disinvestment faded, in large part because of the heroic efforts of the community groups Fordham helped, the University gradually shifted its target recruitment area from the New York metropolitan area to the entire nation, bringing in a more affluent student population than it had traditionally targeted. This helped raise the university's academic profile and US News and World Report ranking, but in the process increased the gap, in race and class and culture, between Fordham's student population and the population of the Bronx, a gap symbolized by the gates surrounding the campus and the University's increasingly large and vigilant security force.
Now, the Fordham is at a crossroads. With Gentrification and Displacement, rather than Disinvestment, becoming the major danger facing the Bronx, which way will Fordham go? Will it change course by recruiting more low and moderate income students, embrace the culture of Bronx communities, and make Bronx residents feel more welcome on the Fordham campus or will it continue to bring large number of people who have little respect for the Bronx into the campus and surrounding neighborhoods while doing little to sensitize them to their surroundings?
The economic interests and academic ambitions of the University, not the racism of university administrators- who for the most part are genuinely horrified by recent racist acts- have put it add odds with the interests of surrounding communities. Getting Fordham to change course and truly embrace the people and culture of the Bronx will take heroic efforts over the course of many years
The time to start that effort is now