Tag Archives: Yale

Elite Schools Taking a Kavanagh Beating While Accelerating Inequality

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

New Orleans    A subtext of the horror that Judge Brett Kavanagh wears like a cloak has been the elite school tattoos he has branded on every smirk and twist of his mouth and roar of his entitlement and privilege.  Georgetown Prep and Yale both have some explaining to do, but of course they aren’t alone, just a couple of good ol’ boy schools caught with their pants down, sucking on beer bongs, while they molest coeds and townie girls.

Georgetown Prep, an all-boys enclave with its own 9-hole golf course has cried like a stuck pig as the Jesuits bemoan the fact that they are doing all they can about this culture.  These are the Jesuits mind you, the Catholic order known for social services and a commitment to social justice.  We just had eleven of their finest from Jesuit High School in New Orleans along with two adults work most of the day doing fantastic work at the ACORN Farm, so I’m careful with the broad brush here, but, geez, what are they doing in Washington, DC?

Reading sociologist Eric Klinenberg’s new book Palaces for the People:  How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, in one point he compares the educational institutions that build social infrastructure rather than just architectural monuments to themselves.   His children’s school in New York that integrates parental involvement comes off way better than the year when his children were in San Jose in a beautiful campus near Stanford that discouraged parents involvement and interaction with each other.   Clearly, the Jesuits weren’t engaging parents in the 1980s when Brett Kavanagh was wilding, but what are they doing now to drastically change this culture other than saying to all of us that it’s a hard problem?  Neil Gorsuch who is already on the Supreme Court also went to Georgetown Prep.  Maybe we need to look more closely there as well.

Yale, where Kavanagh graduated from both its college and law school, has been caught on both sides of the fence.  First, they celebrated another Eli on the court.  Now, faced with a student rebellion that is demanding justice for Dr. Ford, they are caught backtracking.

Past these headlines, isn’t it time to demand more from these elite institutions and their inbred entitlements?

Professor Thomas Kane of Harvard has found that just one out of six low-income applicants to elite schools was likely to be black or Hispanic, so a program that gave an admissions advantage to low-income students would therefore admit five white students for every one black or Hispanic student, thereby reducing racial diversity.  Not that these schools are breaking a hard sweat.  In the recent year, 29% of Harvard’s 2017 freshman class was related to other Harvard graduates, so class privileges continue to be passed down as legacies.  These schools create inequality with such practices.

Some people and institutions are doing work.  The Mellon Foundation has funded Tulane University to create a community engagement pilot in New Orleans where we are participating.  But, community engagement is not simply a couple of hours of required community service or cherry-picking partners to advance graduate careers.  What we are seeing by looking over Kavanagh’s shoulder at the institutions that formed him screams that we need a totally different educational and civic engagement model that leeches the elite out of these institutions and remakes them as places that can mold the men and women we really need for a more equitable and just future.


Is Co-living About Affordability or Gentrification?

JJ Chez Hacker House in San Francisco

JJ Chez Hacker House in San Francisco

New Orleans        Talking on Wade’s World on KABF  with Michael Robinson Cohen about his Yale School of Architecture studio project to design a hundred thousand affordable housing units for San Francisco, or any other city that understands the problem and the potential, led us naturally to co-living.  Michael and his gang believe there is tremendous promise in co-living for the emerging young precariat, drawn into the “gig” economy to a portfolio of jobs in tech and elsewhere that combine good prospects with speculative wages and a boom-and-bust income instability.  For these emerging young architects smaller spaces with increased common space holding both the necessities of kitchen, laundry, and even work spaces along with amenities to wash it all down more easily, points towards a potential solution on affordability that those of us working in the midst of a desperate shortage of affordable houses for low-and-moderate income working people also find attractive.

            Sadly, there currently seems to be more slips between the cup and the lip as the promise of this idea confronts the reality of developers who seem determined to warp co-living schemes into an upgrade in price and performance of college residential houses in the high-priced, red-hot real estate markets in New York, the Bay Area, Seattle and the like.  In post-Katrina New Orleans,  there had been a number of interesting proposals for affordable “worker housing” to help get the necessary labor into the city at affordable prices when rents had doubled in the wake of the storm.  None were built, though some smaller unit style developments for artists, largely white unfortunately, with section 8 certificates did emerge in several places. 

            Reading about co-living schemes in New York City and the Bay Area, developers seem to be rejecting affordability in favor of charging premium rents and reshaping co-living almost as connection clubs.  The New York Times talks about “hacker houses” like the ones touted in movies about Facebook.  In New York co-living seems also like staying in the Yale or Harvard Club, except on a longer timeline with interviews by the owners and potential house or suite-mates and probably the kind of blackballing still common in the fraternity scene.  As one of these smaller developers says, “…you can get a bedroom in New York for less than $2500.”  You can buy a mansion in many cities around the country if you’re willing to pay $2500 per month!

            A hipper and hungrier developer called Stage 3 Properties wants to build a co-living operation with 180 units to house 400 people and describes its mission as “passionately disrupting the housing industry by reimagining its process, product and price points and curating an all-inclusive cosmopolitan living experience designed for today’s creative class.”  I can guarantee that anytime you have the words, “reimagining,” “curating,” “cosmopolitan,” and “creative class” in the same sentence you better hold your wallet and purses with both hands because you are being shaken down for every penny while walking in knee high cow manure. 

            These rent-a-room hustles also are likely to have some problems with existing landlord tenant laws and single-room-occupancy rules in San Francisco and New York City for sure.  In the age of Uber though a lot of the hustlers think that rules to protect consumers or tenants are just rocks in the road on their way to riches, and therefore easily ignored.

           Co-living in practical and affordable housing could offer huge potential, but our friends and allies among planners and architects need to run, not walk, to beat the developers away from get-rich-schemes for themselves where desperate tenants and workers are overpaying and left again on the short end.