It’s that the campus setup makes it easy for them to forget that reasonable people often don’t share their outlook.
Student bodies and faculties have grown more diverse in recent decades, but that shouldn’t fool us into thinking elite universities have become microcosms of society: The highly educated are far more liberal than average Americans. The divide isn’t just political: Whatever their socioeconomic backgrounds, students and professors have daily routines that are very different from those of lawyers, shopkeepers or manual laborers — and that shapes their worldviews.
Life at a university with a dominant central campus can also narrow students’ views on the world, especially at colleges where most undergraduates live on campus. Letting the university take care of all of students’ needs — food, housing, health care, policing, punishing misbehavior — can be infantilizing for young adults. Worse, it warps students’ political thinking to eat food that simply materializes in front of them and live in residence halls that others keep clean.
It also takes away the chance to encounter people with different roles in society, from retail workers to landlords — interactions that would remind them they won’t be students forever and open questions about the social relevance of the ideas they encounter in the university.
Community outreach programs can help broaden students’ outlook, but the better approach would be to configure the physical footprint of universities in a way that makes interactions with surrounding communities natural.
By and large, urban state universities like Rutgers University’s Newark campus have done a much better job integrating with their environments than elite private universities — with the possible exception of N.Y.U. But colleges in smaller cities, towns and suburbs could also do more to integrate their physical presences more seamlessly with the surrounding environment. Both university and community have a lot to gain.
Some have already started breaking down the boundaries between town and gown out of financial necessity. After reopening in 2011 after three years of closure, Antioch College, a small liberal arts college in Yellow Springs, Ohio (population 3,972 in 2020), built new residential buildings on disused parts of its campus, offering residents access to college events and the library.
Yet, taxpayers subsidize the Ivy League:
1. Ivy League payments and entitlements cost taxpayers $41.59 billion over a six-year period (FY2010-FY2015). This is equivalent to $120,000 in government monies, subsidies, & special tax treatment per undergraduate student, or $6.93 billion per year