Document Type

Occasional Paper

Paper Type

Faculty Research

Publication Date

Fall 2018


The democratic ideal of inclusive, communicative, practical reason associated with collaborative urban partnerships is increasingly criticized as being poorly empowered in the midst of urban development dynamics favoring established regime elites. Do public universities unwittingly abet such disparities? The tension between critical and/or marginalized voices, and more dominant modes of urban development is demonstrated in three forms of campus-community engagement at a public, urban-serving university. In each case, the university serves as a source of capacity for urban political actors and governance leaders, providing a venue to 1) elevate visibility of their agendas; 2) enlist faculty, student, and campus-based research resources; and 3) match private philanthropic capital with donors’ favored initiatives. However, the relative ability of urban scholars to unsettle and broaden presumed purposes of urban development, or to empower different voices in its political processes, can be quite constrained. Can urban theoretical models respond to this challenge, in ways that are useful for campus-community partnerships? Public universities have entered a phase of unprecedented disinvestment by state governments. Graduating students face limited entry-level job prospects, and local agencies can be severely under- staffed – the need to ‘partner’ has arguably never been stronger. Nevertheless, if public universities are to engage in the governance networks of urban and regional development, it must be as more than respondents to private sector imperatives, researchers seeking new data, training grounds for student-interns, sources of an academic imprimatur, below-mar- ket consultants, or fundraisers. A conceptual model of the university’s potential role in collaborative urban governance is presented, emphasizing the unique and privileged position of urban scholars with a constructively critical perspective.

Occasional Paper Number