The Georgetown Journal of Poverty Law & Policy’s Volume 29 Symposium will be framed around the role of universities as producers, managers, and opponents of poverty in local communities, especially in light of the social changes and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Across the country, universities hold significant influence in local communities due to their function as educators, service-providers, employers, private law enforcement, property owners, and investment vehicles. Universities provide important educational programming to their student body, produce invaluable academic research, and often provide services to their neighboring communities. At the same time, over 4,000 universities employ sworn officers as campus police – usually armed – with expansive authority but without equivalent public reporting requirements as municipal police. Many universities generate more revenue from real estate ownership and endowment investment than educational services such as tuition and fees. In two-thirds of America’s hundred largest cities as well as multiple states, a university is the largest single employer. Some universities’ tax-exempt status has transformed them into an investment opportunity free of restrictions imposed on other private foundations. These various roles, combined with their productive and cultural value, give the modern university the opportunity to engage with city and state politicians and drive policy around diverse areas from zoning and land use, labor and employment, law enforcement, emergency management, and many others. It is critical to discover new and different roles that universities can play, examine best practices and models for university engagement with communities, and identify opportunities for universities to challenge poverty.