Suboptimal by Design: On Laura T. Hamilton and Kelly Nielsen’s “Broke: The Racial Consequences of Underfunding Public Universities”

By Christopher NewfieldMay 8, 2022

Suboptimal by Design: On Laura T. Hamilton and Kelly Nielsen’s “Broke: The Racial Consequences of Underfunding Public Universities”

Broke: The Racial Consequences of Underfunding Public Universities by Laura T. Hamilton and Kelly Nielsen

IF WE DIVIDE the last 100 years into two half-centuries, we can see several long-term trends. US social democracy, though always limited, expanded from 1920 to 1970, and then underwent 50 years of decline. Similarly, the Black Civil Rights movement had achieved major advances in legal equality by 1970, but those gains, already incomplete, were followed by 50 years of subversions and evasions. Finally, from 1920 to 1970, white Americans were the uncontested supermajority of voters nearly everywhere outside of the Deep South. After the 1970s, this demographic dominance began to fade. By the end of the century, most big cities and populous states were minority-majority in their voting-age populations and, most visibly, in their education systems.

Thus, we can see the rise and fall of social democracy and of prospective racial equality within that democracy. But how are they interconnected? And how have they been affected by the decline of the white supermajority?


The dominant theory is that there’s no connection. What we now call neoliberalism claims that social democracy declined naturally, through its inherent inferiority to the restored system of deregulated markets that enabled more complete business influence over economic decisions. This control was increased by the relentless weakening of unions and workplace bargaining, and hence of working-class political agency. The restoration disparaged governments — which had competed with business for control of economic ground rules — as vehicles of effective collective decision-making. Its leading figures, such as Ronald Reagan, attacked the medium of social democracy — the state and its public services — with such adages as, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

The mention of Ronald Reagan or any of the other apostles of neoliberalism, however, should cast immediate doubt on the claim that the decline of social democracy was unrelated to the rising prospect of racial equality — of, in particular, Black economic and political equality with whites. Whatever the assertions made in the worlds of economics and public policy, humanities scholars have long located appeals to white racial anxiety and resentment at the heart of the restoration of the American right, from Nixon’s Southern Strategy in the 1960s and his “New Right worker” in the early 1970s, to Reagan’s support for “states’ rights” and incessant racial dog-whistling about “welfare queens,” on through Trump’s racist demagoguery before, during, and after his recent presidential term. The indissociability of attacks on social democracy from the defense of white racial preeminence has been confirmed, deepened, and extended through recent research by scholars such as Melissa Cooper (on neoliberal family values), Elizabeth Hinton (on liberal-era social policy and policing), Nancy MacLean (on racism in public choice theory), Quinn Slobodian (on international relations), and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (on housing policy and practice). Each scholar puts white assumptions about and preservation of racial entitlement at the center of policies that pretended to be race-neutral. This research is part of a broad front of work on racialized capitalism that treats racial and economic policy as inextricably linked.

In short, advanced scholarship traces the triumph of neoliberalism to a capitalist restoration bound to (and propelled by) a spectrum of white supremacist projects. If we factor in the third trend of white demographic decline, we get a narrative counter to the mainstream one about an economic rising tide that lifts all boats. In this counternarrative, a majority of white Americans supported expanding social democracy while it was essentially for whites. But it became clear by 1970 that it was not likely to stay this way. Whites were losing their demographic supermajority, led by the more dynamic regions of the economy and culture. Formal racial equality during the 1960s implied substantive racial equality, which implied Black students in white schools and Black residents in white neighborhoods. Were it not curtailed, this equality push would clearly include Latinx, Asian American, and Indigenous populations that had also created important civil rights movements. Neoliberal economics satisfied the legal obligation to be facially colorblind while gutting public infrastructure and programs that supported fairer distribution of public and private goods across racial lines (though these were already deliberately limited in their potential for racial equity). In short, the three trends — declines in social democracy, civil rights expansion, and white demographic dominance — are not only correlated but causally interlinked. And this counternarrative notes the extent to which officials across the political spectrum refuse to acknowledge and respond to the fact that social democracy didn’t die a natural death but was slowly suffocated when it appeared that its bounty would be shared with people of color.

The policy of denial applies doubly to higher education, given its role as the institution assigned with making neoliberal economics equitable through its substitute golden rule, “learning equals earning.” In the dominant narrative, higher education that practices diversity, equity, and inclusion is racially just, and privatization and other subjections of the public-benefit idea of education to market calculations have not hurt racially equitable outcomes in any lasting way. In the words of one UC Berkeley chancellor, the high-tuition Berkeley that rejects between 80 and 85 percent of its applicants is “more public than ever.”

Nearly all higher education leaders have accepted the duty to repress the contradiction between neoliberal economics and racial justice. Higher education discourse now reflects the old saying, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” This has been true on student debt, where students could see their burgeoning loan balances even as a generation of college leaders denied — falsely — that financial aid shielded poor students from excessive borrowing. If you look at debt or income data, you can see that the most indebted demographic is Black women, and that Black and Latino/Latina graduates receive a systematically lower financial return on their college degree. Perhaps most shockingly, one study found that, “[t]wenty years after starting college, the median debt of White borrowing students has been reduced by 94 percent — with almost half holding no student debt — whereas Black borrowers at the median still owe 95 percent of their cumulative borrowing total.” Nonetheless, Black and other students of color are asked to believe that financial aid, coupled with diversity programs, make up for racial gaps, and that if gaps persist, it’s the fault of something other than the funding model that university leadership accepted and still defend.


The denial gets nasty when anyone suggests that increased proportions of students of color enabled or even encouraged voters and politicians to disinvest from public education. Your eyes can see the statistics clearly enough. During the 30 years between 1960 and 1990, degree attainment and real per-student funding grew together, with the catch that the attainment growth was almost entirely white. During the next 30 years — from 1990 to 2020 — attainment rates for students of color grew quickly enough to reduce the white share of college degrees for the first time (see my essay “Budget Justice” for details). But there was a catch: during the second period of significant racial “catch-up,” per-student funding stopped increasing, was cut during many of the years of that period, and finished 2020 about six percent below its real-dollar level in 1990. Many more students of color got college degrees. But they were degrees deliberately cheapened by public policy.

If white college supermajorities get budget growth and racial diversity gets cuts, is not state college funding a textbook case of structural racism? The answer from political and educational leaders has been no — the causes were economic, and cuts were forced by non-racial matters like recessions, the financial crisis, and COVID-19. Economic forces were obviously important, but the question is how the impact of such forces is determined politically, and states generally cut higher ed more than they cut other areas (K-12 education, prison systems, health care, transportation, and so on). When the economy comes back, states don’t make up previous losses to public college budgets but do keep tuition increases. Public university presidents and the politicians who cut their funding have an underlying agreement that cuts haven’t hurt university quality. Alleged proof rests on expanded business activity: more use of online courses, Learning Management Systems, and other teaching technology, usually provided by outside vendors like 2U, Google Classroom, and many others; expanded private fundraising; private-public partnerships for research, student housing, etc; more for-profit master’s degrees and related educational services; increased borrowing on commercial markets; and more technology transfer to the private sector, licensing fees, and start-up companies. Politicians and presidents have a shared interest in the private sector successfully taking up public slack. Presidents have downplayed the effect of shortfalls in the public funding that donors expect to be there to support their gifts. The economics of UC Santa Barbara’s proposed Munger Hall offer a painful example: even were the design acceptable, the $200 million proposed gift would require the campus to find $1.3 billion on its own.

The privatization model doesn’t actually work to support public university solvency, but the deeper social issue is what the model is doing to the intellectual development of today’s students. Both major political parties have found it expedient to decouple educational quality from public funding, and use abstract indicators to claim that budget cuts haven’t meant educational decline. They refer to student course evaluations or satisfaction surveys and quantitative proxies for student success like time-to-degree (shorter is equated with better, even if in reality it means less learning). These surveys simply don’t capture the quality of the student’s education. Surveys also don’t capture quality trends that might be related to the university’s worsening material conditions: the students of 2018 did not know what they did or didn’t get compared to the students of 2008, much less of 1988, in the way of class size, amount of coursework, frequency of feedback on writing or problem sets, depth of feedback, scope of required reading, and so on. They can’t assess what the growth in the share of contingent faculty has done to these things. Faculty do know how their teaching practices have changed, as they are embedded observers over the course of their careers. But they have little voice in the policy arena, even when they write books as good as Broke, though hope for the impact of professional knowledge springs eternal.

Laura T. Hamilton and Kelly Nielsen have interviewed quite a good number of different kinds of people to see what is actually happening to students in the permanent austerity regimes on two of UC’s junior campuses. Their findings threaten the “as good or better” claims on which rest the denials that privatized funding schemes hurt educational quality.


The authors dedicate their book “to the brilliant, resilient, and spirited students of UC-Merced and UC-Riverside.” I can only endorse all these descriptors of UC students, given my long experience at another UC campus. If faculty perceptions of their students drove educational policy, we would live in a very different university world. Hamilton and Nielsen focus on this world from a faculty perspective, and answer a question that is widely ignored in official statements, both on campus and off: What are the current political and managerial systems specifically doing to these students? What is happening to resident undergraduates in a kind of best-case state, the wealthy knowledge-economy of California, largely controlled by a Democratic supermajority from before the beginning of this century?

The book tells the story of specific conditions at these two UC campuses, which we should see as the system’s shadow flagships, since they educate the working-class students of color who have formed the overwhelming majority of the state’s K-12 system for decades and who are the state’s future economy and culture. The authors’ answers are of national interest, since California is what the country would get if the mainstream Democratic Party got much better at winning statewide races.

I’d reconstruct the Broke story line as follows. The Cold War pumped good funding into public universities, which grew rapidly to meet demographic expansion. UC Riverside was part of a university system that benefited as much from Cold War science funding as any in the country, but Riverside had three features that caused it to diverge from flagship campuses like UCLA. One was its origins as an “elite liberal arts campus,” which weakened its claim on the only funding firehose research universities had, which was for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) research. The second was its location in the smog belt at the eastern end of the Los Angeles air basin, which hurt student demand. The third was that same location: the Inland Empire was the last oasis of affordable single-family homes in Southern California, within commuting distance of working- and middle-class jobs — and it attracted Black and Latino families looking for home ownership in an economy that both discriminated against them and limited economic stability to homeowners.

Hamilton and Nielsen emphasize the defining role of Ray Orbach, UCR chancellor between 1992 and 2002, who saw which way the polluted economic winds were blowing. He evolved a new type of research university based on enrollment revenues from a new student population of working-class students and students of color. While more prestigious coastal UCs were mostly stuck in existing footprints, the Riverside area — and the campus — boomed, as did state and tuition resources tied to student numbers. The authors identify a “new university” model of which Riverside was the leading UC exemplar, which was to offer high-quality undergraduate education to a minority-majority populace. Indeed, UCR’s white student share fell from 74 percent in 1980 to 12 percent in 2016. At the same time, the money from enrollment growth partially rebuilt UCR’s research infrastructure.

Thus, in Act I of our story, UC Riverside reflects a win-win proposition for the New American University (a term coined for its most famous example, Arizona State University, by that university’s president Michael Crow and his writing partner, the historian William Dabars). The claim is that underserved populations are admitted to a research university in the tens of thousands, while the scale and quality of the research improve by leaps and bounds, for the benefit of state and society.

But Act II sees the defeat of Act I’s New American University in its Orbach-Riverside formation, keeping the access and enrollment growth but downgrading the education these minority-majority and working-class students have access to. The state gave less money per in-state student under both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, cuts that in turn damage Riverside’s core mission of strong university education for all students, especially those from poorer high schools with limited college-oriented coursework. The negative effects of these cuts have been widely denied by politicians and administrators alike, and this book’s key strength is to unveil and specify these effects. It identifies the everyday educational damage done at our underfunded research universities that enroll majorities of working-class students of color.

Act II has been marked by cuts and denial, and also by intellectual retreat. (So far, there is no third act for the US public university.) Few UC senior managers saw the “local students” social mission as of historical importance because it pointed toward full racial equality in academic achievement. Those who did were mostly in student affairs or academic affairs and not in executive positions. The implicit theory was that mainly serving the minority-majority is what you do when you can’t win in the research and selectivity rankings: you take your ball and go play in the junior league of social missions. No administrator would say this quiet part out loud, but it was operationalized by UC’s Office of the President, which through these crucial decades gave less state money per student to the younger campuses like Riverside, thus functionally associating greater proportions of students of color with a smaller share of funds. Achieving racial equality in intellectual development never acquired the academic-administrative prestige needed to counter the reign of the STEM research mission, which, during the 1990s, smoothly transitioned from Cold War defense to the commercialization of basic research, particularly in engineering and biomedicine.

Had Riverside succeeded in linking great research and great instructional resources to a supermajority of working-class students of color, it would have been a kind of minor-key university revolution. It would have retained a social-democratic funding system while reducing the postwar period’s racial exclusions. But Riverside was thwarted by the solidification of the traditional status metrics during a deliberate state policy of permanent austerity. The status metrics included high selectivity in admissions, high percentages of non-resident students attracted from other states and countries, high levels of fundraising, major science prizes, very large science grant income, top rankings of the Big Four professional schools (medicine, law, business, engineering), and high levels of technology transfer, corporate research sponsorships, and spin-off companies. Most senior managers acted and allocated as though universities like UCR pursued low-income students of color because that’s who they could get, cursed by geography and weaker academic departments, and surrounded by larger and stronger competitors. A few dissident presidents valiantly battled this revenue-exclusivity model: there was Freeman Hrabowski at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, bulldozing status arguments with Black achievement, or ASU’s Crow, famous for ridiculing the standard practice of judging the success of a university by how many it excludes at admission. But the academic status system has never really left the 1950s, and its interaction with austerity drained the minority-majority project.

Then, having underfunded its new public university model at Riverside, UC did the same with the even more Latino, working-class, and locally focused new campus at UC Merced. If Riverside was a bargain-basement UC, Merced was funded like its convenience store.


I’ll continue with Hamilton and Nielsen’s Act II story. UC students pay the same tuition regardless of campus but receive fewer resources at some, including Riverside and Merced. This is bad for those students but good for the system: UCR and UCM do the “lion’s share of student body diversity work for the system,” the authors write, thereby appealing to the supermajority Democratic state government, while helping the historic research flagships keep the larger per-student sums their eminence requires. UCM and UCR wind up “running political cover” for UC, to cite the title of chapter three. These campuses institutionalize austerity as a permanent condition (chapter four), meaning always trying to “do more with less,” such as advise each student in less time this year than you did last year.

Austerity locks in as a routine practice what a UCM administrator, in a shocking term, calls “tolerable suboptimization.” This Orwellian phrase means substandard results redefined as standard results. The authors describe this as “an official policy” at UC Merced. Tolerating the substandard of course contradicts every official statement of the overall university in its commitment to excellence in the context of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” That suboptimization is official policy at even one campus should blow our cynical minds. That it is in fact unofficial policy across UC, differentially applied on each campus to disciplines and people of lesser status, should blow our minds again. But people who work at public universities largely accept suboptimization as their fate — or, more precisely, as the fate of a campus’s lesser disciplines and populations.

Suboptimization (chapter five) leads to quite a bit of do-it-yourself student labor in creating the conditions of bearable daily life (chapter six). In the new university, students are asked to create hospitality for their working-class and racialized cohorts through their own work in underfunded student centers, student government, and campus movements. Riverside had established several race-specific centers long before austerity was imposed, and the authors argue that these are major unsung factors in supporting students of color. By contrast, primally underfunded Merced has lumped all ethnicities into one “multicultural” diversity blob — in spite of the fact that focused diversity work is essential to academic success. A high proportion of “new university” students are the first in their families to attend college, and/or attended high schools with fewer college-required courses and fewer college-bound peers, and/or have suffered from various kinds of class-based and race-based exclusion or marginalization, and/or feel and are treated as outsiders on their own college campus, and/or are the subjects of microagressions and misprisions that are no less painful for being “minor” or routine.

When students from poorer high schools enter much more competitive university environments, they often need more support — tutoring in types of math assumed in their first-year chemistry courses but not taught at their high school, to take just one example. This is one key reason why the medical-school pipeline has a massive leak of underrepresented students in the first week of the first year of university course work. At relatively wealthy institutions, diversity work is a professional staff job organized by large offices of student affairs and others. At Riverside and Merced, it means students negotiating resources with administrators, explaining problems to staff, faculty, and other students, doing casual representing of one’s race on a daily basis, spending time in organizing and activist work to get basic resources into the academic as well as the social environment, and defining deeper forms of equity/equality and pushing for them in an age of lip service and administrative fatalism. Underrepresented students “should not need to engage in high levels of racialized equity labor just to comfortably exist,” Hamilton and Nielsen trenchantly note, but at underfunded diversity universities they do.

Though new universities can’t put transformative resources into student learning, they can still market their students’ diversity profile, and that is what they do (chapter seven). When “everything is for sale in the contemporary research university,” it’s not surprising that universities also engage in “selling students.” Campuses like UCM and UCR have a wealth of “academically successfully racially marginalized students.” Administrators seek, the authors write, “to exchange a predominately non-white student body for attention, respect, and funding by offering white-dominated organizations racial heterogeneity and/or the appearance of commitment to diversity — in what we refer to as a ‘diversity transaction.’”

Of course, a “transaction” can in theory be a win for both sides. Is the “diversity transaction” just the authors’ snide way of referring to the widely desired college effect of social mobility for students of color? As in other chapters, Hamilton and Nielsen use empirical detail to support their criticisms. They interview a number of people involved in the Pepsi pipeline at UCR: Pepsi sees UCR as a “core” campus for recruitment, a vision driven in part by Pepsi managers who were UCR alums and who want both organizations to thrive. Pepsi runs workshops and works with UCR’s cultural centers to develop an “executive pipeline program.”

The hitch, however, is where the pipeline leads: to “field leadership positions” in communities of color. As one Pepsi manager put it, “If I’m selling to a Korean business owner, I have folks on my team that are Korean that can speak to them in their language.” The authors found that diversity transaction means mainly mid-level jobs marked by “racial matching.” UCR was “prestigious enough to produce what Pepsi representatives considered to be leadership material” but was not as prestigious as UCLA or USC, whose students might “come in with all these high expectations.” UCR furnishes corporate partners with students of color who could be racially matched to frontline operations in communities of color: they performed white-collar operational jobs in a blue-collar segment of the larger corporation.

Such jobs provide relative upward mobility from the working-class or poor backgrounds of many “new university” students in a state like California, with its gigantic low-wage workforce whose children are looking for a way out. At the same time, this type of “college job” reinforces social hierarchy, one that reflects the hierarchy of higher education and even of its individual systems such as UC itself. “What these managers are describing is a hierarchy of recruitment, tightly linked to university rankings.” Riverside is higher in rankings than open-access colleges but lower than UCLA or USC. The lesson is, go to a diversity college and get a diversity job.

That may well move a student intergenerationally from working class to middle class, but it also leaves them in lower-paid jobs in a company that recruits at its top from top-ranked universities. In other words, the new university reinforces hierarchical inclusion, in which graduates of color cannot complain that they are excluded from the jobs market but where they do not enjoy the open mobility that people associate with the term. This is consistent with findings that the US has lower overall social mobility than comparable economies. It puts the new university in the role of a humble feeder that gets diverse students into jobs but lacks either the resources or the status to de-racialize economic inequality or reduce that inequality itself.


Given the authors’ harsh but well-founded assessment of universities like UCM and UCR, what kind of remedies do they imagine might work? They have five recommendations, and one — to get rid of the SAT requirement for application — has already happened. After a trial period, UC has now made the SAT test optional in admissions. This abolition was a victory for antiracist policy that also puts an overdue spotlight on the real purpose of universities — immersion in the processes of lasting cognitive development that can produce much greater equality of educational outcomes than does the current system.

On the other hand, the practical effects of dropping the SAT requirement are not yet clear. A study by the UC Faculty Senate suggested that it could hurt rather than help certain kinds of racial diversity. Test-optional policy also does nothing to fix the underlying resource and educational problems that are the focus of Broke. Setting aside the SAT may function as another mode of the diversity management that covers up root problems.

The authors’ four other remedies are reasonable variants of known progressive proposals. These are also ambiguous and limited. For example, they formulate their first solution as “challenge diversity logics.” But “challenge” sounds a lot like starting a conversation about a set of diversity practices that have been criticized in their modern forms since the late 1980s, and that have fed on their opposition. Challenging diversity is what produced the diversity practices the authors critique in the book. Their alternative mode, “equity,” means attending to “history, positionality, and power.” But a large minority, if not the majority, of participants in diversity practices have been doing that for many years in classrooms and in the student affairs programs and student movements such as those that created the UCR student centers in the 1970s, and in the scholarship lying behind this book. Equity is in fact a key goal of diversity programs, signaled by the stock term I mentioned earlier, “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” How would challenging diversity and promoting equity break with the restricted, commodifying regime the book skillfully critiques?

I find a similar incompleteness in the three other solutions: “combat organizational hierarchies,” “encourage collaborative systems” (among campuses in systems like UC and CSU), and “reinvest in public higher education.” One cannot but agree with these general goals. Yet as formulated, they are a call to continue a process of politely oppositional engagement with decision-makers that has endured for decades, has gone mostly sideways on policy (Merced’s backsliding from Riverside’s 1970s-era student centers), has exhausted and even discredited the academic left, and has, to repeat, helped create the very conditions of deprivation that the authors critique. I mean no condescension. I have spun my wheels in the same track, because that’s been the track we have.

This book is so valuable because it offers specific evidence that the neoliberal educational funding model, whose UC instance has been carefully defined, has in fact hurt educational quality. It tells the story of the educational effects on students of systemic resource inequalities. It shows what happens when a renowned university system not only tolerates suboptimality but redefines it as the new normal. But how can we respond to this knowledge? Five options spring to mind.

One is a verbal rupture with the consensus. Post-consensus scholars might then end their books with proposals for radical change: abolishing governing boards appointed by the state governor, for example, or dissolving the (inherently hierarchical) UC system, or submitting all administrative appointments to votes of faculty, staff, and students, or socializing university funding to allow the zero tuition that is already on the policy table. The audience for this language would be not so much academic sociologists, senior managers, and statewide Democratic politicians, but students, their families and neighbors, a range of social movements, and colleagues across campus. Progressive sociology has had more public impact in the eras when it frankly exposed the dead elements of the existing consensus and responded to the radical segments of a wider public and of its own imagination.

A second option is to break down the wall of public disinformation about the practices and political economy of higher education as such. I’ve already mentioned a prime example: higher education leaders have persuaded most people that low-income students are economically protected by financial aid. The wall of confusion about higher ed needs to be knocked down. And that will mean a sustained national educational campaign about what college is really for (learning first, earning as a side effect), how learning happens, what academic research is, how learning and research are currently funded, and what happens to students in the current system depending on their backgrounds and the campuses they attend.

Third, replace open-ended engagement with specific, racially egalitarian goals. Set timelines for achieving them. State government has committed UC to closing racial gaps in graduation rates — by 2030. That’s good. It should do the same for eliminating graduation gaps between differentially racialized campuses, like Berkeley and Merced. The same goes for eliminating gaps within campuses across departments.

Fourth, support these equal outcomes with equalized resources across campuses and disciplines (limiting differences to those that reflect actual differences in real costs). Don’t penalize students who study philosophy instead of electrical engineering with near-zero academic advising. It is in fact possible to quantify budget justice and develop a realistic plan for pursuing it. At the same time, the numbers need to be linked directly to the specific benefits that would accrue from this kind of radical or “non-reformist reform.” Coherent story lines need to be developed to explain the results.

Every campus already has dozens of staff members whose job it is to tie resources to activities, which leads me to a fifth project: the educational redesign of majors and their relation to research through groups combining student staff, academic faculty, and students themselves. Working together, these groups could answer the educational questions that should determine budgets rather than the reverse. For example, what should be included in academic advising? How often should student and advisor meet? For how long each time — 15 minutes? 60 minutes? How can technology help a process that must stay fully individualized? How should advising vary by major? How should advising vary by the student’s personal and educational background? Then, at the end of this process, how much do we need to budget for a service that we have defined entirely through collaboratively established educational goals? Faculty, students, and student affairs staff now constitute three parallel universities, and their separation has undermined the process of defining the non-financial effects of university learning that, as a result, remain mostly invisible to the general public. Nothing will change without meaningful integration of the educational thinking and desires of these three groups.

Hamilton and Nielsen have done the enormous service of connecting the rise of an academically ambitious majority of students of color to the fiscal starving of the campuses where their numerical majority is plain to see. It’s not a rhetorical flourish to call UC Merced and UC Riverside textbook cases of structural racism. Broke both clarifies this racism’s educational effects and points toward ways it can be overcome.


Christopher Newfield is a professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them (2016), among other books.

LARB Contributor

Christopher Newfield is distinguished professor emeritus of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara and director of research at the Independent Social Research Foundation, London. He is the author of The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them (2016), among other books.


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