Beaming young people and their proud parents will flock to the immaculate New Haven campus, eager to start their climb further up the ladder of American success. They know, as they surely knew the day they arrived, that their passage through such an august institution prepares them for a life of financial security and high social standing. They know, in other words, that as much as any young people, they are positioned to advance to the rarefied world of elite America.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Connecticut, twelve community colleges and four public universities – including one found in the very same city – are starved to death by austerity and neoliberalism, as the Democrat governor and a Democratic state legislature in a rich blue state enact brutal cuts to education, social services, and mental health care, while fighting to cut taxes on corporations. The cuts to the Connecticut State University system are particularly devastating. They risk killing majors, shuttering departments, and destroying tenure. Programs that help shepherd a student body that comes disproportionately from non-traditional backgrounds, and thus need help the most, are under threat.
Until we reach that better world, we’ll be left with these ugly divides. In a sea of political ugliness, it’s hard for me to imagine a more stark statement of America’s grand failures than this, a starving public university system that serves the poor and the brown and the needy, while next door a school for the 1% sits on $25 billion dollars, untaxed. CSU students, like Yale students, will walk on campus lawns with caps and gowns, eager to begin their new lives.