Letter to the Editor: Stake in Boston schools a good move

Ryan Luks’ letter to The News (“No sign of university learning to spend logically,” Oct. 18) raises the question of how Northeastern spends its money, which certainly includes tuition money.

It’s an important issue and deserves discussion. Where an institution puts its money and resources is an exact measure of that institution’s values at a given point in time (much as the federal budget – fed by our tax dollars – communicates, for good or ill, our national values and priorities). A good example is the proposal in another letter to The News last week, which urged Northeastern to divest its holding in corporations doing business in Darfur. This would possibly cost the university something in stock market profits, but there are profound ethical reasons for considering such a move.

As far as the university’s announced contribution (jointly with four other universities) to the Boston Public Schools, here are some reasons I think it is important: Northeastern occupies considerable real estate in the city of Boston and benefits from the infrastructure and services of the city. This new level of educational involvement is a welcome measure of reciprocity. The university’s expansion has historically removed many hundreds of units from the affordable housing market and has impacted the neighborhoods of the Fenway and Lower Roxbury in significant ways. This obligates Northeastern’s sensitive involvement in the well-being of its urban surroundings.

Northeastern’s connection to public education in Boston contributes to building a vibrant and safe city. Certainly the vitality of Boston is one of the reasons many of our students decided on Northeastern in the first place. A powerful public school system is an important part of the city’s dynamic. It’s the principal way to lift young people, who will be responsible for the Boston of the future, onto a path that will lead to a productive and creative life. Neglect of the schools opens the door to the conditions that spawn urban violence.

Northeastern is, in its essence, an engine of education. What better way to contribute to the city than to make available its faculty, staff, students and resources to build a rich educational partnership with the public schools? We may not agree with every choice the university makes. But the university leadership’s decision to increase our stake in the Boston schools is, in my opinion, both correct and hugely important. It’s the right time. And it’s the right thing to do.

– Robert Case is a professor of mathematics education.

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