Stephen Walters writes for the Martin Center about the role — good or ill — of urban universities.

Look at any map of our recent presidential elections and a key fault-line in our fractured country becomes clear. Cities and their denser suburbs vote overwhelmingly Democratic and show up as blue islands.

It’s also true that many of our most influential universities are located on those islands and leftist sentiment is even more pronounced in them than in their host cities. One recent study found that in a sample of over 7,000 faculty at 40 universities, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of 11.5-to-1, and by an astounding 33.5-to-1 among historians.

As a few commentators have pointed out, progressive ideology hasn’t been very effective in addressing urban ills such as poverty, crime, and inequality. And as academe becomes ever more ideologically monolithic and intolerant, it’s worth asking whether solutions to such problems are likely to be found there—and, indeed, whether the academy bears some responsibility for exacerbating them.

Unfortunately, those are not the sorts of questions to which Rutgers University history professor Steven Diner devotes much attention in his Universities and Their Cities. That is a pity, for based on his lengthy career as an academic, administrator, and president of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities, he might have had much to say about the impact on cities of the perspectives and policies often popularized in academe.

Instead, Diner serves up a bland, chronological summary of issues that will be of chief interest to students of the history of higher education administration.