The Politics of Academic IT Policy: From Redlining to Digital Redlining

Concurrent Session 6
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Brief Abstract

Reinventions of redlining appear in digital practices affecting finance, employment, policing, and education. This digital redlining threatens working class students at community colleges


Chris is a Professor of English at Macomb Community College. His scholarship concentrates on privacy, institutional tech policy, digital redlining, and the re-inventions of discriminatory practices through data mining and algorithmic decision-making, especially as these apply to college students. His forthcoming article, “The New Pythagoreans,” looks at how popular misunderstandings of mathematical concepts create the illusions of fairness and objectivity in student analytics, predictive policing, and hiring practices.

Extended Abstract

These institutions often offer a distinct education that emerges from the intersection of their largely working class students with managerial models that shape curricula, assessment, and pedagogy. These institutional forces -- foundation grants, state funding, federal programs -- configure education as job training and service to corporate needs. They rationalize this strategy by emphasizing their curricular tactics as means of escaping poverty, serving community needs, and avoiding student debt.

These tactics require policy frameworks, and it is no surprise that the policies embody ideas about digital tools and digital culture that both expose and undercut the emancipatory narratives they espouse. Where redlining was once a geographic classification for channeling financial advantage to the white, middleclass, it has been reinvented in digital practices that affect finance, employment policing, and education. In education, this digital redlining arises out of uncritical policies that regulate the engagement of community college communities with technology.

The analysis of these policies at our own institution made visible the mechanisms through which working class students are oppressed - not liberated - by the positioning of digital resources. Our own institution's digital practices include the use of filtering systems; these systems block sites ranging from to, label faculty teaching sites as "porn", and make safe search" the default.