I’m an independent journalist who writes about racial equity and scholarly research. I previously worked for more than a decade as a reporter at The Chronicle of Higher Education, the leading source for news about academia.
At The Chronicle, I wrote a series of articles about universities’ role in the nation’s reckoning with slavery. I investigated how Georgetown University and public flagships in Georgia and Mississippi buried their slave ties or blocked descendants’ attempts to redress that past. I examined how new slavery scholarship is recasting the narrative of capitalism, to the outrage of some economists, and challenging cherished public myths in cities like Detroit and New Orleans. I looked at how some universities that benefited from slavery, working with Black colleges and descendant communities, are becoming laboratories for modeling how institutions across society can create reparations programs. My reporting on colleges and slavery — described by Nikole Hannah-Jones as a “devastating indictment” of America’s inability to grapple with its history of enslavement — won a national feature-writing award from The Education Writers Association and has been cited by NPR, The Economist, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. I also worked to hold colleges accountable on racial justice more broadly by reporting on how they responded — or didn’t — to activist campaigns seeking to diversify curricula, reform policing, expand prison education, and remove Confederate icons.
My coverage of research, much of it for The Chronicle Review, focused on long- and short-form profiles of scholars stirring debate inside and outside academe. Subjects included sociologist Alice Goffman, whose account of young Black men caught up in the criminal-justice system instigated a research-ethics controversy; physicist William Happer, who shaped President Trump’s climate skepticism; anthropologist Jennifer S. Hirsch and psychologist Claude A. Mellins, who changed our understanding of campus sexual assault; Nancy MacLean, whose history of the right became an intellectual flashpoint; philosopher Christopher J. Lebron, who reframed the Black Lives Matter campaign; literary scholars Rita Felski and Lisa Ruddick, who attacked the cynicism and paranoia of their field; historian Caroline Elkins, whose research on Kenya’s Mau Mau uprising laid the groundwork for a landmark British reparations case; sociologist Saskia Sassen, who confronted her father’s relationship with Adolf Eichmann; economist Dani Rodrik, who took on the role of sleuth and political activist when his father-in-law was accused of plotting to overthrow the Turkish government; and Abdullah T. Antepli, an imam who became a lightning rod in campus Israel wars.
Before moving to the ideas beat, I covered technology. I co-wrote a report examining how the Gates Foundation maintained an outsize influence over education policy by spending hundreds of millions on media, think tanks, and government advocacy to promote its controversial, tech-focused reform agenda. The project earned an investigative reporting prize from the Education Writers Association. I covered the rise of online learning: how innovations like hybrid classes, flipped classes, self-paced classes, and open online classes upended the student experience and disrupted college business models — while raising new concerns about fraud and the outsourcing of instruction to companies. I examined how colleges applied a “Moneyball” approach to mining data about student behavior, using algorithms to suggest friends and courses, personalize course materials, and predict failure — while raising new concerns about the erosion of privacy and the elimination of serendipity from college life. I covered the growth of digital humanities, including new majors that teach undergrads to deconstruct technologies rather than texts, Wikipedia-like archives that enlist the public to analyze historical data, and literary labs that machine-read millions of books.
Previously I covered religion and higher education for The Times Union newspaper in Albany, N.Y. I’ve also written for The Guardian and The New York Times. I studied literature at University of Michigan and journalism at Columbia. I grew up in Queens, N.Y. and Princeton, N.J. and now live with my wife and daughter in Washington, D.C.