Simmons College Offering Boston 2024 Course This Fall

Should we wait for Course 2.0?

Simmons College

Photo courtesy Simmons College

When the United States Olympic Committee pulled the plug on Boston 2024 nearly a month ago, many in the media—including myself—wondered how we might look back on the embattled bid. Indeed, the history of the doomed effort to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Massachusetts is already being written—and as of this fall, taught.

Simmons College, located in the Fenway, will offer an undergraduate course titled “Boston Olympics 2024,” which will examine various aspects of Bids 1 and 2.0 in the context of Susan Fainstein’s The Just City, as well as the work of Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College professor who debated Olympic boosters in the saga’s first and only televised debate.

Teaching the course will be Dr. Michelle Kweder, a critical management scholar who also teaches in Simmons School of Management. She says Fainstein’s award-winning book “talks about democracy, equity, and diversity being key to ‘just’ urban planning.”

“My hope is that at the end, they have a framework to understand/evaluate the planning that will occur while they are in Boston and if they stay,” says Kweder, a veteran of the Mayor’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations under Tom Menino.

Simmons solicited proposals for courses with a Boston focus, which are required for undergraduate students. Though there were guidelines, proposed courses ranged from case studies to more hands-on community engagement. Kweder’s proposal caught the eye of College of Arts and Sciences Dean Renee White.

“I was really interested when I heard that this was going to be one of the selected courses,” White says. “We want to make sure that students have an opportunity to think through contentious issues. How do you approach these? … How do you look at a city and have a conversation about what its needs are?”

Though the bid is dead, many aspects like housing and long-term development still hold relevance, White says. “Something like this is such a great opportunity. You’ve got this debate that’s unfolding right in front of you.”

Kweder says her dream guest speaker panel would include Boston 2024 CEO Rich Davey, Mayor Marty Walsh’s Olympic liaison John Fitzgerald of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, Robin Jacks of No Boston 2024, and Chris Dempsey of No Boston Olympics. Asked if her affiliation with a group that opposed the bid would make objectivity a concern, Kweder isn’t too worried.

“I have been asked that, but no one is objective. All knowledge is socially created,” Kweder says when asked if her opposition to the bid while still alive would present any concerns for objectivity. “I would really, really like more voices on the ‘yes’ side that had data on their side. But it is really hard to find peer-reviewed research that holds up and supports mega-games. It just isn’t there.”

But if anyone will change her mind, Kweder says it’ll be her students.

“The fact that it was a contentious issue for many just reinforces why having a rigorous, thoughtful debate and having a lot of info that you can draw on to have a fully thought-out argument is important,” White says. “Contentiousness can cause people to fall back on ‘I feel this is true, so it must be.'”

Both sections of the class, each containing 15 students, is full.