past event
US Education Policy

SOF Digital Discussion: The Inequality Machine: How College Divides Us

Join us for an SOF Digital Discussion featuring Paul Tough, author, contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine, and speaker on topics including education, parenting, equity, and student success, in conversation with Ruth Simmons, President of Prairie View A&M University. Tough and Simmons will explore longstanding inequities in higher education and will highlight the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated those disparities. They will address the student debt crisis, underfunded public institutions, and the “free college” debate and conclude with insights into what the path to a better, more equitable system looks like.

*If you are not currently a member of the Society of Fellows, and are interested in joining, please contact the SOF team at or 970-544-7980.


Paul Tough is the author, most recently, of “The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us.” His three previous books include “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character,” which was translated into 27 languages and spent more than a year on the New York Times hardcover and paperback best-seller lists. Paul is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine; his writing has also appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, GQ, and Esquire, and on the op-ed page of the New York Times. He is a speaker on topics including education, parenting, equity, and student success. He lives with his wife and two sons in Austin, Texas, and Montauk, New York.

Ruth J. Simmons serves as President of Prairie View A&M University. She was President of Brown University from 2001-2012. Under her leadership, Brown made significant strides in improving its standing as one of the world’s finest research universities.
A French professor before entering university administration, President Simmons held an appointment as a Professor of Comparative Literature and Africana Studies at Brown. After completing her Ph.D. in Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard, she served in various faculty and administrative roles at the University of Southern California, Princeton University, and Spelman College before becoming president of Smith College, the largest women’s college in the United States. At Smith, she launched a number of important academic initiatives, including an engineering program, the first at an American women’s college.
Simmons is the recipient of many honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship to France, the 2001 President’s Award from the United Negro College Fund, the 2002 Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal, the 2004 Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal, the Foreign Policy Association Medal, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Centennial Medal from Harvard University. Simmons is a member of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Council on Foreign Relations, and serves on the boards of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Holdsworth Center. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Square. Awarded numerous honorary degrees, she received the Brown Faculty’s highest honor: the Susan Colver Rosenberger Medal in 2011. In 2012, she was named a ‘chevalier’ of the French Legion of Honor.


Event information
Tue Oct 6, 2020
3:00pm - 3:45pm EDT
Digital Discussion