Members of the Brown Community,
I write to report on the October meeting of the Brown University Corporation, which concluded yesterday. The Corporation engaged in discussions on a range of topics, including progress made on various components of Building on Distinction, and actions needed to continue to advance toward our goals. They reviewed in depth Brown’s financial model and processes in place to address the current structural budget deficit. The Corporation also reviewed the status of campaign planning and accepted more than $121 million in new gifts. Members received information on the Sexual Assault Task Force and on efforts that have been made since the May meeting to strengthen resources dedicated to improving awareness and prevention of sexual assault on campus. There was also discussion of the global threat posed by the Ebola virus, and what Brown can do to increase awareness and understanding of the epidemic while protecting members of our community.
The Corporation welcomed four new Trustees for six-year terms: George S. Barrett ’77 P’06 P’15, Genine Macks Fidler ’77 P’04 P’12, Alexandra Robert Gordon ’91, and Ralph F. Rosenberg ’86 P’17. Brief biographical notes on the new Trustees are available online.
Progress on the Plan
Since Building on Distinction was approved by the Corporation one year ago, notable progress has been made in a number of areas. During the strategic session of the Corporation, Provost Vicki Colvin discussed developments in the integrative scholarship areas, noting, for example, the establishment of the Brown Institute for the Study of Environment and Society and the complete renovation of Hunter Laboratory on Waterman Street as the new home for the Institute. She emphasized that investments and actions would be required across the integrative themes to reach our aspirations. In some areas, additional faculty may be needed, while in others new or renewed facilities may be necessary to ensure continued excellence.
During this same session, Maud Mandel, dean of the College, discussed initiatives underway in the area of the plan focused on educational leadership. She discussed proposals being reviewed to enhance opportunities for engaged learning both here and abroad; to strengthen undergraduate learning outcomes; to extend internship opportunities for all students; and to bolster Brown’s academic advising structures.
Stephen Maiorisi, vice president for facilities management, provided an overview of campus planning and development. He reported on the South Street Landing project, a public-private partnership between developer Commonwealth Venture, Brown, and the State of Rhode Island. The project will transform the vacant South Street Power Station in Providence’s Jewelry District into a new shared facility, allowing Brown to relocate a number of administrative offices and freeing up space on College Hill for high-priority academic needs. The University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College will also locate a shared nursing education facility in the building. The project will result in new housing suitable for medical, graduate, and nursing students; structured parking; and retail and incubator space. This is a complex development project, and progress is being made by all involved parties. We anticipate signing a lease in the next few weeks.
Steve Maiorisi also provided an update on the new academic buildings planned for the School of Engineering and the Division of Applied Mathematics. He noted that over the summer the architectural firm of Kieran Timberlake was selected for the engineering building. They are now beginning design of the engineering research lab, which is scheduled to begin construction by the end of the year.
With sufficient funds in hand, the Committee on Budget and Finance approved moving forward with construction of the Applied Mathematics building. The facility, which is being designed by Architecture Research Office (ARO), will be located along George Street near the primary home of Applied Mathematics at 182 George Street. Construction is scheduled to start in November and be completed in December 2015. The Corporation also heard about the ongoing engagement with neighbors that has taken place in conjunction with the Engineering and Applied Mathematics projects to ensure we are sensitive to the needs and interests of the surrounding community.
Developing a Sustainable Financial Model
During the strategic session of the Corporation, Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration, reviewed the current budget, noting the FY14 structural deficit of approximately $8.8 million that we must address responsibly over the next several years to ensure balance. There was discussion of the drivers of the shortfall, which are primarily a larger than anticipated financial aid budget and shrinking federal support for university-based research. Aware of the organizational review in 2009, and the important steps the University has made over the year to improve efficiencies, Corporation members discussed the University’s current approach to identifying options that would reduce spending and increase revenues.
Provost Colvin emphasized the ambitious growth that the University accomplished during the last decade, and that given the concomitant budget growth, it is not surprising to reach a moment requiring correction and re-balancing. She discussed the entities charged with engaging the community in developing options for the University to use in closing the budget gap over the next two to three years, including the Deficit Reduction Working Group and the University Resources Committee. The goal will be to solicit and craft a range of possible approaches and ideas, drawing on the strengths and creativity of the campus, to diversify revenue streams and reduce costs.
Although the operating deficit is only approximately 1 percent of our overall budget, we must confront this shortfall and bring the budget back to balance in two to three years, particularly as we seek to take on new initiatives.
Achieving the goals outlined in Building on Distinction and supporting increasing excellence in teaching, research and service will depend upon the continued support and generosity of our donors. In February 2014, the Corporation approved moving forward with planning the next campaign. Pat Watson, senior vice president for advancement, shared with the Corporation the status of campaign planning. She indicated that this year is devoted to refining the campaign goals and priorities, which will be driven in large part by Building on Distinction; determining the volunteer structure and recruiting leadership; developing a communications and engagement strategy; and ensuring staff have the tools and resources needed for success.
Sexual Assault Task Force
Brown is committed to taking the steps necessary to be a leader in the prevention of sexual assault and to following sensitive and fair procedures when allegations of sexual misconduct are brought to our attention. This is an area of significant importance to the Corporation, and we provided an update to the full membership on work done since the May meeting to improve and increase the awareness of resources devoted to preventing and managing sexual assault.
Frances Mantak, director of health promotion, and Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life, described enhanced programming during first-year orientation that addressed consent, healthy relationships and bystander intervention. They reported on hiring new staff members in Counseling and Psychological Services and University Health Services who will strengthen our prevention and counseling programs, and the active search for a full-time Title IX coordinator. They also discussed Brown’s participation as a study site for the University of New Hampshire’s White House Task Force study on effective ways to disseminate policy information to first-year students. The results will be presented to the White House in January.
The Corporation was updated on the establishment this semester of the Sexual Assault Task Force and the work planned this year in conjunction with its charge.
Brown seeks to support athletics and our scholar-athletes in meaningful ways that ensure enduring connections on campus, as well as with communities locally and globally. The Athletics Department has devoted the last year working with a broad-based committee of students, faculty, staff, and alumni to develop a new strategic plan to achieve these goals. Jack Hayes, director of athletics, met with the Campus Life Committee and reported on a number of items, including the recently approved plan, which is available on the athletics website.
Acceptance of Gifts, Establishment of Endowed Positions, and other actions
The Corporation accepted with gratitude a number of gifts to the University totaling more than $121 million in support of the strategic plan and other priorities. These include:
- From anonymous donors, a gift of $38,736,035 in support of the University’s strategic plan, Building on Distinction: A New Plan for Brown.
- From Richard A. Friedman ’79, P’08 and Susan Pilch Friedman ’77, P’08, a gift of $26,000,000 in support of the University’s strategic plan, Building on Distinction: A New Plan for Brown.
- From anonymous donors, a gift of $20,376,856 in support of the School of Engineering's new building, and a gift of $19,164,207 to be designated at a later date.
- From the Chen Family, a gift of $6,000,000, of which $4,000,000 will support an endowed professorship in China Studies; $1,100,000 will support the Chen Family Fund for Faculty and Student Engagement with China and Chinese Culture; $600,000 will support an endowment for global experiential teaching and learning, and $300,000 will support the Brown Annual Fund.
- From an anonymous donor, a gift of $3,000,000, of which $1,875,000 is for endowment to support undergraduate summer internships; $625,000 is for endowment to support Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards; and $500,000 is current-use funding to support the expansion of psychological services.
- From Joseph Edelman, a gift of $1,650,000, of which $1,000,000 is designated to support a fund for pilot research in circuit therapies and $650,000 is designated to support an upgrade of the Siemens 3T MRI scanner MAGNETOM Prisma in the Brown Institute for Brain Science.
- From the Thomas J. & Olive C. Watson Foundation, a gift of $1,260,712 to help establish an endowed professorship in the Thomas J. Watson Jr. '37 Institute for International Studies.
- From the Bernard Osher Foundation, a gift of $1,000,000 to support scholarships at Brown University for students who have experienced a cumulative gap in their education of at least five years and anticipate participation in the workforce for a significant period of time subsequent to graduation.
- From Alan L. Stuart ’59, P’87, P’90, P’92, a gift of $1,000,000 to increase the Stuart Family Fund, pending donor designation in support of the performing arts.
- From Cheryl C. Effron ’87 and Blair Effron, a gift of $1,000,000, of which $800,000 will be used to create a permanent endowment to support cross-disciplinary undergraduate education in the humanities, and $200,000 to provide current-use gifts for this same purpose until the endowment is fully funded.
- From anonymous donors, a gift of $1,000,000 to support the piloting of a new program for students to intern with U.S. public sector agencies for a semester after their first or second year at Brown.
- From a current parent from Hong Kong who wishes to remain anonymous, a gift of $1,000,000 to support a post-doctoral fellowship at the Watson Institute for International Studies for scholars working on China.
The Corporation approved the establishment of the Robert Family Professorship in International Studies, the Professorship in Brain Science, the Chen Family Professorship in China Studies, the Charles Evans Hughes 1881 Professorship in International Affairs, and a Professorship in Engineering from anonymous donors. The Corporation also approved the establishment of the Head Coaching Chair for Brown Varsity Women's Soccer.
In recognition of a $2,500,000 gift from the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, the naming of the “Sidney E. Frank Digital Studio” in the Rockefeller Library was approved. The Corporation also approved that the central reading room in the Rockefeller Library be named after the donors who gave a $1,000,000 gift for its renovation.
The Corporation approved the appointment of Takeo Watanabe as the Fred M. Seed Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences.
The October meetings offered the Corporation an opportunity to review in depth work that has occurred since May in a range of areas, to challenge the administration in constructive ways and to provide guidance and advice as we move forward. Corporation members remarked on the significant progress being made across the University. I am grateful to the faculty, students and staff that demonstrate, every day, their commitment to Brown and to working collaboratively to ensure that we fulfill our mission of teaching, research and service in valuable and lasting ways.
Christina H. Paxson
Professor of Economics and Public Policy