Dear Members of the Brown Community,

There are hardly words to convey the pain I heard expressed today by our students and guests who convened on campus this weekend for the Latinx Ivy League Conference. And, in any case, I know we are at a point as a campus community where there is little patience for more words. So I write to you tonight to talk about action.

For those of you who have not seen Executive Vice President Russell Carey’s email from earlier this evening, an incident took place late Friday night between a student delegate attending the conference from another university and event staff security and Department of Public Safety officers. The incident is under active investigation to determine the facts of what took place.

I apologized this afternoon to our students and our guests for the fear and pain this incident has caused. And now I extend this apology to our entire campus community, especially to our students of color — our African American, Latinx, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander and multiracial students — for the hurt, anger, confusion and frustration that this incident has contributed to our ongoing discussions about racism and inclusion at Brown. Today’s events add to the deep feelings I’ve been hearing about from our students predating this incident.

I have heard the pain in the experiences that have been shared, and we know it’s time to act. Here are the actions we are committing to. Right now. Tonight.

  • Recognizing that the conference was unable to continue after this incident, Brown is committing to fund a rescheduled conference on whatever timetable the students desire, and we will commit funds so that every student can attend for free.
  • I will send a letter of apology tonight to the presidents of the institutions who sent delegates to this weekend’s conference, letting them know I am sorry for the pain their students experienced, and of Brown’s commitment to fund another conference for their delegates.
  • We will ensure we are just in the pursuit of the investigation of today’s incident, and that we have all the facts. The investigation will be thorough, and we will share the outcome with the campus community. As Russell noted in his email, the officer involved will perform administrative duties and will not be on patrol while the investigation is being conducted.
  • At the meeting today, I heard that students have concerns about racial profiling, independent of this weekend’s incident. We will examine the need for additional diversity and sensitivity training for all officers in the Department of Public Safety, who currently undergo annual diversity training. I know that our head of Public Safety, Mark Porter, agrees that Brown should hold itself to the highest standards.
  • Russell’s communication tonight ensured that our community is aware of the direct and anonymous reporting systems for concerns about Public Safety or event security. But I will reiterate here that students, faculty and staff can submit reports either by directing them to Public Safety at (401) 863-3322, or to Brown’s anonymous and confidential Ethics and Compliance Reporting System at (877) 318-9184.
  • We will accelerate the timing of the agenda currently being planned by the BUCC to allow students to engage with Public Safety around issues of race in a forum.
  • I will meet with the students on the Public Safety Oversight Committee to determine whether they feel student voices are adequately represented. The Undergraduate Council of Students and Brown Center for Students of Color recruit students to this standing University committee of students, faculty and staff that reviews the practices, policies and procedures of the Department of Public Safety. We will examine whether students feel an additional oversight group could strengthen the role students should have.
  • I will work with the staff in the Brown Center for Students of Color to establish a regular schedule for meetings with students on issues of race, so that a broader number of students have the opportunity to participate.
  • We will move forward with completing the University’s Diversity Action Plan to include the commitment to a campus climate survey that focuses on both inclusion and systems and structures of exclusion. Provost Richard Locke and I shared the intent to release this plan in an email earlier this week, and we remain on track to share the plan before the end of the month.

These are immediate actions, but not the full extent of our work as a community to confront issues of diversity, inclusion, power, privilege, inequity and injustice. We cannot move forward until it is irrefutable from our actions and our deeds  that students of color are valued members of our community. We cannot move forward before acknowledging that, as a community,  we do not fully understand the full breadth of the problem that we are trying to solve. We must continue to work together to achieve the diverse, inclusive campus that every member of our community deserves.

I write to you tonight with a commitment to work with all of you to effect real change.

Sincerely,

Christina Paxson