Dear Members of the Brown Community,

The events of the last six months – a global pandemic, increasing evidence of climate change, ripple effects of persistent systemic racism and political divisiveness – have demonstrated that the work of research universities such as Brown is more important than ever. At the same time, these events have exposed the economic vulnerabilities of institutions of higher education, many of which pre-dated the pandemic. These challenges include an over-reliance on undergraduate tuition and fees to support operations, a nationally shrinking pool of college-aged students, and slow growth in academic employment opportunities in some disciplines.

However, the events of the past six months have also taught us that Brown is capable of rapid innovation and change in how we educate and operate. This year provides an opportune moment to consider how we can harness what we have learned during the pandemic, so that Brown can emerge as a stronger university and community.

A central component of gaining academic strength requires eliminating Brown’s small but persistent structural deficit. This structural deficit is separate from the deficit caused by COVID-19, which Brown has already taken steps to address. In addition to eliminating the structural deficit, we must identify new resources that can be invested in core academic infrastructure such as laboratories and libraries, and improvements in other campus facilities such as classrooms and residence halls. Although Brown has become academically and financially stronger in recent years, thanks to excellent endowment performance and fundraising, the structural deficit has impeded the University’s ability to make investments in current and new areas of education and research.

I am charging an ad hoc committee to develop recommendations to promote the long-term financial health and sustainability of the University, with the specific goal of eliminating the structural deficit and identifying ways to enhance our ability to make strategic investments. The committee, led by Provost Richard M. Locke, will have a two-pronged charge: (1) to explore options for Brown to leverage our assets in technology, teaching and research to generate additional revenue; and (2) develop strategies for slowing the growth of our expenses through the adoption of new operational practices.

I want to stress that this is not an exercise in budget-cutting in response to COVID-19. Rather, the committee will engage in the kind of long-range planning that is necessary if we are to reduce Brown’s reliance on tuition and fees and ensure continued growth in the quality of our academic programs.

I want to thank the following members of our community for agreeing to serve on this committee:

  • Anna Aizer, Professor of Economics, Chair of Economics
  • Amanda Anderson, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities and English, Director of the Cogut Institute for the Humanities
  • Ugur Cetintemel, Professor of Computer Science, Chair of Computer Science
  • Diane Lipscombe, Professor of Neuroscience, Thomas J. Watson Sr. Professor of Science, Director of the Carney Institute for Brain Science
  • Ira Wilson, Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice, Professor of Medicine, Chair of Health Services, Policy and Practice
  • Jordan Kei-Rahn, Undergraduate Student
  • Akilesh Ramana, Undergraduate Student
  • Amanda Kazden, Graduate Student
  • Ella Kirsh, Graduate Student
  • Amber Jackson, Manager, Athletics Travel in the Department of Athletics and Recreation
  • Matthew Salvatore, Director of Data Analytics and Strategic Marketing in the Division of Advancement

In addition, the following administrators will join the committee:

  • Barbara Chernow, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration
  • Timothy Fater, Assistant Vice President for Financial Strategy and Planning
  • Adrienne Marcus, Dean for Pre-College and Summer Undergraduate Program
  • Shankar Prasad, Deputy Provost and Vice President for Academic Innovation
  • William Thirsk, Chief Digital Officer and Chief Information Officer
  • Leah Vanwey, Dean of the School for Professional Studies
  • Neil Veloso, Executive Director of Industrial Engagement & Corporate Ventures
  • Michael White, Vice President for Finance and Chief Financial Officer

The committee will be staffed by Chief of Staff to the Provost Marisa Quinn and will make recommendations to me no later than March 1, 2021.

One aspect of the committee’s work will be to engage the Brown community in generating innovative ideas for improving the University’s financial health. I encourage your involvement and thank you in advance for your assistance. I have no doubt that these efforts will contribute to making Brown a more resilient university and community.


Christina H. Paxson