Dear Members of the Brown Community,
Many of us went to bed last night or awoke this morning with feelings of persisting uncertainty for what yesterday’s election may mean for our communities and the issues that matter to us, not only as a University, but as individuals with families and affinities beyond Brown. Over the coming days, we know that a multitude of “what if” questions will anchor many conversations in homes, offices, online and in dorm rooms. While none of us can predict with confidence what the answers may be, we feel it is important to offer some core assurances based on our values as a University community.
First, we want to emphasize that there are many opportunities for reflection, examination and being in community with one another over the coming days. As challenging as this political season continues to be, we are able to invest ourselves — our fervor, our ideas and our drive to improve the world — in what Brown does best, which is advancing knowledge and pursuing solutions through education, research and service. Although the public health crisis demands that we do this in different ways than in the past, without gathering in-person or traveling for rallies or marches or teach-ins, departments across campus are bringing students, faculty and staff together in virtual events.
We invite you to join us at 7 p.m. this evening for a webinar of reflections, sponsored by the Office of the President in partnership with the Office of the Provost and Division of Campus Life, and including perspectives shared by students, faculty and staff. Many in our community already have registered for the Race & Social Movements In America event being held at noon today via Zoom webinar; the School of Public Health will host Public Health in the U.S. at 3:30 p.m. this Thursday, Nov. 5., as part of its Election Aftermath series; and the Watson Institute will host a Student Election Debrief at noon Thursday, while the Swearer Center will host a Where Do We Go From Here? virtual debriefing at 7 p.m. the same day.
All of this is part of the enduring strength of Brown, which is especially important during this time of uncertainty. We are a community that educates, ignites discovery, and supports each other as we pursue our values of independent thought, adherence to science, promoting racial, ethnic and social justice, equity, and international peace and cooperation.
And this is the assurance we offer: No matter what the outcome of this election, the University will continue to take action on issues that have implications for the education, research, scholarship and people who make Brown who we are. Our commitment to stand for what’s right for higher education and what’s right for Brown has not wavered, no matter who has occupied the White House and no matter what the makeup of Congress or local governments has been over the years. And this will not change.
Just days ago, Brown filed an amicus brief with 24 other colleges, universities and academic medical centers to block new federal visa rules that would irreparably harm research and teaching by jeopardizing the status of international workers. This followed a comment letter submitted by Brown last month in opposition to a separate federal proposal to impose new limitations on international students and scholars. And advocacy earlier this year included efforts to combat systemic racism; uphold the use of the best science in setting federal environmental policies and regulations; and provide emergency COVID-19 relief for the nation’s research workforce. Issues related to affirmative action in admissions, immigration, and sexual assault and Title IX also are among Brown’s many advocacy efforts in recent years.
Brown’s status as a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution must continue to guide all University activities, but we remain a community that safeguards our mission and confronts discrimination, racism and violence, and we continue to care for and support all members of the Brown community. We persisted in this work before the election, and we’ll remain steadfast in the months and years to come.
As you consider your own continued civic engagement — and how to engage safely during the COVID-19 pandemic — please remember the guidance and policies shared in a community message last week. It includes information concerning safety protocols related to activism, as well as standards for use of University resources. In addition, BrownVotes.org has compiled a list of events and support, while Brown’s identity, cultural and community centers are hosting hours of open conversation about the election over several days.
Many of us feel unsettled in this time of ongoing uncertainty. Some will ask, “What can I do?” Brown has a legacy of students, faculty, staff and alumni effecting change in their communities around the globe. Many will volunteer with local or national organizations, engage with elected representatives on issues of personal importance, seek elected office, or continue civic participation in local elections. Others will start or join critical social movements. In this moment of political, economic, environmental and social unrest, we as individuals have an opportunity to decide how we can contribute to meaningful change.
Whether you choose forms of engagement or to use this time for reflection, we hope that all who live, work and study at Brown find moments to be in community safely with one another.
Christina H. Paxson, President
Richard M. Locke, Provost