Dear Members of the Brown Community,
The Corporation of Brown University recently completed its winter meetings, which were again spread out over two weeks given the need to conduct meetings virtually. For those who are new to the community this term, the Corporation (the name given in the Charter of the University, written in 1764) is the University’s governing body. The Corporation comprises a Board of Fellows and a Board of Trustees and is responsible for matters of policy and long-term planning. Trustees and fellows represent a broad range of professions, experiences and perspectives, and are chosen through a variety of processes — including alumni and student elections — but always for their commitment to the University and its mission of education and research. More information about the trustees and fellows as a whole, biographies of members, and their roles and responsibilities can be found on the Corporation website: https://www.brown.edu/about/administration/corporation
While the COVID-19 pandemic is a present concern in many discussions among the Trustees and Fellows, and through its Committee on Risk and Audit the Corporation has carefully monitored our health and safety policies and practices, the focus of the meetings remained academic excellence. Committees such as Academic Affairs engaged in topics such as equity and integrity in admissions, strategic plans for advancing research, external reviews of academic departments, and lessons learned this year from online and hybrid instruction for a student body that was distributed across the world that can be used to improve educational practices in the future. The Committee on Facilities and Planning received a progress report on a number of capital projects, including the Performing Arts Center and the Wellness Center and Residence Hall, as well as planning work underway to quantify and assess research space utilization which will inform academic priorities and investments in this important area.
In a strategic session as a whole, the Trustees and Fellows heard from Provost Locke and faculty leaders Thalia Field and Avery Willis Hoffman regarding the current state and future opportunities for the Brown Arts Initiative (BAI). They presented the work of a faculty committee appointed by the Provost last fall and charged with considering how the BAI might be further strengthened and supported in its efforts to center the arts at the heart of Brown’s campus and curriculum. This is a particularly timely topic as the Performing Arts Center continues to be constructed and is also consistent with Brown’s values and commitment to the arts, an area of academic excellence that too often suffers cuts and retrenchment in difficult economic times. The Corporation expressed enthusiasm for the work of the committee, and looks forward to receiving further information as the faculty discusses the trajectory of the BAI in the coming months.
In the same session, Dean of the School of Public Health Ashish Jha shared observations from his first few months at Brown and emerging plans for the School. The Trustees and Fellows thanked Dean Jha and his faculty, staff and student colleagues in Public Health for their excellent work furthering the academic goals of the University and in particular for their leadership locally, nationally and internationally providing scientific facts, evidence and life-saving guidance to the public as we continue to confront COVID-19.
Consistent with its focus on academic excellence, the Corporation approved a recommendation of its Committee on Nominating and Governance to establish a standing Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. The Corporation has had an ad hoc committee in place for several years overseeing the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, and all members felt it was the appropriate time to make that committee permanent. The new committee will be responsible for oversight and governance of the strategies Brown employs to maintain an equitable working and teaching environment, and to increase diversity and inclusion, consistent with the goal of improving Brown’s strength in education and research. The full charge, along with those of all other committees, is available on the Corporation website.
BROOK STREET RESIDENCE HALL PROJECT
A year ago, we announced the selection by the Corporation of Deborah Berke Partners to design a new undergraduate student residence hall on Brook Street, between Charlesfield and Power Streets. That project was paused due to the pandemic, but at this week’s meetings the Committee on Budget & Finance approved the resumption of design. The two buildings, which will face each other across Brook Street and are made possible in part because of the generosity of a donor, are anticipated to house approximately 400 students and be available for occupancy in fall 2023. Along with the Wellness Center and Residence Hall nearing completion this summer further north along Brook Street, this will mean a total of over 560 new on-campus beds for undergraduate students. In addition to providing suites with single rooms, flexible community spaces and retail space intended to meet the needs of third- and fourth-year students, these projects will substantially alleviate the impact that the demand for off-campus rental units has upon local neighborhoods in Providence.
The Committee on Budget & Finance also authorized construction of a Meehan Auditorium renovation project which will transform the men’s, women’s and coaches home locker rooms and provide upgrades to the Davis Lounge. These renovations, which have been fully funded through the generosity of Brown alumni and parents, will be complete for next academic year.
FY22 TUITION AND FEES
The February meeting of the Corporation traditionally includes consideration of the mid-cycle report and recommendations of the University Resources Committee (URC), chaired by Provost Richard M. Locke and composed of students, faculty and administrators. Last year, we initiated a new base budgeting process in order to provide for more accurate, multi-year budgeting and planning for individual academic and administrative units and the University overall. The URC now operates on a full-year schedule and will present their recommended budget, including the university financial aid budget which we expect will outpace increases in tuition and fees, for FY22 to me later this semester for action at the May meeting of the Corporation.
At this meeting, the Corporation acted on recommendations regarding two important budget items: FY22 tuition and fees, and faculty and staff compensation merit pools. The URC engages in a deep and thoughtful review of University priorities and available resources and recommends strategic allocations in support of academic excellence and access to a Brown education. With regard to tuition and fees, this included a review of historical increases. The URC recommended a proposed increase in tuition and fees of 2.85% for undergraduate and non-variable graduate programs, the lowest such increase in many years. This increase will provide additional revenue to the University to support strategic priorities while maintaining Brown’s commitment to accessibility to students from a diverse range of backgrounds. I recommended that increase, and it was approved by the Corporation. The Corporation also approved recommended increases to variable graduate, executive, and medical programs, and summer and winter session.
The Corporation also approved a faculty and staff compensation merit pool of 2.5% for FY22. In making this recommendation, the URC noted that they felt strongly that although the pandemic has had substantial financial consequences for Brown, given the University’s FY21 pause in merit increases and reduced retirement contributions, it would be important and advisable to plan for merit increases in FY22 to advance strategic priorities. The URC’s proposed merit pool is fiscally responsible while ensuring the University’s capacity to remain an employer of choice in Rhode Island and the region.
Finally with regard to financial matters, the Corporation also approved the recommendation of the Budget & Finance Committee to reinstate the University’s contributions to staff and faculty retirement plans for eligible employees, effective as of the first pay period beginning on or after February 28, 2021. As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the University took several actions to mitigate the financial impact including reducing retirement plan employer contributions in November. The Committee on Budget & Finance felt, and the Corporation agreed, that it is now appropriate to reinstate those contributions to their prior level.
ACCEPTANCE OF GIFTS AND OTHER ACTIONS
The Corporation formally accepted individual gifts and pledges made since October in the amount of $1 million or more. Totaling approximately $168 million, these generous commitments provide critical support to a wide range of Brown’s academic priorities. The success of the BrownTogether campaign to date and in the future builds from gifts of many dollar amounts, and all are essential to our success and deeply appreciated.
The Corporation approved the establishment of endowed positions in recognition of gifts having been received:
- The Barrett Hazeltine Professorship of Practice with the generous support of Jon C. Styslinger '85, P'21 and family;
- The Urry and Comfort Family Professor of Practice with the generous support of James A. Urry '76, P'15, P'22 and Nathalie C. Urry, P'15, P'22;
- The Aqua Clinical Professorship in Medicine with the generous support of an anonymous donor;
- The Eliot Horowitz '03 Assistant Professorship in Computer Science with the generous support of Eliot Horowitz '03;
- The Wan Family Men's Golf Club Coach's with the generous support of Bo Wan P'19 and Rui Li P'19.
The Corporation approved the appointment of the following faculty to a named chair:
- Ieva Jusionyte, Watson Family University Associate Professor of International Security and Anthropology.
Students met with members of the Corporation on Thursday evening; the Committee on Campus Life received an excellent presentation from Graduate Student Council President Kathryn Thompson; and the Fellows met with officers of the Medical Faculty Executive Committee to learn about issues of concern to Brown’s faculty members.
Finally, the Corporation extended sincere gratitude to all members of the Brown community for your continued resilience in the face of the pandemic and commitment to the academic mission of the University under the challenging circumstances we all find ourselves in.
Christina H. Paxson