Commitment to our Community in a Time of Uncertainty
January 29, 2017
Brown University President Christina Paxson and Provost Richard M. Locke published this letter in the Brown Daily Herald student newspaper Sunday, Jan. 29, as an open letter to the Brown community.
Message from Brown’s President and Provost
During this moment of great political uncertainty in our country, including the recent signing of various executive orders and possible policy changes ahead affecting education and research, we must be vigilant and deliberate in upholding our core values as a university.
Last Tuesday, in conjunction with our Reaffirming University Values series, we gathered approximately 100 concerned Brown faculty members to discuss Brown’s core values and how they will inform our work as a community moving forward. We stressed our unwavering commitment to fully support members of our community and to protect their unfettered capacity to engage in teaching, research and the free and open exchange of ideas.
We feel it is an important moment to articulate the values and principles that will guide Brown as we advocate to preserve and sustain the core of what we do and navigate the uncertainty ahead. These include the following:
— Our firm commitment to the advancement of knowledge, fact-based scientific inquiry and scholarship across the full breadth of disciplines represented at Brown. The principles of fact- and reason-based inquiry are key to how we understand, analyze and address the most difficult challenges we face as a society.
— Our uncompromising conviction that for our University community to excel in creating knowledge and preparing leaders, we must maintain a community in which ideas can be freely developed, expressed and contested in a rational and respectful manner.
— Our insistence that individual students and scholars are free to pursue their scholarship and learning without fear of intimidation or discrimination based on their identities, backgrounds, areas or methods of scholarship and social or political views.
— Our unconditional rejection of every form of bigotry, discrimination, xenophobia and harassment.
Last week’s faculty discussion centered on areas of grave concern — from the immediate and operational to the philosophical and existential. Among the issues raised were challenges to research, especially focused on environmental change and reproductive health; immigration and the targeting of students and scholars from predominantly Muslim countries; and a broad range of concerns related to civil rights, harassment and hate crimes.
When we met with faculty to discuss these issues at that early point in the new Congress and presidential administration, we could only speculate on what the future might bring. Therefore, in addition to stressing our strong commitment to support members of our community, we also shared information on the range of resources in place across the University to monitor relevant legislation and policies at all levels of government; join with our peer institutions to advocate for issues of importance to our mission; and support our faculty, students and staff under any range of scenarios, such as threats to academic freedom and incidents of bias, discrimination or harassment.
A test to our values came faster than we had expected. Only a few days after our meeting, a new executive order has compromised the visa status of Brown community members from a group of predominantly Muslim countries. A team of Brown administrators is gathering information and providing much-needed guidance and assistance to affected members of our community. Just as we continue to support our undocumented students and students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, we will do everything in our power to ensure that these valued members of our community can continue their research, teaching and learning at Brown.
Brown stands in support of the letter issued Saturday by the Association of American Universities, of which Brown is a member. That letter urged the current administration “as soon as possible, to make clear to the world that the United States continues to welcome the most talented individuals from all countries to study, teach, and carry out research and scholarship at our universities.”
During this time of uncertainty, it is essential that we reinforce our mission and our values, and continue to do what we do best — promote learning, truth and justice. Every member of our community has a role to play. We look forward to working together to uphold and reaffirm our values.
Christina Paxson, President
Richard M. Locke, Provost