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Our Shared Values

November 9, 2018

Dear Members of the Brown community,

This is an important moment for the graduate student community at Brown. As graduate students consider whether to join a union, or not, I take this opportunity to share my views on graduate education at Brown and to highlight important initiatives that have been put in place in recent years.

Brown University has a long history of deep commitment to graduate education, and to engaging graduate students in decision-making through shared governance. This distinctive approach means that at Brown, graduate students from all disciplines and all backgrounds have a voice in virtually all major University decisions. Graduate students have a seat at the table on major University committees and governing boards. This shared responsibility is based on the principles of equity, inclusion and accountability to all, and stands as a defining feature of our institution. Our collective efforts have built on Brown’s history of student engagement, activism and advocacy. Enhancements in graduate education at Brown are also the result of our willingness to engage in open and constructive discussions.

This commitment has, in recent years, expanded our focus on supporting the increasingly complex professional and personal lives of all graduate students. The complexity of graduate education and training is not unfamiliar to me. I am a former graduate student, who was a first-generation college student, a first-generation graduate student, a first-generation American and a person of color. My experiences have allowed me to bring an attuned eye to the needs of all graduate students and a passion to eliminate barriers to success that students face.

As Dean of the Graduate School, I am proud of the recent initiatives dedicated to strengthening resources, enriching community engagement, refining advising and mentoring, increasing financial support and improving the balance between academic and personal life. Together with our graduate students, we have:

  • increased humanities and social sciences doctoral stipends by strengthening summer support.
  • added coverage of the summer health fee for doctoral students to ensure year-round access to Brown health services.
  • expanded Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) support for graduate students, including after-hours CAPS services for graduate students only.
  • introduced an additional transitional stipend payment for all newly matriculating doctoral students to ensure that the burden of acclimating to graduate school is minimized.
  • developed policies that clarify and strengthen the processes that lead to fair and just resolution of student grievances.
  • strengthened support for graduate students who are parents by implementing a new Parental Relief policy, expanding child care subsidies, and forming a working group to continue to reduce barriers for grad student parents.
  • enhanced resources for international graduate students to address professional development, tax regulations and legal services, as well as advocacy for those impacted by the federal travel ban.
  • launched new recruitment programs, a Student of Color orientation and new support for graduate students from historically underrepresented groups, including Diversity Fellowships.
  • awarded funding to 100% of 6th-year humanities and social science students who requested support, including a 5th summer of support.
  • increased University stipends to fully funded graduate students by at least 2.5% annually for the last 9 years.

By no measure do these initiatives signal the end of our efforts on behalf of graduate students. I look forward to moving these and other initiatives forward.

In the coming weeks, currently enrolled Brown Ph.D. and Master’s students who have been appointed as RAs, TAs or Proctors in the current semester or in the last year will vote on whether to join a union. I hope all will take the time to review the Be Informed website for detailed information about this vote. The outcome of this vote by some 1,250 eligible students will determine whether all current and future Ph.D. and Master’s students in these roles will be represented by SUGSE/AFT (Stand up for Graduate Student Employees and the American Federation of Teachers union).

Joining the AFT union would be a departure from our guiding principles of shared governance. It would shift representation of students while they are appointed as TAs, RAs and Proctors to the bargaining unit of the union. I believe that graduate students are their own best advocates, and that each student understands most fully the ways their disciplines, backgrounds, career goals and experiences may differ from those of others. I encourage all graduate students to speak openly with each other, and encourage those who are eligible to vote to do so. It is vital that all eligible students vote and have their voices heard, creating a strong student mandate.

I am grateful to have been invited to speak with a number of student groups and programs about these important issues over the past few weeks. It has been clear from these conversations that our mutual respect for each member of our community in the face of complex issues remains steadfast. I am proud to have been a member of this community for the past 25 years and am confident that graduate students will continue to make a profound impact as the next generation of faculty, leaders, and innovators who will help to address and solve some of society’s most complex problems.

My office door is always open.

Sincerely,

Andrew G. Campbell
Dean of the Graduate School
Professor of Medical Science
Molecular Microbiology & Immunology
Brown University