University News

Despite Goldman publicity, Simmons as popular as ever

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, April 12, 2010

Questions over President Ruth Simmons’ involvement as a member of the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs earlier this year seem to have done little to dampen students’ enthusiasm for their president. The most recent Herald poll revealed that Simmons’ job approval among Brown students has not changed from last semester’s 77.5 percent rating. But many students who supported Simmons admitted that they did not keep up with administrative issues at the University.

“I approve, but I am not totally familiar with everything she does,” said Jessica Feng ’12, noting that she had found little to dislike about Brown’s administration.

Kibwe Chase-Marshall ’10 said he is also “for the most part in approval” of Simmons. Though he is “not fully aware” of all administration policies, he is “comfortable not pursuing complete knowledge of the inner workings of the administration” because he prefers to dedicate his time and energy to other interests, he said.

Nkechi Eze ’12 agreed that she does not feel the need to probe further into the administration. “My needs are being met so far,” she said.

Though students’ critique of the University did not extend to Goldman Sachs, the economy as a whole was on students’ minds.

Rolando Huerta ’11 said he is aware of budget cuts at Brown but understands their “necessity.” He said he appreciates the University’s commitment to “expansive financial aid” during this time.

Feng said she was concerned about the University’s prioritization of capital building projects given the economic climate.

Stephen Beale ’04, co-founder of the Foundation for Intellectual Diversity — a non-profit that funds the Brown Spectator and brings speakers to campus — said Simmons’ resignation from the Goldman Sachs board “shows that she puts her ideological principles above pragmatism.” Her commitment to her values may be the reason why there was so little backlash, he said.

Though he is concerned about the University’s promotion of “left-wing” issues, Beale spoke positively about Simmons herself. “I think President Simmons is charismatic and inspirational,” he said, adding that she is “very diplomatic about how she presents her views” and “extends olive branches to other groups.”

Beale called Simmons “the Obama of Brown University,” citing her personality, charisma and public speaking abilities as reasons for her popularity. “It’s a phenomenon.”

Current students also pointed to Simmons’ personal qualities as key to their approval.
Eze said she likes how accessible Simmons is, citing her e-mails to the community, participation on panel discussions and open office hours.

Chase-Marshall said Simmons is “not just resting on her laurels” but actively working to improve the University. “She is very in command of her position,” he said.

“She cares, she has a good persona, a lot of students and faculty really respect her,” Huerta said.

Chantel Whittle ’12 cut to the chase. “I think she’s fabulous.”

The Herald poll was conducted on March 22 and 23 and has a 3.5 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. A total of 714 Brown undergraduates completed the poll, which The Herald administered as a written questionnaire to students in the lobby of J. Walter Wilson during the day and in the Sciences Library at night.