University News

Progress on S&J recs remains steady

Contributing Writer
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In the three-and-a-half years since the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice issued its report on Brown’s former links to the slave trade, steady progress has been made on its recommendations — which included creating a slavery memorial, a center for the study of slavery and justice and a $10 million fund to help support local public schools. The committee also recommended expanding the Africana studies program at Brown.

The work of the highly publicized committee has sparked similar investigations at other institutions into their roots, said Marisa Quinn, vice president for public affairs and University relations.

“There has been this other influence for other institutions to take on this same kind of endeavor,” Quinn said. “These are significant and lasting initiatives.”

Contemplating a memorial
The University’s Public Arts Committee, tasked with commissioning a memorial commemorating Brown’s and Rhode Island’s ties to the slave trade, met in February to discuss locations for the memorial, said Jo-Ann Conklin, director of the David Winton Bell Gallery and a member of the University’s Public Arts Committee.

Potential locations include the main campus as well as the Jewelry District, though the committee is leaning towards placing it on Brown’s main campus, Conklin said.

The committee, which consists of seven permanent members and a few temporary members invited for “diversity and historic background,” will meet again in May, and expects to choose an artist and have a proposal by December, Conklin said.

“It needs to be an inviting space for contemplation and thought,” she said.

Though the committee will choose among artists’ proposals, the final product will be up to the artist to decide.

“I really think it’s best to leave this to the artist to come up with,” she said, though it is important that the memorial “reflect the findings of the report.”

A new center’s creation
Minor progress has been made toward a new center for the study of slavery and justice since an advisory committee reported its recommendations for the center, said Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98.

The 2008 report from the advisory committee proposed the creation of the Institute on Slavery and Justice to promote the study of issues related to slavery, genocide, human trafficking and other crimes. The committee recommended the creation of an endowment and a dedicated space to support the institute.

In a collaborative effort between the history, American civilization and Africana studies departments, the University has been looking for a director to head the center, Kertzer said.

Though an offer was recently made to a historian, negotiations fell through, Kertzer said. Nonetheless, he said the University will re-launch the search.

“We hope to identify someone in the coming year to join us in the summer of 2011,” he said.

Local Education
Programs supporting local education inspired by the steering committee’s report include the education department’s Urban Education Fellows program and the University’s Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence.

The Urban Education Fellows program is a tuition-free program that requires fellows to work for a minimum of three years within the Providence school system either teaching or determining policy, with the goal of enriching local public schools, said Chair of the
Education Department Kenneth Wong.

Six fellows will graduate this year, compared to the nine that graduated last year, Wong said.

“From my perspective, that’s the most significant investment,” Wong said. “Human capital.”

The fund — for which the University has currently raised only $1.5 million, of an intended $10 million — disbursed grants last year that included a grant to provide graphing calculators to all secondary students in Providence, Wong said. But he said the fund is not likely to award more grants of that size in the near future.

“This is an ongoing initiative,” Wong said. “We will probably wait for another year to make a significant investment in that regard.”

Brown is also working with local government and schools in various other ways, including teacher education and revising Rhode Island policy, Wong said.

“Instead of looking back, we should be thinking about the future,” he said.