University News

Protesters ask Corp. to boost contributions to Providence

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, February 13, 2012

 

About 20 students gathered Friday at the Van Wickle Gates to pressure the University to pay its “fair share” to the city of Providence. The press conference called on the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, to increase Brown’s voluntary contributions to the city. President Ruth Simmons announced that the University will continue discussions with the city in an email to the Brown community Saturday. 

“Brown likes to position itself as the social justice leader amongst the Ivies. But if we want that branding, we have to take responsibility for what those values mean,” said Aaron Regunberg ’12 at the press conference.   

The inability to find money in the University’s budget for the city stems from misplaced priorities, Regunberg said. “In 2009, Brown paid its 14 highest-compensated employees $7,734,758. That’s just a little under twice as much as the entirety of the deal the city is currently asking for,” Regunbeg said. 

“If we can afford to give out that many six- and seven-figure salaries, then I think we can throw down a bit more to keep additional Providence children from losing their schools,” he added, referencing Providence’s closure of four schools last year.

Despite an often critical tone, the speakers stressed that the goal of the protest was not to condemn the University. Nicole Hasslinger ’15 said she believes “the way in which Brown has been vilified throughout the tax discussions is unfair.” 

The Corporation did not agree on a new payment plan by the conclusion of its meeting this past weekend. 

The University’s level of contribution to the city has come under fire in recent months because of Providence’s precarious financial outlook. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras announced earlier this month that the city may face bankruptcy in June if an approximately $22 million budget hole is not addressed. Taveras and President Simmons renewed discussions regarding the University’s payments earlier this month.

Last year, the University paid the city $4 million in taxes and voluntary contributions. The protesters said they hoped to see Brown double that number in the coming years.

The University has signaled its willingness to increase support in ways that align with its mission, but the city’s demand comes as Brown faces its own financial difficulties. “We’re not in a position where there’s extra money floating around,” Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 told The Herald. 

The University is focused on ensuring that “whatever we do doesn’t complicate or place undue financial strain on Brown itself,” Schlissel said. 

The protesters said they did not see this position as a reason to neglect Brown’s duty to the city. At a time when nearly all Providence residents have sacrificed, Brown can do more than it does now, Regunberg said.

 

— With additional reporting by Shefali Luthra