Metro, University News

Students petition U. to increase pay to city

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, March 12, 2012


Roughly 60 students delivered a petition with more than 600 signatures from students, staff, faculty and alums to the University Friday, demanding Brown increase its payments to Providence. The group, Brown for Providence, advocates increasing the University’s financial support to the city to rebuild the relationship.

The group entered University Hall just after noon Friday to present the petition to President Ruth Simmons. Since Simmons was not in her office, they gave it to an administrator, who promised the president would receive it.

“I think this petition demonstrates that there is a growing feeling the University is not doing enough to support its city,” said Zack Mezera ’13, who helped organize the petition. 

Brown contributed more than $4 million last year in voluntary and tax payments to the city. The protesters have previously asked Brown to approximately double its voluntary payments with an additional $4 million annually. Discussions between the University and the city about this issue are ongoing.

At a time when Providence residents are suffering from higher taxes and reduced government services, Brown should pay its fair share, Mezera said. Providence Mayor Angel Taveras has publicly stated that if the city does not close its $22.5 million deficit, it could face bankruptcy in June.

Organizers said students have demonstrated a lot of support for the petition and seem genuinely concerned about Brown’s relationship with its host city. 

“I’ve been knocking on doors in dorms, and I think 75 percent of people, once I explain the issue, do sign the petition,” Mezera said. “It leaves me hopeful for the future as we continue to reach out and think about what a relationship with Providence can look like in the long term,” he added.

Before entering the building, Rebecca Rast ‘13.5 read statements alums had included with their signatures on the petition supporting the group’s efforts to put pressure on the University. The statements each received vocal support from the protesters.

Alum statements called on Brown to contribute to the city, just as the University asks its alums to contribute to Brown, emphasizing that the University is not separate from its host city.

The presentation of the petition represents the culmination of several weeks of work spreading awareness and seeking support for the group, Mezera said. The group hopes to continue to meet with University officials and Simmons if possible, he added.

The protest followed a Janus Forum student debate held Thursday night that examined the University’s relationship with the city. 

Rast said some people at the debate were using the fact that 55 percent of Brown students volunteer in the city as a reason why the University should not pay more. 

“We wanted to show there are hundreds of students that support having the University increase their payments and also create a stronger plan for improving relations with the city,” she added.