University News

Web update: Faculty vote to up URC undergrad representation

By
Senior Staff Writer

Four undergraduates will serve on the University Resources Committee next year – an increase from the current two students – following the passage of a proposal at Tuesday’s faculty meeting. The change passed with 38 faculty members in favor and 25 members opposed. 

Faculty members also heard about the appointment of a new associate provost for academic development and diversity who will lead the Office of Institutional Diversity and passed changes to faculty rules clarifying the writing requirement and concerning the expansion of Global Independent Study Programs. President Ruth Simmons spoke about the financial agreement reached between the University and the city of Providence, and the Committee on Faculty Equity and Diversity spoke about the current status of faculty diversity.
The approved revision regarding the URC, which makes budget recommendations to the president, will place four undergraduates on the committee — two with a year of experience serving on the committee and two new members. Currently, one of the two student members has a year of experience.

The change will allow the two senior undergraduate members to make significant contributions to committee discussions, while the two junior members can learn the ropes of committee procedures and concerns, said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15.

The proposal came from students on the Undergraduate Council of Students, who were “expressing concern that they were underrepresented on the committee,” said Peter Shank, chair of the Faculty Executive Committee and professor of medical science. Students made the point, he said, that the committee allows 2,000 graduate students to be represented by two students, and that 6,000 undergraduates should be more proportionally represented.

The committee is currently composed of six faculty members, five administrators, two undergraduate students, two graduate students and one medical student. UCS elects student representatives to the committee in conference with the provost.

Luiz Valente, professor of Portuguese and Brazilian studies and comparative literature, called the approval “a radical change” to the principles of faculty governance. The number of faculty representatives is not proportional to the size of divisions within the University, he said, adding that representation of students need not reflect their size on campus. 

The URC is a faculty committee created to represent the diverse bodies of the University on financial matters, the proposal reported. The URC works by consensus, moving as a whole to propose measures to the Corporation and to the president, Schlissel said. This advisory capacity allows for students to represent undergraduate interest and also for students to be a liaison in keeping budget discussions transparent to the entire campus, he said.

For students, the URC is a “great and unique window into the happenings of the University,” Evan Schwartz ’13, one of the two current representatives to the committee, told The Herald. It is inspiring that it took only this short proposal to give more student representation to the committee, he said, adding that the makeup of students on the committee currently “is not quite fair representation.”

The proposal passed after much debate.

Faculty members also heard a report from Schlissel regarding the announcement of Liza Cariaga-Lo as the new associate provost for academic development and diversity. She will serve as the director of the University’s Office of Institutional Diversity. Cariaga-Lo currently works at Harvard as assistant provost for faculty development and diversity and was the search committee’s top candidate, Schlissel said.

Cariaga-Lo held a similar position at Yale prior to her time at Harvard as well as working as an assistant clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine, according to the Harvard website for faculty development and diversity. She will begin her term at Brown July 1, Schlissel said.

Faculty members also unanimously passed a proposal to rename the “English requirement” to the “writing requirement” for all degrees within the College. This change will allows diverse departments to take ownership of the requirement, said Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron, adding that students can design writing education more directly into the course of their study with this clarification. The motion passed with little debate. 

Faculty members also passed a motion by the Dean of the College to distinguish between the different programs of independent study. This proposal clarified the Global Independent Study Program as a distinct study opportunity for students who study abroad, something not mentioned before within the faculty rules, the proposal reported. This motion passed unanimously with no debate. 

In her last faculty meeting, Simmons addressed the recent agreement reached between Providence and the University. “We are not getting … anywhere near a value equivalent to $30 million,” Simmons said of what the city will return in exchange for the money.

As per the agreement, Brown will give Providence $31.5 million dollars over the next 11 years, which will increase this fiscal year’s contributions by $3.9 million. The University will receive four blocks of streets and 250 parking spaces. Simmons said the agreement would allow the city and the University to enter into rational discussions about the nature of the relationship between the two entities. 

Simmons said it has been ”an extraordinary privilege” to lead the University. Brown should set its aspirations higher, she said, adding that in order to compete as a global player, the University must support research and scholarship at the highest level.

Melinda Rabb, chair of the committee on faculty equity and diversity and professor of English, reported on the diversity among faculty members, adding that the current faculty is less diverse than it was 10 years ago.

“Is this okay with you?” she asked.

The committee will prioritize the mentoring of minority and female junior faculty members, she said, adding that the committee needs faculty support and ingenuity to rethink the current lack of faculty diversity.

The FEC also applauded Simmons on her time as president and leader of the faculty. Simmons “has led by example … and deftly guided us as President,” Shank said. Members of the committee presented Simmons with flowers.

President-elect Christina Paxson will assume control of faculty governance when she takes the reins July 1, and she will lead faculty meetings starting in the fall. As a leader in these meetings, Paxson should “maintain enough neutrality in the midst of debate,” Simmons told The Herald, adding that faculty members must feel comfortable expressing opinions without pressure from administrators.

In order to lead faculty members, Simmons said, the President must be “very patient, tolerant and respectful.”