University News

Faculty approves public health school

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The faculty unanimously approved a motion to create a school of public health Tuesday night. The Corporation will vote on the proposal at its February meeting. 

The motion’s passage was met with enthusiastic applause, marking continued progress towards the school’s creation, a process that began in 2000.

Terrie Fox Wetle, associate dean of medicine for public health and public policy, presented the motion, which she said had already been approved by Provost Mark Schlissel P’15, former president Ruth Simmons, President Christina Paxson and multiple faculty committees. The proposal was not discussed further, which Paxson attributed to the fact that the faculty had already extensively done so. If approved in February, the school will be on track to receive accreditation by the national Council on Education for Public Health in 2015, The Herald reported in October.

Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12 announced that VIVO, a new online database for faculty research profiles that will be used in annual salary reviews, will go live in a few weeks. Faculty members will receive an email Dec. 3 with instructions on how to revise their VIVO profiles, which will already include their most recent Curriculum Vitaes, before making them public.

McLaughlin said VIVO will more effectively publicize faculty members’ achievements, and its integration with annual salary reviews will be an incentive to keep its information current. The old research website will remain online until February, McLaughlin said. VIVO will also comprise new tools that could allow faculty members to search keywords and access research information from other institutions in the VIVO database.

Several faculty members voiced concern that some of the information they provide in their CVs to their departments is not information they would want to be available in a public domain. University librarian Harriette Hemmasi, who is overseeing the transition to VIVO, said she is aware of those concerns. VIVO is open-source software, Hemmasi said, so the University could customize it to create a private field for faculty members to enter such information without making it public.

Schlissel gave an update on the discussions of the University Resources Committee, a body composed of administrators, faculty members, students and staff, which makes budget recommendations to the president in its January report. 

The URC’s current discussions involve making incremental budget increases to various departments and initiatives, including operational costs for the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts and mentoring programs for junior faculty members, Schlissel said. 

In addition, there has been a request for additional officers in the Department of Public Safety, motivated by a recent “uptick” in robberies on College Hill, Schlissel said.

The URC has not yet begun what Schlissel called its most difficult discussions: tuition increases and the pool for faculty and staff salary increases. Though the percentage of net revenue coming from tuition has remained fairly constant near 35 percent, the University is still much more dependent on undergraduate tuition, particularly when compared to its peers. Additionally, returns on its endowment represent a much smaller portion of Brown’s budget – 15 percent – than many of its competitors. The budget has been stable in that all of its main components have been increasing at similar rates, but the question arises of “how much further we can push tuition,” Schlissel said.

Paxson also referenced financial concerns in her update on her meeting with the Corporation last month. While she said she wants her administration’s strategic planning process to be “expansive and bold,” the University is seeing plateaus in two significant revenue sources: its endowment and federal funding. Returns from the University’s endowment were at  1 percent last year. Paxson said she remains optimistic about Brown’s finances, adding that these concerns are not “an immediate crisis” but will be important considerations in the University’s long-term planning.

Both Paxson and Schlissel voiced praise of Ed Wing, dean of the medicine and biological sciences, who on Monday announced his decision to step down as dean at the end of the academic year. Schlissel said Paxson asked him to chair the search process to replace Wing, which he said will begin in earnest at the beginning of 2013.

The faculty also unanimously passed a motion to revise the Faculty Rules and Regulations. The change increases the faculty membership of the FEC to 10, establishing a position reserved for a lecturer or senior lecturer.