University News

Grad school vies for increased funding

The University budgeted 4 percent of its funds for the grad school, which some say is insufficient

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, March 14, 2013

Administrators and faculty members have expressed concern about what they called the small share of University funds allocated to the grad school, a subject currently being discussed by members of the Committee on Doctoral Education.

Faculty members criticized the level of funds the graduate school received in the recently-approved fiscal year 2013 budget — 4 percent of all funds — according to meeting minutes from the Faculty Executive Committee’s Feb. 12 meeting.

The Committee on Doctoral Education is in the midst of discussing the best ways to increase funding for the graduate school in the coming years, faculty members and administrators said.

“There is broad support among faculty and the administration that they want to increase support for the graduate school,” said Iris Bahar, vice chair of the FEC and professor of engineering.

This week, the FEC is talking to the president, the provost and University committees to figure out the best way to proceed, Bahar said. Issues under consideration include a timetable for increasing graduate school funding and target areas of potential additional funds, she said.

Some faculty members expressed support for delaying certain building projects, such as the Brain Sciences Center, in order to allocate more funds to the graduate school, according to the meeting notes. Bahar said the idea of delaying construction of the Brain Sciences Center did arise, but faculty members also raised many other ideas for securing more funding. Administrators have made no concrete decisions so far, she added.

“The budget for the graduate school has gone up every year in the last decade,” said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15. Increasing funding for the graduate school is necessary as the University becomes more research-based, but this will not take away from the University’s undergraduate focus, he said.

“I think it is a priority for the University to have a strong graduate program, but at the same time there are many other priorities,” said Peter Weber, dean of the graduate school and chair of the Committee on Doctoral Education. “I hope that we can move forward strongly with graduate education at Brown, and exactly how that works out we’ll have to see.”

Graduate students said they support greater funding and have various ideas of where the money should go.

Stipends for graduate students should be increased, said Matthew Lyddon GS, president of the Graduate Student Council.

“The idea (of stipends) is that we shouldn’t have to worry about financial contingencies in order that we can focus on our research, our coursework and on learning to become good teachers,” Lyddon said.

The current $2,500 summer stipend for graduate students is difficult to live on, Lyddon said. He acknowledged the University faces a tough budgetary situation but said Brown’s education mission includes providing its graduate students with sufficient funds to pursue their research and teaching, especially due to their value to undergraduates as teaching  assistants.

Graduate students’ research can provide great opportunities for undergraduates to get hands-on experience in their fields of interest, Bahar said, adding that increasing funding for one student body can benefit the other at the same time.

Vice President of Social Events and Student Life for the GSC Acey Sieffert GS expressed concern about the lack of funding for large-scale mentoring programs for graduate students.

Though they are older, graduate students still struggle to adjust to Brown, Sieffert said, especially if they have never gone to school in the United States before. She said she hopes to access University funding to organize a graduate student peer mentoring program analogous to the undergraduate Meiklejohn program.

Maria Salciccioli GS, a representative for the department of education on the GSC, said space for graduate students to study and socialize is her primary concern.

The Committee on Doctoral Education is looking at ways to increase space for graduate students, Weber said, adding that he knows of cases when graduate students “in desperation have had to go to Starbucks” to hold office hours.

Faculty members and students said they want the undergraduate program to remain consistently strong as the graduate school expands.

“The selling point for Brown is the undergraduate experience,” said Sasha Land ’15, adding that it was a major reason she chose to attend the University.

Bahar said keeping both programs strong can be done simultaneously. “Undergraduates are very important to Brown.”