University News

At BUCC, Divest Coal urges long-term U. divestment

Faculty diversity and the shrinking RUE program also surfaced as major issues at Tuesday’s meeting

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Student members of the Brown Divest Coal Campaign urged the University to divest from all fossil fuels in the long run and maintained “divest(ing) from the 15 largest, most destructive coal companies in the world” as an immediate priority for the University at a Brown University Community Council meeting Tuesday.

Topics discussed also included the shrinking Resumed Undergraduate Education program, methods to increase faculty diversity and upcoming renovations to Arnold Lounge in Keeney Quadrangle.

About 20 student supporters of Brown Divest Coal attended, and three members of the campaign spoke at the end of the meeting. The BUCC is a University-wide forum made up of President Christina Paxson, strategic planning committee chairs, faculty members across various fields and undergraduate, graduate and medical school student representatives.

This is one of the first instances Brown Divest Coal has encouraged the University to ultimately divest from all fossil fuel companies.

But Nathan Bishop ’13, one of the Divest Coal speakers, said the more immediate shift would be the divestment from the 15 largest coal companies, a tactic he said would serve as a measure to fight impending climate change and act as a signal to government policy makers.

Rachel Bishop ’13, another Divest Coal student representative, underscored the fact that 250 other universities across the US have student groups dedicated to coal divestment, and that the city of Seattle has already pledged to divest. Focusing on renewable or environmental resources would aid in achieving a long-term goal of University-wide divestment from all fossil fuels, she added.

Topics of conversation also included the recently developed Office of Student Veterans and Commissioning Programs and the shrinking number of Resumed Undergraduate Education applicants, as most of the veterans on campus are RUE students.

A representative from the Office of Student Veterans and Commissioning Programs said the office is looking for ways to integrate RUE students into the undergraduate community and is working with the admission office to recruit more RUE applicants.

RUE students have also been a topic of campus discussion given recent efforts to expand need-blind admission to transfer, RUE and international students, who are currently admitted on a need-aware basis.

Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences and co-chair of the Committee on Faculty Recruitment, Career Development and Retention Edward Wing talked about potential methods to increase faculty diversity on campus.

Wing said a diversity officer needed to be on every faculty search committee, a measure that is currently in place but has not been enforced to the highest degree. Wing added that developing a diverse post-doctoral program could be an effective tool, as the University could draw from this pool of students when hiring new faculty members.

Wing said the University should “seduce diverse visiting scholars” to stay and should financially compensate senior and outstanding faculty members for their research and initiatives in order to maintain retention rates.

Another major topic was recent renovations to residence halls as well as future plans. Arnold Lounge in Keeney will be renovated over the summer into a 24-hour study space, which will include a glass-walled seminar room, said Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential life, in a presentation about initiatives for campus life. Bova added that over the summer, Keeney’s hallways and bathrooms will be renovated and Andrews Dining Hall will be overhauled into a study space and eatery, complete with the current Gate menu and additional Asian wok-style cuisine.

To increase a sense of graduate student community, Matthew Lyddon GS, Graduate Student Council president, recommended building a graduate student center or at least renovating the current Graduate Student Lounge now housed in the basement of Graduate Center D.

Lyddon added that GSC has partitioned $2,000 of its budget for community-building activities next semester. But he said the GSC’s budget, which now stands at $50,000, continues to present difficulties for the council.

“We would like to help fund summer research expenses and conference travel for our students, but we don’t have the funds,” Lyddon said.

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  • ’13

    This is a delicious case of mixed priorities:

    — RUE students need more aid. Transfer students need more aid. International students need more aid. DOMESTIC students need more aid. So what’s holding Brown back?
    — What is wrong with Arnold Lounge?! What is wrong with the Gate? I have never had a dedicated lounge space in any of the buildings I lived in, and I did just fine.

    Why doesn’t the campus planning committee actually listen to students who have lived the Brown experience, rather than scheme on their own, before committing to projects that don’t benefit anyone in any real way?!

  • Matt Lyddon, GSC President

    Very glad to see BUCC proceedings receiving such swift coverage by the BDH. However, a few clarifications are necessary on the Graduate Student Council elements of this piece:

    (i) GSC’s *semesterly* (not annual) budget is approx 52k (yet this comes entirely from student activity fees paid out-of-pocket by graduate students), meaning we operate annually on somewhere around 10% or less of the budget of our undergraduate counterpart, UCS/UFB.
    (ii) The vision for community-building requires at very least a near-term, interim graduate student center on campus, which the Graduate Lounge (base of Tower E, Graduate Center) alone cannot accommodate.
    (ii) The remarks about summer research travel and conference attendance refer not to GSC financial support but to additional support required from the University. (e.g. current humanities and social sciences students are eligible for one $500 round of conference travel support from the graduate school each year, and this barely funds a single trip, let alone the several conference attendance we are expected to make annually). The URC process has increased graduate student support incrementally for several years but this is insufficient to plug some very real and significant gaps.

    Thanks for the coverage, and we at GSC look forward to continuing to work with the BDH on surfacing important issues facing the Brown graduate student body.