University News

UCS discusses Paxson’s plan to increase size of student body, campus

Expanding the virtual campus and preserving undergraduate experience were also debated

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, October 24, 2013

UCS discussed President Christina Paxson’s plan to increase the student population, enhance graduate programs and renovate the University’s facilities. The Corporation is expected to vote on the plan this weekend.

With the Corporation arriving on campus this weekend for its October meeting, young alumni trustee Alison Cohen ’09 — the youngest Corporation member — discussed growing the student body, alumni engagement and the undergraduate experience at the Undergraduate Council of Students general body meeting Wednesday.

The Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, is expected to vote this weekend on whether to approve President Christina Paxson’s draft of her strategic plan, “Building on Distinction,” a document expected to guide her agenda for the University over the next decade.

Paxson’s proposed growth of the student body by 1 percent per year emerged as a topic of concern.

Malikah Williams ’16, chair of the UCS Campus Life Committee, said she was worried that “growing the size of the student body would change Brown a lot.”

“This conversation about growing the size of Brown has happened every five or 10 years,” Cohen said. “And every time, people have said it’s already the perfect size.”

Still, the University must be mindful of physical space needs as it grows the student body, Cohen said.

The plan’s suggestion to foster more alumni engagement also drove discussion.

Abby Braiman ’15, UCS Student Athlete Advisory Committee liaison, asked Cohen how alums could connect to the campus, given her “unique take” as a recent alum and Corporation member.

“The challenge is figuring out what forms alumni involvement can take, whether it’s interviewing applicants to Brown, which would take about three hours a year, or whether it’s a more substantive involvement,” Cohen said.

The Council also discussed whether the plan’s proposed expansion of graduate programs would come at the expense of the undergraduate experience.

Alex Drechsler ’15, UCS Student Activities chair, said he was worried that the plan’s “emphasis on graduate programs and research” would “detract from the undergraduate experience.”

Cohen responded that she does not “see it as a zero-sum game” in which if graduate students get more attention, undergraduates get less.

“We need to figure out opportunities for synergy, in which both undergraduates and graduate students can benefit,” Cohen added, citing graduate student counterparts for Department Undergraduate Groups as an chance for graduate students to interact with and mentor undergrads.

The Council also debated the importance of the plan’s proposal to build the virtual campus.

“I’d love to hear more current student perspectives” about the virtual campus, Cohen said.

“I don’t want the University to be spending its resources on the virtual campus, given that there are other more important areas,” Drechsler said.

He added that the UCS student feedback report — a compilation of student sentiment about the plan, which was scheduled to be released today — confirms that most students feel the virtual campus should not be a top priority.

The Corporation’s consideration of ethical issues also fostered concern.

The Corporation is expected to discuss this weekend whether the University should divest from the 15 largest companies in the country that profit substantially from coal.

Last spring, the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies recommended divestment from these companies to Paxson, The Herald reported at the time.

Amara Berry ’16, who is not a Council member, said Brown Students for Justice in Palestine has not been as successful as Brown Divest Coal at attracting the Corporation’s consideration.

“Is there any advice I could pass on to BSJP members about how to get the Corporation’s attention?” she asked.

Group members could reach out to student representatives on ACCRIP, said UCS President Todd Harris ’14.5.

The Council also appointed Edwin Portugal ’17 to review the efficacy of Banner and Advising Sidekick on the Computer Advisory Board Subcommittee on Academic Technology, and Benjamin Davidson ’14 to evaluate the behavior of Department of Public Safety officers on the Officer Conduct Review Board. Michael D’Ortenzio ’15 was appointed to the Parking Violations Appeals Board.

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