University News

Paxson responds to Kelly reports

President to forward recommendations of Committee on the Events of October 29 to FEC

By
University News Editor
Thursday, September 25, 2014

Following recommendations outlined by the Committee on the Events of October 29, the University will take steps to ensure freedom of expression, restructure the Office of Institutional Diversity and maintain a diverse student body and faculty, wrote President Christina Paxson in a letter released Wednesday to the campus community.

In her letter, Paxson pledged to support and implement many of the proposals made by the committee, a body comprising students and faculty members that formed last fall in the wake of the controversial protest and shutdown of a scheduled campus lecture by former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

The committee concluded in its initial report in February that administrators canceled the lecture due to concern over the large number of protesters unaffiliated with the Brown community and fear that violence would erupt in the lecture hall.

In its second report last May, the committee called for the implementation of 10 recommendations, including increased resources for the Office of Institutional Diversity, greater faculty diversity and expanded Diverse Perspectives in Liberal Learning courses.

Anthony Bogues, professor of Africana studies and chair of the committee, said he was “very pleased” that Paxson “seems to agree with all of the recommendations,” which were the “heart of the report.” He added that Paxson did not specify which of the 10 recommendations she would send to the Faculty Executive Committee for review, noting that this lack of specificity was standard protocol and the FEC would likely reveal to committee members which recommendations it was considering at a later meeting.

Freedom of expression is “essential to Brown’s mission,” Paxson wrote in her response to the committee’s recommendations, citing former President Ruth Simmons’ statement in a commencement address at Smith College in May that “one’s voice grows stronger in encounters with opposing views.”

Conversation about the Kelly lecture has often positioned freedom of expression and support for human rights as at odds, Paxson wrote.

Some community members argued that Kelly should have been allowed to deliver the lecture in the name of free speech and open dialogue. But protesters and others voiced opposition due to Kelly’s oversight of the New York City Police Department’s use of stop-and-frisk policies, which they view as unfairly targeting people of color.

“We do not need to choose between supporting freedom of expression or racial equality,” Paxson wrote. “Protecting freedom of expression and furthering human rights are mutually reinforcing.”

In the future, Brown community members who “interfere with the free exchange of ideas” in the manner of the protesters at the Kelly lecture will be subject to disciplinary action for violating the Code of Student Conduct, Paxson added.

Paxson upheld the committee’s commitment to the importance of free speech, Bogues said. “What the committee tried to do was think about free speech within the kind of responsibility we have to each other on campus.”

In light of the committee’s recommendation to boost faculty diversity, the University will continue to rely on the Target of Opportunity program, which allows for “hiring outstanding diverse scholars outside the regular search process,” Paxson wrote.

The University will also launch several initiatives aimed at promoting diversity among the undergraduate and graduate student bodies, Paxson wrote. The President’s Diversity Postdoctoral Fellowship Program will help recruit PhD students from “historically underrepresented” backgrounds starting in fall 2015, while the Advancing Diverse Scholars Annual Conference will connect minority graduate students and faculty members from Brown and other institutions for networking and mentoring, she wrote.

To streamline the implementation of these new diversity initiatives, Paxson proposed restructuring the OID, which is in the process of developing a Diversity Action Plan to outline goals for recruitment of students and faculty members from diverse backgrounds.

The OID will now fall under the auspices of the Office of the President instead of functioning as a separate entity, Paxson wrote. Consequently, Liza Cariaga-Lo, director of the OID and associate provost for academic development and diversity, will report to Paxson rather than to Provost Vicki Colvin.

In addition to ongoing efforts to hire a Title IX coordinator, the University will conduct a search for a staff member to work in the OID and lead the Transformative Conversations Project, which aims to provide opportunities for Brown community members to hold meaningful discussion, Paxson wrote.

Administrators will also evaluate expanding the OID staff, either by hiring new employees or by formally integrating other current employees who work on diversity issues into the OID, Paxson wrote. Ten employees across various University centers and offices — including the Brown Center for Students of Color, the LGBTQ Center and the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center — currently deal directly with questions of diversity, she added.

“This is an opportunity for us to more fully engage the Brown community around issues of inclusion, equity and diversity across student, faculty and staff concerns,” Cariaga-Lo wrote in an email to The Herald. “I will be working closely with the Diversity Advisory Board in the next several months to discuss how we envision our work in light of these changes.”

 

A previous version of this article stated that Anthony Bogues expressed dismay that President Christina Paxson did not specify which of the Committee on the Events of October 29’s recommendations she would send to the Faculty Executive Committee. In fact, Bogues noted that the president was following standard protocol. The Herald regrets the error.

  • Maggie Clah Wass

    Paxson does not understand that her job – a job – any job – requires effective action, and that writing something and saying something is no action at all. Her personal limitation in this regard is substantial. It is incredible that Brown University trustees, most of whom are effective business executives (except perhaps for Chancellor Tisch, commonly known to be mediocre as a CEO), do not see the necessity to demand that Paxson overcomes this personal limitation quickly. Perhaps they see the necessity, but are too caught up in their own egos, as they will not admit that their decision to engage Paxson was a huge mistake. The real issue in this case is not the Kelly speech. The real issue is that the ship called Brown University is lost at sea, and captain Chris Paxson is doing diddly squat.

  • Alum ’97

    These are smart moves:

    “In the future, Brown community members who “interfere with the free
    exchange of ideas” in the manner of the protesters at the Kelly lecture
    will be subject to disciplinary action for violating the Code of Student
    Conduct, Paxson added.”

    “The OID will now fall under the auspices of the Office of the President
    instead of functioning as a separate entity, Paxson wrote. Consequently,
    [the Director of the OID…] will report to Paxson rather than to Provost
    Vicki Colvin.”

    The first formalizes expectations of conduct to preserve free expression on campus. The University can now impose punitive remedy on students who bully or intimidate free discourse. Ballsy.

    The second structurally ensures that the office of the President has a direct hand in diversity initiatives that (at the moment, at least) seem to be scattered and undisciplined. Efficient.

    I appreciate the Administration/Faculty/President’s response to the Ray Kelly incident.

    • BRUNO15

      It is just an email. She has done nothing. She will do nothing. Just watch.

      • confused

        Many Alum were at Brown during the Ruth Simmons era, who enjoyed immense popularity and didn’t receive this level of criticism. In other words, we know nothing of Brown after we graduated. Some of the comments about the current administration both in Disqus and the opinion’s section are rather… curious. I ask, Bruno15, what do you mean when you say “She has done nothing.”

        I’m confused by this, because if I remember correctly, our dear president Ms. Simmons wasn’t micromanaging our student lives. The ratty and the v dub took care of food. Classes were dealt with by professors and grad students. Housing was dealt with by the housing lottery. TF green airport got us to Providence. Our university president wasn’t directly involved in those day to day issues because that wasn’t her job.

        What do you expect her to do? I’m not being criticial, I’m asking very honestly and openly. Sure there are these student protests and controversial issues. But, why is this so important? Last time I checked the US news and world report does not look at student protests as part of their criteria. When you graduate, these hot button issues aren’t going to be in the minds of most employers.

    • Reality Check

      The University can now impose punitive remedy on students who bully or intimidate free discourse. Ballsy.

      Never happen. Assuming they can identify violators (harder than it sounds without video, and not easy even with it), any punishments meted out will simply spark more protests that Brown is restricting the speech of the protesters. Endless cycle.

      The way to make it easier is that other than invited guests (in the Kelly case, the local law enforcement and anti-violence advocates, etc), nobody gets in without a Brown ID. Period. Outside agitators know they have nothing to fear from Brown for their actions. Brown students have at least a little skin in the game.

  • Alum

    For everyone suggesting Paxson ought to take action directed at the Ray Kiley protest thugs: Prolonging and delaying the issue is the next best thing to sweeping it under the rug (can’t happen). Consider the political issues on campus if she were to take action against students like Justice Gaines, Jenny Li, et. al. All the Social Justice Warriors would erupt in full blown self-righteous protest mode, saying and doing additional boneheaded things furthering embarrassing Brown for no actual gain in the cause. The issue here isn’t really Paxson or the administration. It’s the students. And frankly, with the new TWC naming and re-designation as a center focused on social justice activism, this situation is only to get worse.

  • alum

    The problem isn’t speaking out against police shootings, its the boneheaded, shots in the foot encouraged by SJWs