University News

Brown preserves faculty, staff benefits

Working group proposes cutting budget for hiring temporary faculty, curtailing visiting scholars housing program

By
Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The newly released recommendations from the Deficit Reduction Working Group, headed by Provost Richard Locke, plan to resolve the $5 million dollar structural deficit without eroding benefits or laying off employees, Locke said at a Tuesday faculty meeting.

The deficit reduction plan, released in May, targeted employee benefits as sources of savings. The working group — made up of 23 faculty members, students and staff members — was charged with finding $7 million in savings over the next three to five years, Locke said.

The group’s initial recommendations included freezing the Tuition Assistance Program, increasing the health insurance contribution, introducing annual deductibles and changing early retirement policies. After receiving much negative feedback from Brown community members, the group modified the recommendations.

“We actually read through the comments … and we listened,” Locke said. In the new recommendations, these benefits are untouched.

Some of the other recommendations are the same but now include other initiatives, such as installing energy-saving technologies in buildings for long-term savings, cutting the budget for hiring temporary faculty members by $1 million and rolling back the visiting scholars housing program to reduce the vacancies that arise from short-term leasing. The group also cited changes the University could make to save money such as consolidating some of the 70 transportation services employed by the University.

The final, detailed plan will be released next week.

The rights and privileges of emeritus faculty will be a focus for faculty discussion this year, said Thomas Roberts, chair of the Faculty Executive Committee and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. They have “drifted in ambiguity at best” in the past and have gotten increasingly restrictive, he added.

All faculty members will be required to take an online training course for sexual assault prevention this year, which President Christina Paxson P’19 said “is something we have to take very seriously.”

Conversations about mental health and sexual assault on campus will be among Paxson’s central focuses this year, she said. One of the priorities of the strategic plan is improving the campus climate around these issues, as well as general student health and well-being.

There will also be an open forum to discuss academic and campaign planning at the end of September.

“There’s an operational side to excellence that we really can’t ignore,” Paxson said, adding that the execution of Building on Distinction and its accompanying capital campaign would make significant progress in building “academic excellence,” which is a pillar of the strategic plan. Her goal is to make “academic excellence” sustainable through recruitment and finance.

The most important investment the University will make is in people, Paxson said. Forty-six new members of the faculty were welcomed at the meeting, and many more were promoted — not only faculty members of the College, but also of the School of Public Health and of Alpert Medical School.

Paxson also added that investing in people includes faculty chairs, financial aid, graduate fellowships and diversity initiatives. Flexible academic priorities, financial resources and financial and operational systems are also essential, she said.

The strategic plan’s programs include enhancing the curriculum, furthering the Engaged Scholars Program, strengthening research infrastructure and promoting integrative themes of scholarship. Other initiatives include new facilities, such as the engineering building under construction, the performing arts center being planned, a renovation of the Sharpe Refectory, new athletics facilities and other campus life priorities, Paxson said.

Corrections: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Brown was introducing a visiting scholars housing program to fill vacancies. In fact, it is curtailing that program because its short-term leases lead to frequent vacancies. The article also initially misstated that the purpose of an open forum later this month is to discuss the deficit reduction recommendations. In fact, the forum is to discuss academic and campaign planning.

  • A gift of $100 million a year to
    Brown

    We would like to
    give $100 million per year to Brown. This money could be used to offset tuition
    fees, pay professors more, and support Brown’s current budget, which is in
    deficit. We have proposed this to
    Christina Paxson and several leaders within Brown’s administration.

    The key benefits to
    Brown are:

    1. Brown can
    add $100 million in revenues by teaching AP courses.

    2. This program would
    benefit both high-income and low-income high school students, as well as local
    teachers, Brown professors and Brown students (as paid
    proctors).

    3. This gives you Brown
    to increase student acceptance
    rate (now at 60%) and improve the number of high-potential poor
    students (a key target).

    Our
    proposal outlines a plan for Brown to offer AP courses in select schools,
    starting with Northern California. These
    courses would be co-taught by the local AP teacher and Brown professor,
    assisted by Brown students acting as proctors.
    The goals of the program are:

    1. To offer the students a compelling, interesting and
    informative set of courses.

    2. To expose promising high school students to Brown professors
    and students.

    3. To give Brown visibility on promising students who may
    become good candidates to attend Brown.

    4. To support schools which may need
    teaching resources in inner-city and poorer school districts, and support their
    local efforts.

    The
    fundamental principles of this program are that (1) it must be financially
    self-supporting, (2) it offers a first-class educational experience that is
    rewarding for Brown students and professors as well as students, and (3) that
    it works in concert with local resources, with full backing of the high
    schools.

    What
    is offered

    The educational product would consist of the following:

    A set of internet lectures using
    the Khan Academy format on AP subjects, given by a professor at Brown.
    These lectures are normally watched by the students online at home
    (as homework).

    A set of exercises and questions
    which are answered by the students during class time.

    A teaching guide for the local AP
    teacher. The teacher uses this guide and assists students in class
    to answer questions and do exercises.

    Tests to be proctored by the local
    AP teacher which are submitted for grading to Brown students assisting the
    professor (Brown students are paid for this course assistance). Results
    are then shared with the AP teacher and Brown (for certification).

    If applicable, online textbooks as
    a part of the educational offering.

    Who
    will pay?

    Identify
    those who have the greatest stakes in the education of students: parents,
    teachers, guidance counselors, who are willing and able to pay. “Rich”
    schools’ parents pay for their child’s certificate. Some scholarships
    offered. “Poor” schools parents pay, but with a great deal more
    scholarship assistance.

    Where
    are the target markets?

    Around
    the world. The “freemium” model can be disseminated on YouTube and used
    by millions. The “certificate” model is also freely expandable (same
    professor, more Brown student proctors).

    How
    much effort is involved?

    A Khan
    Academy format requires very little professor time and effort. With a
    virtual “blackboard” and voiceover, the professor can video a series of
    lectures based on his/her Brown classroom offerings.

    High
    school students in the “certified” program will require support. This
    would be provided by Brown students working at the direction of a Brown
    professor. These students’ main tasks would include grading courses,
    answering teachers’ and students’ questions, and monitoring feedback.

    Scholarships

    Offer
    scholarships administered by Brown in collaboration with local guidance counselors.

    We have shared the
    entire plan, with revenues and costs, with top members of the administration at
    Brown. It is also available for public
    view at http://www.brownnext250years.wordpress.com/a-gift-of-100-million-a-year-to-brown/

    So, what’s stopping
    us? Let’s make this happen.

    • interested alum

      Mr. Lonergan,

      I’ve seen your interesting post a couple of times now, and I wonder if you could please clarify: your post begins with

      “A gift of $100 million a year to Brown
      We would like to
      give $100 million per year to Brown.”

      Is this $100 million gift over and above the $100 million you subsequently propose Brown “earn” by teaching AP courses? (i.e. are you offering a match-funding challenge of some kind?)

      If not, and this is simply a plan you’re offering for Brown to earn the money, then why are you calling it a gift?

      I think your proposal is an interesting one, but I think the above-mentioned language is ambiguous and could be misunderstood.

      • Thanks.

        The proposal is simply that Brown increase its revenues and reach out to high school students well before they make their decision on which school to attend.

        The “gift” lies in the hands of Brown’s President and its Dean of Admissions. Is Brown willing to take advantage of our proposal and increase its income by $100 million per year?

  • Dave Snyder

    Great idea John- are you the John Lonergan from Olney House ?

  • Dave Snyder

    The above suggestions represent a mere pittance of savings and serve to fully protect the faculty and administrators’ benefits. These suggestions are good but what really bothers me is the work ethic and productivity of the top heavy administration and faculty. Why should a professor feel overworked and burdened for teaching 3 hours per week ?? Many of the deans and administrators produce one third of what they would be required in order to survive in the real world. One medical school class was apportioned $225,000.00 just to ” administer ” a class that I could have done in one or two hours. In this era of economic tightness, work ethic, productivity, and efficiency are most important and largely missing from the effete intellectual class.
    David A Snyder ’71, MD ’75