News, University News

University ends Advancement Office support for private events

Following reporting on select dinners hosted by Granoff, Paxson responds to University involvement

By and
University News Editor & Metro Section Editors
Wednesday, February 27, 2019

President Christina Paxson P’19 denied knowledge of University involvement with private dinners hosted by Martin Granoff P’93 and committed to ending Advancement Office assistance in the coordination of future private events in a letter to the editor published in Tuesday’s Providence Journal.

Her letter follows an article written by four University undergraduate students that was published in Sunday’s edition of the Providence Journal. The article reported that Granoff hosts semesterly dinners coordinated with the assistance of some Advancement Office staff for a select group of students.

Though the University declined to provide a guest list to the story’s writers, the article stated that many invited students are wealthy and well-connected and that attendance at the dinners can confer a number of advantages. The reporters interviewed 12 University students and alums who had attended at least one dinner.

Paxson’s letter criticized the reporting of the story, stating that it was based on “no data or facts” and that it mischaracterized Granoff’s good intentions. Specifically, the story failed to provide support for “claims about housing or other preferences arising from independent dinners,” wrote Vice President for Communications Cass Cliatt in an email to The Herald.

Cliatt continued that “as we have seen, when these activities are misconstrued, they cast a shadow over Brown’s work demonstrating our commitment to equity,” a commitment that she called “unwavering.”

Providence Journal Executive Editor Alan Rosenberg defended the article against the University’s criticism. “The story is full of facts, none of which (Paxson) actually rebutted,” he told The Herald.

In an editor’s note, which ran alongside Paxson’s letter, Rosenberg wrote that the initial story “went out of its way” to fairly characterize Granoff’s charitable work while also reporting on the dinners.

“We made sure this was not a story that ignored the good things that (Granoff) had done,” Rosenberg told The Herald.

The Providence Journal’s coverage provided an overview of Granoff’s philanthropy, including donations to the University and other institutions.

Granoff, who is a former textile industry executive, serves as a trustee emeritus and has made large donations to the University for purposes such as endowing student scholarships and supporting the arts, The Herald previously reported.

Many students have reacted negatively to the dinners, praising the Providence Journal’s article and scrutinizing the University’s involvement, The Herald reported today.

“We hope that the story in the Providence Journal and executive editor Alan Rosenberg’s response to President Paxson’s letter speak for themselves,” the story’s writers, Lucas Smolcic Larson ’19, Julia Rock ’19, Harry August ’19 and Jesse Barber ’19, wrote in a joint statement to The Herald.