Letters to the Editor

Letter: 250th celebration is waste of funds

By
Monday, March 10, 2014

To the Editor:

I was outraged to read a recent article about the Brown University 250th anniversary cake in the Providence Journal. If Brown has the financial resources to commission a celebratory cake on the scale of royal weddings and fireworks from the roof of University buildings, perhaps that money could be better allocated to educational purposes.

Our extended family pays an enormous sum annually for our daughter’s tuition to Brown. This frivolous waste of the funds we entrust to the University for educational purposes is unconscionable.

President Christina Paxson, your choice as chief officer of Brown to spend University funds upon this non-educational activity is indefensible.

Please do not patronize us by asserting that the anniversary celebration is paid for from non-tuition sources. I am familiar with the black box of university budgets. Money spent on public relations and conspicuous celebratory consumption is money not available for scholarships, teachers’ salaries, classroom improvements or library enhancements.

I am extremely disappointed by your administration’s lack of responsibility to Brown students and parents that this foolish expenditure of University funds represents. You owe an apology to the entire Brown community for your poor judgment.

 

Neil Korostoff P’16

7 Comments

  1. TheRationale says:

    The icing on the cake is just the icing on the cake. Welcome to Brown.

  2. I find this somewhat unfair – I can assure you, having spent four years here, the administration is nowhere near the total lacking of frugality required to embark on a purely celebratory cake and fireworks. Indeed, they are often really, really stingy. Thus, what benefits could cause them to depart from this past stinginess and embark upon this weekend’s cake and firework extravaganza? I’ll bet you my Brown degree that the target audience of the past week was not students, but potential donors (and us students just got to tag along for the ride…). It’s no secret, if you want someone to give money (and Brown REALLY wants donations, especially with the new capital campaign on the horizon – if you were at the speech you would have noted the not-so-subtle allusions to Paxson’s ‘building on distinction’ plan), you impress them and make them feel part of something. This is exactly what the whole 250th anniversary was all about. Now was it a success in convincing potential donors to give to their now 250-year-old alma mater? I have no clue – I don’t yet have access to any of the statistics about donations necessary to make that call. But I also for this same reason cannot blindly dismiss it as an abysmal waste and failure. Wait until we have some donation figures at the end of the semester and the like before you go about demanding apologies…

    • Curious, what was the alumni presence like? Anywhere near Gala? I think the beginning of March is pretty difficult timing given:
      -The weather is always abysmal
      -Nearing end of quarter for most companies
      -Corporate taxes are due March 15th
      -Not quite spring break

  3. Maybe the cake was a little overboard but the fireworks made for a great moment that I shared with my classmates and alums.

  4. Martin Murphy '73 says:

    When I first read this letter I thought “what a curmudgeonly reaction to a little celebratory fanfare”. Then I thought it must be a shrewd bit of satire poking fun at curmudgeonly reactions, because who could possibly be “outraged” by such a small extravagance? Let’s suppose the entire festivity (fireworks, cake, etc) cost $100,000 ( a high estimate). Divided among the 10,000+ faculty, staff, and students at Brown, that’s less than $10 each for a little entertainment – the price of a movie ticket (without the popcorn). Who would begrudge $10 for a little fun? I wouldn’t. (NB: in 1991, Stanford spent $2,000,000 on an evening bash for their centennial, complete with rock bands and movie stars.)
    (Puritan: a person living in perpetual fear that someone, somewhere, is having fun.)

    • It also provided a great deal of University personnel with the opportunity to work overtime and get paid extra. We often forget them in our monetary complaints.

  5. THIS LETTER IS A TYPICAL RESPONSE OF A SELF-CENTERED STUDENT. BROWN HAS PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE HISTORY OF THE USA, NEW ENGLAND AND RI. IT IS ONE OF THE LEADING UNIVERSITIES IN THE NATION, AND PRODUCES AN IMPRESSIVE ARRAY OF GRADUATES WHO DISTINGUISH THEMSELVES IN MANY FIELDS–SCIENCES, ENTERTAINMENT, BUSINESS, LAW, ETC. BROWN ALSO GENEROUSLY PROVIDES FINANCIAL AID TO POOR AND MIDDLE CLASS STUDENTS, GRADUATE SCHOOL STUDENT STIPENDS AND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN RESEARCH. OUR UNIVERSITY DESERVES TO CELEBRATE ITS 250TH ANNIVERSARY, ALONG WITH ITS STUDENTS, FACULTY, EMPLOYEES, LOCAL AND NATIONAL CITIZENS. IN ADDITON, BROWN HAS HELPED PROVIDENCE ADDRESS ITS RECENT FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES BY OFFERING TO INCREASE ITS VOLUNTARY PAYMENTS TO THE CITY.

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