Science & Research

Social psych prof. to leave as course popularity surges

CLPS assistant professor Fiery Cushman will leave Brown to join Harvard’s faculty in the fall

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, March 17, 2014

Many students attribute the recent enrollment surge in CLPS 0700: “Social Psychology” to the engaging lectures of Fiery Cushman, assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences.

Three hundred sixty-six students pack into Salomon 101 two days a week to hear who Marcy Huang ’16 calls “the most engaging lecturer” she’s ever had. But that lecturer — Fiery Cushman, assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences, who has taught CLPS0700: “Social Psychology” for the past three springs — will be leaving Brown at the end of the semester for a position at Harvard. 

Over the past three years, enrollment in the course has nearly doubled, from 178 in the fall of 2010 — the year before Cushman began teaching the course — to 366 this semester.

“He was a fantastic addition to our department,” said Bertram Malle, professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences, said of Cushman. “That’s usually a problem because fantastic people all around get offers from other places.”


A social decision

After Cushman gave a talk at Harvard in September, faculty members there expressed interest in interviewing him to fill one of two open positions for social psychologists, Cushman said.

“Brown is … a perfect home for my research, but there’s a lot of opportunities at Harvard,” Cushman said.

Cushman attended Harvard as an undergraduate and graduate student, also conducting research there as a postdoctoral fellow.

Harvard “knows him intimately, and they know exactly what he offers,” Malle said.

But being an alum did not play a role in his decision, Cushman said. Instead, the decision came down to family matters. “This is what academics call the two-body problem,” Cushman said, noting that his wife currently works in Boston.

At Harvard, Cushman said he plans to teach the same social psychology course he does at Brown, adding that his course was modeled “to a large extent on what colleagues at Harvard had done.”

Cushman said he will miss his colleagues in the CLPS department and the graduate and undergraduate students he has worked with “tremendously.”

“Brown has a much more intimate community than … most other Ivy schools do,” Cushman added. “You feel like you’re coming home when you’re coming to work, and I’ll miss that as well.”


Rising popularity

In 2007, an internal review began that led to the formation of the CLPS department in 2010, combining the Department of Psychology with the Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences.

“As part of this integration, administration realized social psychology was extremely important,” Malle said. As a result, two faculty positions were created — one for Malle, who was hired first, and one for Cushman.

Between 1995 and 2007, the average enrollment in Social Psychology was 88 students, Malle said.

Marcy Huang’s sister Monica Huang ’10 took Social Psychology during the fall of 2006 with Joachim Krueger, professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences. At the time, “I wouldn’t have said that the class was unusually popular, but … there were a lot of non-psychology concentrators who took the class,” she wrote in an email to The Herald.

This average increased to 155 students between 2008 and 2010.

No social psychology course was offered in 2011, but the number of enrollees increased significantly in 2012 — the first year Cushman taught the course — to 280, Malle said.

Marcy said Social Psychology has been her “favorite class” so far at Brown. She took the class in the spring of 2013 when it had to be capped at 300 students.

“More people actually wanted to take it (in 2013), but they didn’t have enough TAs,” wrote Adam Morris ’15, a spring 2013 teaching assistant for the course, in an email to The Herald. This year, to accommodate the surplus of students interested in taking the course, the number of undergraduate TAs increased from four to eight. These undergrads supplement the four graduate TAs.

Cushman said he does not know why the class size has increased so significantly, adding that many factors influence a course’s popularity.

One of these factors may be word of mouth. Students really enjoy the course and then tell others about it, Malle said.

“It is one of those trendy classes that pretty much everyone shops or takes at some point,” Marcy said.

“Every lecture feels like a TED Talk,” Morris wrote, adding that he thinks most of the class’s increase in popularity is due to Cushman.

In early March, Cushman received a Teaching and Advising Award — an award given by the Academics and Administrative Affairs committee of the Undergraduate Council of Students. The undergraduate student body nominates the recipients.

“The recognition … is extremely touching,” Cushman wrote in an email to The Herald. “It is especially meaningful to get that feedback from students themselves.”

The focus on the role of cultural evolution and dual practice models, as well as his emphasis on experiments is what makes his course “distinctive,” Cushman said.

Cushman “never loses sight of the big picture,” Morris wrote, adding that he “has the explicit goal of understanding what makes humanity amazing, and he really hits that goal over and over again.”

Jason Roth ’17 said Cushman is a “dynamic force” who combines practical and theoretical concepts.


‘The age of the mind’

But the course’s increasing popularity may also be due to growing interest in the field of social psychology itself.

“Historically, social psychology has been experiencing a surge for the last 20 years,” Malle said.

The number of PhD applicants who indicated a specific interest in social psychology has risen from 40 to 90 students over the past five years, Malle said. “It has the largest number of applicants in any area our department covers,” he added.

Morris wrote that he was interested in becoming a TA because he wanted to take Social Psychology again. He also works in Cushman’s moral psychology lab and plans on obtaining a PhD in moral psychology.

“There’s an increase in awareness and appreciation in social psychology,” Cushman said, adding that we are entering “the age of the mind.”


A relatable field

Cushman became interested in social psychology because he said he thinks it “holds the key” to answering the question of what makes human cognition different from non-human cognition.

Humans “have conversations and completely transformed the world, and non-human animals continue running around naked,” he said. “It’s got to be something in our brains and I think social psychology … has the promise to unlock our understanding of what the difference is.”

Social Psychology “is such a fun class to teach,” Cushman said. “It’s the part of psychology that everyone can relate to.”

While other aspects of psychology are “equally as interesting,” Cushman said it takes less time for students to see why social psychology is relevant to them.

The course dives into topics such as morality, love, conflict, self-esteem and willpower, Cushman said.

“If you sat down at the Ratty, all conversation topics are issues in social psychology,” he said.  “I think that’s more true in social psychology than any other discipline on campus.”

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  1. fiery you make me swoon

  2. johnlonergan says:

    Fiery’s leaving for Harvard is a symptom of a deeper illness at Brown.

    Why is it that talented professors and administration members leave Brown for better schools? Why isn’t Brown attracting the best and brightest professors and administrators? Could it be that professors and administrators feel that Brown is second-rate?

    Students accepted to Brown already regard Brown as their back-up school. 45% of those accepted (after a rigorous acceptance process) choose to go to schools with much better acceptance rates–>Harvard and Stanford (92% and 82% acceptance by accepted students).

    As an alum exposed to schools’ efforts here in San Francisco, I am disgusted by Brown administrators’ acceptance of the best and brightest at Brown choosing to go elsewhere. I’m discouraged by low student acceptance rates after Admissions accepts them. I’m frustrated by Christina Paxson’s blinders about the problems currently facing Brown.

    Brown is in a decline. I and other alums in San Francisco hope to arrest this decline through three root-and-branch changes to teaching and acceptance. So far, Christina, you’ve been unable or unwilling to respond to our entreaties.

    I’ve started five companies and funded 23. I’ve been a McKinsey consultant. I can tell you from experience, Christina, that it is far easier to lead than to follow when your fundament is changing so quickly.

    Fiery is the canary in the coal mine. Instead of dying, he’s flown away. Wake up, Brown. The clock is ticking. For more, see

    John Lonergan, AB 72, Harvard MBA 76, Medical Device Venture Capitalist, San Francisco.

    • Brown is more poplar and selective than ever. I cannot remember a time when the average student, who got dual-accepted to Harvard and Brown would choose the later over the former. As an ex-McK, VC and Harvard MBA you should understand. The feeder quota into either elite-group is much better from Harvard.
      I myself was one of many HYP rejects, that found a great home at Brown. I would have chosen HYP over Brown, but I am glad thinks worked out differently. Please be more specific and tell me, how you could possibly convince my 16 year old ranking and prestige driven adolescent self, that Brown should be chosen over HYP.

      • johnlonergan says:

        I can’t, at present, recommend that you accept Brown rather than Harvard, Yale or Princeton. At present, I can’t recommend that you choose Brown over MIT or even Northeastern University. All these schools have clearer leadership and are well ahead of Brown in online education, teaching quality and students’ acceptance (after being accepted by Admissions).

        As a Brown and Harvard alum, there’s no comparison between the two in how they have extended their brand, and how they treat their students and alumni.

        It’s not all about doom and gloom. Brown led a teaching revolution in 1969, but it has drifted for decades. In order to regain teaching leadership, Brown must reform-quickly-in three key areas:

        1. Teach millions, not just the 8500 resident on the Brown campus. Teach from 8 to 80 years of age, and charge for the privilege, from freemium to $60k/student/year.
        2. Ensure that teaching is brought up to par–by providing online courses, flipping the classroom, and measuring what’s learned and what’s taught. At present, little such measurement is being done.
        3. Accept from a pool of hundreds of millions, not just the 30,000 whose applications are thrown over the wall each year. Find and start relationships early with budding Albert Einsteins, Mahatma Gandhis and Nelson Mandelas.

        I’m concerned that Brown’s present leadership does not even perceive the decline in Brown’s competitiveness–not just with other Ivy League schools, but with learning institutions around the world (and not just universities–also Berlitz, Google and Apple).

        Can Brown turn around–quickly? Of course it can. It just requires courageous leadership and agitation from alums, students, faculty and forward-looking administrators.

        The alternative is Brown’s continued decline to irrelevance.

    • Arguments like this are the reason why so many people in this country can’t stand Ivy League students. I come from a rural Southern state where many high schoolers do not even pursue higher education, much less one at a top university like Brown.

      I hope elitist, pretentious snobs such as yourself, Mr. Lonegran, eventually realize how ridiculous, out-of-touch, and entitled you sound to 99% of this country’s population. Seeing people like you throw a hissy fit because Brown “loses” students to Stanford and Harvard infuriates me to no end. Using phrases such as “Brown is in a decline” seriously makes me wonder if you’ve spent any time in the real world, Mr. Lonegran. I honestly doubt that you’ve ever left the safe, elitist bubble of millionaire Ivy League/Stanford/MIT alums. Try using that statement among the thousands of hopeful high schoolers who don’t get into Brown each year.

      Overall, I find your doomsday BDH postings both hilarious and pathetic. I really hope that you gain some perspective and realize that there is MUCH more to the world than Brown’s matriculation rate.

      • johnlonergan says:

        Hi Brown ’13.

        I went to a parochial high school in Mishawaka, Indiana. I was the only graduating student to attend a school outside of the three-state area. No, I’m not an elitist. I’m like you–a product of a lower- to middle-class education.

        Having founded 5 companies and funded 23, I think I have some inkling of how the “real world” looks. Living in San Francisco, I believe that I have some feeling for how Tumblr, Google, Facebook, Twitter et al work. It’s not from reading books, it’s from encountering employees and managers there all the time.

        Brown is in a decline. Brown is an alcoholic that has yet to take the FIrst Step–to admit that it has a problem.

        Unlike you, Brown ’13, I and other alums are proposing concrete steps for Brown to take to reverse its decline. Unlike you, we are advocating for positive change to bring Brown back to relevance. Unlike you, we have experience in turning around large, bureaucratic, failing organizations and bringing them back to a successful path. Unlike you, we’re willing to face problems head-on, admit where things are failing, and do something about fixing them.

        Unlike you, we’re bringing about change at Brown and elsewhere.

        • BROWN IS NOT IN DECLINE!! When you went to Brown & HBS, you could basically just waltz in. Do you understand the concept of a worldwide talent pool that applies to Brown now?

          It is a great achievement going to this college. You attitude that just because something else, more selective is out there, would diminish this is INSANE. Are you married? Well, surely you have been rejected by some women before you got “accepted” by your wife. 2nd choices can be amazing and just because your 1st rejected you, does not mean the 2nd choice was better all along. Something to think about..

          • johnlonergan says:

            alum 12.

            …and unlike you, we care about reaching out to the world to find the best and the brightest. If that makes it tougher for you to get into Brown…good!

    • “Students accepted to Brown already regard Brown as their back-up school.”

      I think those in PLME would disagree.

      • A little perspective says:

        So like 15 kids of out an incoming class of 1500 every year? ok. So what you’re arguing is that the 15 PLMEs every year FAR outweigh the 1500 or so kids that decline matriculation out of 3000 that get accepted. Got it.

  3. Not sure why Mr Lonegran is so negative about Brown. The university had a 57% matriculation rate for the class of 2017 — which is very respectable. And, the university had a very high percentage of faculty applicants accepted positions at Brown over the past two hiring cycles…..

    • Sam Davidoff-Gore says:

      It would seem that Mr. Lonegran, to use a metaphor akin to his canary, is like the doomsday prophesier who marches up and down the street with the sign “the end is nigh!” If you read some of his op-eds and his website, it’s pretty out of touch with Brown as it currently exists.

    • johnlonergan says:

      “Very respectable” doesn’t cut it. 43% of those accepted chose to go elsewhere. “High percentage of faculty applicants accepted…” Get serious. Brown just lost a star professor. You should be asking why he left for Harvard.

  4. Mr. Lonergan,
    Professor Cushman both admitted that he is leaving for the reason of his family situation, and also stated that “Brown has a much more intimate community than … most other Ivy schools do” – Which is a A grade in my book (or S*).
    As an alum in NYC, I am so proud over my alma mater and about the community that professor Cushman is referring to – which surely would not be the same if all those people you mention who consider Brown a back-up school, would instead come to brown. Thank god they followed their tunnel-vision focusing on rankings and prestige, instead of ruining our beautiful unique community 🙂

    • Christopher Catoya says:

      Lonergan’s previous commentary and website call for a drastic overhaul of the application process itself. Instead of copying what every other school does on the Common Application, we should be favoring building a relationship with prospective students, and thereby sorting out the tunnel-visioned. What we have now are people applying to Brown for the prestige and using it as a fallback to get an Ivy League Education, rather than a New Curriculum education. Heck, I’ve interviewed applicants that explicitly said they applied to Brown due to its rankings. So staying the course isn’t going to work, even as you imagine it to be the case now (which it’s not). This is why I support some of Lonergan’s ideas and hope to see real conversation about them and more importantly, the need to fix the status quo.

      To another point about your pride as an NYC alum, I must ask, for what reasons? We lack a permanent space and facilities to foster a true community, having to borrow Cornell’s. Every other peer institution has a building, but Brown. It’s just sad. Hosting little events and parties to eat lukewarm “hors d’oeuvres” and drink does not really lay any ground work for a strong sense of community. It becomes as disposable as the paper plates and plastic cups.

      • I mentioned my location, not because of pride, but simply because Mr. Lonergan did so.

        Fully agree with you that the application process can be greatly improved, and also that the NYC Brown community could benefit from a permanent space. – I would love for that to exist. I don’t think the lack of a permanent space (often acquired through donations) mirrors a lack of community, however, but instead that the community priorities are different (for better or worse).

        <3 ever true

      • Yes, I am also frustrated, when students I interview do not know much about Brown. But frankly, there are 10-20 other institutions out there, that offer a similar level of education. With acceptance rates of <10% at elite colleges, it seems unreasonable to expect prospects to know all ins and outs of those institutions. It is easier (and ok from my perspective), to apply to the top 10 colleges and then chose the one you like the most. If this is not Brown, maybe we shouldn't take it so personal. The only thing I would criticize is the reputation that Brown is the uber-liberal, easy Ivy. Let's make Brown's courses more rigorous and attract less students that spend 4 years smoking pot and studying gender & race in the 21st century

        • johnlonergan says:

          Brown’s admissions implementation is like a bad relationship. We know hardly anything about the students who apply–just their SAT results and school records and application.

          Similarly, students know little about us as well. I’ve interviewed a large number of high school students for whom Brown was just an abstract place far, far away (interviewing them in Germany and San Francisco). I tried to elicit from 17 year old students “why do you want to go to Brown?” One in ten could give cogent reasons, and even those weren’t very strong. They had no idea–or worse–they may have known perfectly well what Brown was about, and elected to classify us as their “back-up school.”

          If Brown were a dating and relationship website, I’d give it a D-. Successful websites (Facebook, etc.) develop and nurture relationships over years. Brown has a one-time, thumbs up-or-down encounter. It’s kind of like a one-night stand.

          Why isn’t Brown getting to know millions of students around the world before they apply to Brown? Why isn’t Brown offering the “Brown experience” to millions from India to Mexico to South Africa, some of whom may in fact be the “best and the brightest,” and who can enhance Brown’s teaching?

          Developing a relationship with Brown should start at 8, and end when we die. It should not be about the 4 years or so that we spend on campus. As an alum of both Harvard and Brown, I can tell you that Harvard is light-years ahead in how it treats us alums.

          I’m an alum who can afford to spend a lot of money on my continuing education. Brown has not offered me anything to do so. Since leaving Brown, I’ve spent over $300,000 on my continued formal education. More importantly, I’ve paid millions of dollars (literally) to sponsor education for those working for me in the US, Germany and France. Not one dollar of those expenditures has gone to Brown University.

          When Brown asks me for money, I just laugh. What have you done for me lately, Brown? What have you done to maintain the relationship with me and my fellow alums? Precious little. I’d rather spend my time and money with institutions who give a damn, and don’t treat me like an ATM machine.

          “Doom and gloom?” No, a call to action. Stop the decline, Brown. Reach out to the alums who know what they’re doing, who have engineered significant change at other hidebound, failing institutions.

      • Seriously? says:

        The university clubs in NYC are a relic of a time when that was how you measured prestige. Very little business, fundraising or connecting actually happens in these buildings- that’s why Cornell can rent there’s out to brown, along with thirty other schools.

        • Christopher Catoya says:

          Because the use of these spaces haven’t been re-imagined for current times doesn’t mean that there isn’t inherent and great value in having these spaces. To bring what appears to be your implicit assertion further: why even
          have a physical campus? Surely, you wouldn’t agree with this.

          To make an analogy: companies do not have value because of the products they sell today but because they have the capacity to make those products and future products. The value of the space is what could be done with it and the future opportunities it unfolds, not what is currently being done. I point to discounted cash flow analysis and real estate development as current common examples of this kind of thinking.

          These spaces could become something for co-working, continuing education, meetings (for personal alumni use), events (for alumni use and the University), alums and company taking respite from the urban jungle, natural networking (meeting other alums informally and/or connecting one’s own network with other brown alumni networks) etc. These are just some of the ways spaces provide the right context and backdrop for opportunity that’s intimately tied back to the University.

          Just imagine all the things that don’t happen because we as a community know there isn’t a place for it right now. It looks like Cornell figured out a way to continually make use of a space that they have rights over and first dibs. That’s a lot better than the position Brown is in, with little to no options over what to do.

          So then to take this further and bring it back to my point about visible online interactive structures; these spaces are valuable because of the interactions they can host and foster. The interactions and opportunities they present is really what is of value. The MOOCs as advocated by Mr. Lonergan are part of this. It’s about developing a lot of relationships. (If you think the Coursera courses are good examples, I’d urge you to investigate Bret Victor’s work and then you’ll understand how useful online learning could actually be).

          So I have to ask, is the collective thought and vision here being confined by the lack of fundamentally important resources? Are we lacking the spaces for interaction? I think so.

    • johnlonergan says:

      Hi Brown ’10. Watch what he did, not what he said. He left for Harvard. Hardly an endorsement of Brown’s attractiveness for star professors.

      I was proud of Brown, and hope to be so again. I’m glad that you stumbled into a Brown admission because other schools rejected you. You’re the classic definition of a student choosing Brown as a back-up school.

      This “beautiful, unique community” is fast becoming ugly, pedestrian and a split-up former community. If you truly love Brown, then work to bring it from the 19th to the 21st Century. Put your back behind the root-and-branch changes Brown needs to reverse its inexorable slide. Rather than wistfully longing for a campus life long gone, do something to make Brown relevant again. Join us in reforming Brown.

  5. johnlonergan says:

    You’re joking. That’s like saying that Blackberry was on the rise because it brought out a tablet.

    Look at the facts. Brown is losing to other universities because it is stuck in the 19th Century. Want proof? I’ll supply it to you–or think on your own.

    • angry comment section regular says:

      i gave you a link showing that we’re still losing in cross-admit battles to HYP! but our yield rate is literally increasing; that’s just a fact.

      • johnlonergan says:

        We aren’t even close to Harvard and Stanford.

        • angry comment section regular says:

          ya i know, just pointing out a more positive stat :o)

          • johnlonergan says:

            Know what? Brown’s in trouble. Do something. Don’t just nitpick.

          • angry comment section regular says:

            ? i wasn’t nitpicking, i was pointing out a relevant statistic.

            i’m not really a big thinker, i’ll leave that to people like you. but i do have one suggestion for you: i think people might give your ideas more consideration if you were to articulate how we might go about implementing them incrementally. they’re pretty major changes; you yourself have called them “revolutionary”. it’s hard for me, at least, to see how we could get from here to where you want to be.

            regarding offering courses to the general public on a scale: where do we start? as far as i know, there’s no existing platform to do this. do we build our own? do we somehow mix-and-match existing ones? and in what order do we begin rolling out these courses: do we first establish the brown online course brand with free courses (like the few we’ve coursera ones we’ve done so far) and then move to charging? or do we develop the courses at different depths in tandem and deliver them all at once? who develops them, who teaches them, and when? are they adaptations of existing courses here? do we hire new faculty?

            regarding your second point, “ensure that teaching is brought up to par”: i’m sure you realize how vague that is… what’s wrong with the measures we’re currently taking and what would you suggest instead?

            regarding the outreach: what outreach are we already doing (i know it’s some, i just don’t know what) and how can it be improved? who is forming and maintaining these relationships? do we place delegates all over the world? (do we already have delegates all over the world? idk how this works.) i recently saw this video, which made me think of you: … not sure if MIT as an institution was behind this, or the particular student who hosted him, but regardless, we might be able to look at this type of thing for a model of how to “discover” kids and build relationships.

          • Sam Davidoff-Gore says:

            Except that Brown isn’t in trouble. He’s not nitpicking, he’s (or she) pointing out the fundamental flaws in your doomsday prophecies. Your proposal, however vague it is, is entirely out of touch with the Brown community and I question the motives and logic behind your proposals. As a current Brown student, I am not blind to some of the problems we face. But a drastic overhaul of Brown does not improve Brown, it kills it.

          • johnlonergan says:

            Sometimes–and particularly in Brown’s case–an insider/outsider perspective is helpful. My concerns are borne from what I am seeing here in San Francisco, Santa Fe and Stuttgart, where we live.

            Brown is insular. For decades, Brown profs and administrators could rest on their laurels, content in the knowlege that whatever the quality of the education they delivered, they could continue in their 19th Century ways.

            The internet has breached the Brown campus, as it has breached so many other fiefdoms. Brown profs are now being compared to their confreres around the world, all the time. If MIT’s Bio 101 prof is a better lecturer than Brown’s, his/her lecture is therre for everyone to see.

            Brown is being disintermediated. The best and the brightest profs–such as Fiery and the Provost, are leaving for Harvard, Stanford, and elsewhere. 45%

          • johnlonergan says:

            to complete the post: 45% of students accepted to Brown choose to go elsewhere.

            As a graduate of Brown and Harvard, I’ve seen Harvard’s outreach to me being much more sophisticated and effective than Brown’s. I’ve been working over the past year, for example, with a group of Harvard alum to turn scleroderma from a death sentence for women into a chronic, manageable disease. Brown doesn’t offer this opportunity.

            Doom and gloom? The first step to recognizing you’re an alcoholic, or a declining university, is to admit that you have a problem and that you need help. Many of you at Brown–students, faculty and admin–wish that you could remain in splendid isolation, ignoring the trends around you. That’s no longer an option.

            Step 2 is to reach out to those who can help Brown to turn around. In order to remain relevant, Brown must undergo wrenching change. I’ve written about the three major changes Brown must undertake in great detail elsewhere; summarized, they are (1) teach millions, not 8500, and charge for it, (2) use modern techniques to improve teaching, measure results, and improve teacher-student interaction, and (3) accept from a pool of hundreds of millions by creating relationships around the world well prior to the admissions process.

            If Christina Paxson and the deans don’t know how to do this, we can help. We in San Francisco are steeped in new ways of teaching, establishing and maintaining relationships, and extending professors’ reach to the entire world. It’s OK, Christina, to admit that you don’t know how to get there. We’re there to help.

          • angry comment section regular says:

            all i’m gonna say here is:

            “The first step to recognizing you’re an alcoholic, or a declining university, is to admit that you have a problem and that you need help.”

            this is an AMAZING line. you come up w/ gold sometimes 😀

          • Sam Davidoff-Gore says:

            Except you don’t want to change Brown. You want to create something entirely new and attach Brown’s name to it. But that isn’t feasible. If you want that to happen, go create the John Lonergan University. Do it, I’m not stopping you. But Brown is special the way it is. Sure, other students might choose to go elsewhere, that’s there loss. Yeah, professors might leave. But there are reasons for that beyond just reputation (which, all things considered, really isn’t that important). And there’s a trade off. Because, just as Prof Fiery says, there’s something special about Brown that he’s sad to leave.
            And sure, an insider/outsider perspective is nice. So go ask the tens of thousands of alums who are outside of Providence. Or ask me, who’s currently studying abroad and seeing how other educational systems work. Part of the beauty of Brown is that there’s nothing like it in the world. Yeah, it’s name isn’t as well known as Harvard or Yale, so what? That’s not important to me and I’m pretty sure it’s not that important to the thousands of students that have walked through the Van Wickle Gates. Brown is about the experience, and your plan gets rid of it.
            I will give you props though for being good at the whole doomsday rhetoric and for writing some pretty entertaining stuff. And by the way, where is the rest of your gang from San Francisco. Pretty sure you’re the only one making this view heard, so it makes it kind of hard to believe that there aren’t others.

          • johnlonergan says:

            Hi Sam,
            Glad to hear you’re studying abroad…an extremely valuable way to broaden your education. Living in both Germany and the US, I find the broad viewpoints enlightening.

            I don’t want to create John Lonergan or any other university. I’m now 64 years old, and can frankly live just fine if Brown goes down the toilet.

            So why take on this challenge, convincing frogs that the warm water won’t get hotter, and boil them to death?

            There is no “beauty” left in outdated teaching methods, an insular mentality, in paying $55,000 per year and getting a mediocre education, in constantly losing talented professors to other universities. There’s no “magic” left in passing through Van Wickle if the degree is tarnished.

            I’m not preaching doom and gloom to depress those at the university. Rather, I and others are providing a wake-up call to a university in decline–a university which we’ve all attended and don’t want to see dissolve in a sea of irrelevance.

            Rather than criticism, Sam, I’d like to see some original thought–some realization of how Brown can be improved. Trying to strum my heartstrings with “good ol’ Brown” reminiscences is insufficient. You and I deserve better. Students and professors at Brown deserve better.

            Get on the program, Sam. Help to make Brown relevant again.

          • Sam Davidoff-Gore says:

            Fun fact: I’m not trying to strum your heartstrings. It’s the fundamental reason I believe in Brown, why I’m extraordinarily proud to be a member of the Brown community, who believes that despite its flaws it is still a strong institution. (Incidentally, some flaws include but are not limited to the lack of adequate performance space on campus, International Relations not having a department of its own despite being one of the largest concentrations at Brown, lack of transparency and student involvement in decisions that directly affect student life, insufficient housing space. These are things that can all be fixed.)

            The point I’m trying to make is that even in the off chance that your plan is the most brilliant plan to save Brown, no one’s listening and no one’s going to anytime soon. Because at the end of the day, Brown lives and dies by its students and its campus. The Brown you envision is not a Brown I would be proud of. It is a Brown that lacks personality and character. College is so much more than the classes; it’s the experience, the connections, the friendships. Maybe you need a reminder of what makes Brown special. Maybe you don’t. It doesn’t matter to me. But at the end of the day, your plan does not reflect the core values of Brown University. Maybe your efforts would be better focused at Harvard. I’m sure they’d love to completely reinvent higher education with you. Until then, keep up your crusade. I won’t hold my breath.

          • johnlonergan says:

            Sam, what do you disagree with?

            Do you disagree that Brown should find and accept the next Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela or Albert Einstein?

            Do you disagree that Brown should enhance its student-teacher relationships?

            Do you disagree that Brown should offer its star professors’ courses to millions of people around the world, not just the 8500 on the Brown campus?

            Do you disagree that Brown should reduce its current tuition of $55,000?

            Do you disagree that Brown should teach high school AP courses and alums–thus expanding its revenue sources?

            Do you disagree that Brown should change the rules of the game, rather than continuously complain that “we don’t have Harvard’s resources?”

            I’m sure that you’re “proud” of Brown. I’m also sure that those at Borders Books, Nokia, Blackberry, Kodak and many other failed institutions were “proud” of their allegiance to their declining organization. Your “pride” won’t save Brown.

            Do you think that Brown should continue to slide into irrelevance?

          • First, an admissions quota of 8% is an admissions quota of 8%. How many actually end up going doesn’t matter, you still need ton be a super qualified 17 year old to get in these days. This hasn’t always been the case. It is a well known fact that until 50 years ago, going to an ivy was largely a matter of class, not achievement. Now are much closer to a meritocracy, with need blind admissions (for the U.S.).

            Second, Brown has never been more reputable than Harvard, so why hold it to such a standard? I think Brown’s reputation increased in the past years (especially internationally), but Harvard has been the leader for hundreds of years. It seems delusional to me, demanding that there is much Paxon could do, so that Brown wins a cross admit battle with HYP. There are larger structural factors at play here that cannot be changed in years (or even decades) such as reputation, endowment etc.

          • One more thing, if anything hurts our reputation, it is our entitled, bratty student population that thinks it is ok to shout down and attack speakers (or having sex, nude week etc.). Instances like that are the only times we make main stream headlines. Now THAT is bad

          • Sam Davidoff-Gore says:

            If having Nudity in the Upspace (not Nude Week, that was never a thing), the naked donut run, sex and consent weeks, etc are wrong, then I don’t want to be right. Pretty sure that most of these things were around in 2012 when you graduated.

          • Of course they were around and I don’t find them “bad”, but it is absurd, if that’s what Brown is known for

          • johnlonergan says:

            Hey alum 12. Harvard rocks, Brown takes the messy leftovers. That’s the best way to interpret the fact that 45% of those accepted to Brown choose another school.

            I don’t accept, as a Brown alum, being second-rate compared to Harvard, Stanford or Northeastern. In order to surpass those schools, we need to redefine the rules of the game to fit the 21st Century.

            I don’t want us to win a cross battle with HYP, I want us to leave them in the dust!

          • I don’t think it is fair to call people messy leftovers, if you have a worldwide talent pool (or do you think all MLB players not payers not playing for the Yankees are “messy leftover”). Again, I am convinced the raw talent at Brown is higher than ever (as in, compared to your time). Not everyone can go to the best uni and the second best is plenty good. Why are you so fixated on this comparison? Shouldn’t Brown focus on itself, rather than try to beat another college?

          • would-be cross admit says:

            AGREED, I also think it’s rude of him to disparage current students like this, and kinda silly to act so haughty, given that Brown is more selective now than it was then. By far.

            Mr. Lonergan, I had virtually perfect stats in high school. I missed 10 points on the Writing section of the SAT and my subject tests weren’t the best, but that’s about it. My non-numbers qualifications were impressive enough to keep me in the running for any school.

            If I had cast a wide enough net, chances are, I would have gotten into one of the TOP-top schools (HYP, Stanford, MIT, Caltech[?].) I’m not saying this to be arrogant. I know that college admissions is a numbers game and nothing is for certain, but let’s be realistic, with a 1 in 10,000+ SAT score and competitive credentials all around, I probably would have gotten into ONE of those schools.

            I applied to schools I could see myself attending. I only applied to one more selective school than Brown, Princeton. (I also applied to a few less selective schools ranked higher than Brown on USNWR, but we all know USNWR is crap.) Brown was my top choice all along. This is well documented on Facebook and so on. I was waitlisted at Princeton and chose not to remain on the list, knowing that I wanted to attend Brown. Can I say FOR SURE that I would’ve chosen Brown over the allure of Princeton prestige, had I actually gotten in? (BTW I was accepted everywhere else, of course.) Who knows. Can’t reason about counterfactuals.

            But the point is, applying to college isn’t a matter of trying to get into the most prestigious school you can — not for all of us. I am FAR from the only person here who would have had a chance at the schools you’re drooling over but simply wasn’t interested. In a sense, then, Brown is getting tons of kids that Harvard would’ve liked to have, not just the reverse. Because a great many of us hyperqualified candidates just WANTED to come to Brown. Cross-admit stats don’t tell the whole story.

          • In case it wasn’t obvious, I’ll just say explicitly: this is an argument that I think applies better to Brown than to other schools. In other words, you can’t cancel out my argument by considering kids who were interested in Harvard but not Brown. Harvard is Harvard; lots of people want to go there SIMPLY because of its prestige. OTOH, Brown has a very distinct culture which attracts a certain type of high achieving student: those who are less concerned with prestige and more concerned with… I don’t know, trying to reach back into my naive 17 y/o self’s brain… being in an ~intellectually curious, laid-back learning environment~. Or whatever. TBH I now wish I’d gone to a site school because I don’t think ANY private school is worth the $$$, regardless of how appealing the ~atmosphere~ is. But that’s beside the point.

          • (wbxa one more time) says:

            state school*** typing from fone

          • johnlonergan says:

            Brown’s brand is ‘cloudy’ at best. Saying ‘we’re like Harvard, but more laid back’ is not a brand image, its a formula for mediocrity. I found with the many high school applicants to Brown I interviewed that this ‘brand image’ was also extremely fuzzy in their minds–Brown did not stand out in their minds in any important dimension.

            wbxa, I don’t see your presentation of Brown’s USP as being convincing. In venture capital, we say that if you can’t explain your USP in 10 seconds, you haven’t developed your idea well enough. “Very distinct culture” can be a good or a bad thing. It’s GOOD if it attracts the best and the brightest around the world, GOOD if it does a better job of teaching and student-teacher interaction, and GOOD if Brown presents uniquely talented teachers to the whole world.

            Brown’s culture at present needs to step up its game…on the part of students, faculty, admin and alums.

          • johnlonergan says:

            Rude? Grow up. You’re competing in bigger leagues now. Rather console yourself with “we’re really pretty good,” start comparing your school to world standards. Brown can again become one of the leading institutions of learning in the world.

            I’m frankly sick and tired of convincing self-satisfied students that they’ve got their heads in the sand. I’d rather speak to the achievers, to those who give a damn about their future and the future of their school. I’d rather speak to those who have a sense of how the outside world is changing and improving at an ever-faster pace.

            I live in an environment–San Francisco–where Brown’s reputation and attitudes towards teaching are not simply outdated, they’re simply ineffective and irrelevant. As a Brown alum, I regret this judgment of Brown–I believe that our school can do better. But it’s hard to defend Brown’s reputation when they refuse to educate millions, refuse to improve teaching, and only evaluate the 30,000 applications coming in over the transom. From our perspective in San Francisco, Brown is soooo last century.

          • John, I’m not sure what SF circles you’re referencing, but Brown’s computer science department sends dozens of students to San Francisco (and the greater Bay Area) every year to work at top companies, such as Google, Facebook, Dropbox, and high-profile start-ups. Facebook recruits only at a handful of schools (less than 20, I believe?), and Brown is among them, due to the caliber of its CS department. To say that SF views Brown as “soooo last century” is rude, naive, and quite frankly, just wrong.

            Also, out of curiosity, unless you’re a massive troll, I’m really wondering why you spend so much time arguing with current students and recent alums for whom these issues are far more pertinent than an alum who is 45 years out and not as familiar with today’s campus culture. Wouldn’t it be better to become one of the nation’s best and brightest, as you so often advocate?

            When was the last time you visited Brown?

          • johnlonergan says:

            Hi alum 13,

            Thanks for your points about Brown’s computer science department. Since I don’t have much access to teaching or the students there, it’s difficult for me to judge how good or bad the students or the profs are there. I DO have access to the CS departments at MIT and Stanford, however. Their teaching is there for the world to see.

            I refuse, alum 13, to accept the ‘black box’ theory of teaching at Brown. “Trust us,” you say, “and we’ll educate well behind our campus gates.” Sorry to use the comparison again, but that is not even 20th Century thinking–that’s 19th Century thinking.

            I’ve interviewed a large number of candidates applying to Brown. It’s true that I can’t talk to them about current campus life in the way that current students and recent alumni can. I HAVE had the opportunity to work closely with recent grads, however, people who are in Silicon Valley and making a go of it with their start-up businesses.

          • Brown’s CS173, Programming Languages, was made open to the world last year, and hundreds of people took it online. They watched video recordings of the class, completed problem sets, and engaged in an online forum where they could get help from their classmates and course TAs. Is this what you’re looking for?

            FWIW, I went to a well-known secondary school where over half the graduating class goes to Ivies (and the rest go to Stanford, MIT, or top liberal arts colleges). More than 10% of the class every year goes to Harvard. Given my scores, my grades, my academic interests, and my school’s name, I think I would have had a very good shot at Harvard.

            But I chose not to go to Harvard. I applied ED to Brown and was accepted. Why? Brown happens to be much stronger than Harvard in the particular field I wanted to study, and I liked the idea of the open curriculum. I also had a number of friends who were at Harvard, including some who were studying what I wanted to study, and after visiting both schools extensively, I decided that Brown was a better choice for me. With a lessened focus on graduate students, Brown is able to devote resources and attention to undergraduates that my friends at Harvard did not necessarily enjoy.

            Another note: some people go to Harvard because of its name. Some people go to Brown because they like the curricular freedom. You’re comparing apples and oranges.

            Five years later, I have no regrets. I thrived in my department, was given tremendous agency to lead my concentration and develop new courses, and I mentored other students so that they could do the same. I landed my dream job in the fall of my senior year. Could I have done just as well at Harvard? Perhaps. But it was the Brown experience I craved.

            I do not appreciate your calling me ‘messy leftovers.’ I do not appreciate your referring to my classmates as such, either. There are people who will do better with the Open Curriculum, and others who will do better with the Core. Harvard and Brown both know this. It’s not always about the best students but about who they are.

          • johnlonergan says:

            alum ’12, to quote my favorite movie: “the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that.”

            I’m glad you had a good experience at Brown. So did I. Like you, I chose Brown over Harvard (undergrad–went to grad school at Harvard).

            But this is not about you and me, alum ’12. This is about Brown in the 21st Century. This is about addressing Brown’s increasing irrelevance to modern teaching. This is about teaching millions, not just the 8500 on the Brown campus. This is about improving teaching. This is about accepting the best and the brightest from a pool of hundreds of millions, not just the 30,000 whose applications come in over the transom.

            In short, alum ’12, start thinking about more than yourself. Join a movement to bring meaningful change to Brown. Join your fellow alums in restoring Brown’s relevance, in attacking sky-high tuitions, in erasing mediocrity, in expanding Brown’s revenue sources.

            So, how about it, alum ’12. Are you up to the challenge? Or do you find your navel more fascinating?

          • I’m not sure whether you meant to address me or ‘alum ’12’ (who also commented on this article), but like you, I work in an industry that actually aims to help people, and one of the best things I’ve learned so far –– and also at Brown –– is that talking vaguely about plans to accomplish something doesn’t mean anything if you don’t have an actuation procedure in the works.

            You keep referencing those same three talking points: 1) teaching millions (as someone with a background in cognition, education, and computer science, I question the value of MOOCs and the real potential to learn from and engage much with them), 2) a greater outreach (do you really believe that Brown has the resources to evaluate millions of candidates? Harvard’s applicant pool is of comparable size to Brown’s), and 3) finding the next ____ (insert visionary or dignitary) (to suggest that no one great has come out of Brown shows the utter lack of regard you have for people who are not Steve Jobs but have still accomplished amazing things… besides, to echo a previous commenter, not all great thinkers are meant to become leaders. Perhaps they’d rather contribute behind the scenes).

            But at any rate, I have no idea how you plan to accomplish any of these things you keep bringing up. Your website doesn’t outline any concrete plans. I’ll be more interested in debating these points with you further when you have an action plan that can a) clearly demonstrate the problem and b) show me what we should do to fix it. As it stands, you’ve failed to convince me (and most other readers) that this is an issue worth caring about, let alone convinced me to take action (what action?).

          • johnlonergan says:

            Fair point. Unfortunately, the “King of Brown” position is not available. Fortunately, the answers provided need the input of faculty, students, alums and administration in order to be an implementable plan.

            Plans need (1) a recognition that the status quo is not an option, and (2) a vision which key stakeholders can share and implement. My call is related to these two points. If you, ’13, recognize that Brown cannot continue on its current path and remain a relevant educational institution, you’re halfway there.

            Yes, I can write a plan, a la Magaziner-Maxwell, for Brown. It would be just that, however, a written plan. Input from key stakeholders is needed. Vision and leadership are required.

            I would like to provide a vision which can be implemented at Brown, as Ira Magaziner did in 1969. I would prefer it to be a bottoms-up revolt (revolt meaning revolution, not violence) by those stakeholders who are anxious to bring Brown into the 21st Century.

            I’ve participated in changing a number of large, lumbering, bureaucratic organizations while at McKinsey and afterwards. I DO have the expertise that it takes to lead such a change, and to work with other leaders who implement needed changes.

            My “dream assignment” (not a job–I don’t want a job) would be to work on a Magaziner-Maxwell group with a charge from Brown’s stakeholders to plan and then implement the needed changes at Brown.

          • johnlonergan says:

            to complete: I’ve worked with recent Brown grads to bring change to Brown.

            To your question about why I’m spending so much time to convince Brown admin, faculty, alums and students that Brown needs drastic, root-and-branch reform…

            I’m 64 years old. I only work on projects that bring about meaningful change and improvements in peoples’ lives. I work on turning scleroderma from a death sentence for 200K women in the US and Europe to a chronic, manageable disease. I assist entrepreneurs (for free) as they grow their businesses. I assist medical device companies (for profit) to develop important new treatments for chronic diseases, with a focus on type II diabetes, diastolic heart failure, neurovascular incidents and percutaneous valve replacements.

            Brown is one of the causes on my list. Someone asked me recently “Is Brown worth it? Isn’t there a better school where you could push for reform?” My answer: I went to Brown and Harvard. Harvard’s doing fine, Brown’s in trouble. I’m therefore pushing for change at Brown because I went there, I care about it, and I can see from my perspective the three major changes needed at Brown: (1) teach millions, not the 8500 on campus, (2) develop the best teaching methods in the world through modern technology, and (3) find the best and the brightest from a pool of hundreds of millions, not just the 30K who apply.

            Why do it if I’m so “out of touch with Brown?” Three reasons: (1) I’m in touch with what’s happening in the broader world, (2) It’s on my bucket list for meaningful change, and (3) Brown students, alums, faculty and admins will be better for it.

            Alum 13, I could continue to live well if Brown sinks into irrelevance. My life would not change one bit. I continue to believe, however, that Brown has a kernel worth saving and improving. Join the fight to bring meaningful change to Brown.

          • Buttz Henderson says:

            *toot toot* idiot parade coming thru everyone

          • johnlonergan says:

            Sorry, guys. You’re the messy leftovers today. Not all of you, but enough to affect Brown’s overall brand and influence in the world. And don’t claim that things were worse when I went to Brown–it’s simply not true. I didn’t “waltz” into anything. At the time I was accepted to Brown, only 13% of applicants were accepted–and that was at a time when multiple Ivy League applications were actively discouraged, and there were far fewer applications per pupil (pre-internet, a lot fewer schools were applied to).

            In addition to the 43% who choose not to go to Brown after being accepted, there’s a more telling statistic: what is the overall achievement record of Brown alums? Time Magazine has an interesting interactive tool which indicates how influential a university is in comparison to another. Brown ranks below a startling number of schools students and faculty consider “inferior.” Want to try it? Go to Think you’re better than Colgate or Northeastern? Berkeley or Reed?

            Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg went to (and dropped out of) Harvard. Steve Jobs went to (and dropped out of) Reed. Quick, how many movers and shakers at their level went to Brown? I can’t think of a single one. John Kennedy Jr. doesn’t count–he never achieved anything. There’s a reason why Brown’s endowment is so small, relative to other schools–it’s the lack of achievement of its grads.

            I find this record of mediocre acceptance…well, unacceptable.

            For Brown to succeed, it has to up its game–in admissions, in its student body, in its teaching, and in its alumni achievements.

          • First, there is no way acceptance back in your days was at 13%. The same rings true for Harvard. You have no idea what it’s like to go to a competitive version of your old college, that already attracts insanely smart people from abroad. Please provide the admissions stats of those days if you can (plus the cross admit rate)
            Second, what does achievement record mean? Considering we do not have a grad school and pump out thousand of students each year, it feels like our alums achieve quite a lot. Maybe not head of Apple, but in other areas of life. Considering Reed>Brown just because of Jobs is ridiculous

          • johnlonergan says:

            Hit a nerve?

            Why aren’t Brown grads performing, on the whole, as well as grads from other institutions? If Brown’s acceptance policies are so gol-darn exclusive and elite, why aren’t we seeing the next Albert Einstein or Nelson Mandela graduating from Brown? Quick, if you didn’t go to Brown, could you think of one highly-accomplished Brown graduate? Probably not.

            Your argument that “it’s a lot tougher to get accepted at Brown today” is ridiculous. Do you think that the average Brown student today is smarter–or more accomplished–than those going to Brown in previous decades? The generally poor quality of writing and argument put forward by a number of people in this thread proves otherwise.

          • Hmm, maybe it’s because Mandela and Einstein never went to an elite school and your whole conception of the world will fall to pieces acknowledging that the best and brightest might not make the best leaders or have the highest impact in the world?!
            Also, I find it agitating, that somebody, who graduated years ago and is frankly benefiting from Brown’s increasingly international outlook and increasing competitiveness, would badmouth the student population. If anybody is at fault for not being the next Mandela it’s you and your peers! Why don’t we wait another 20 years and talk about the achievement of the current students? All I can say for sure is that YOUR class failed to produce an outstanding leader

          • johnlonergan says:

            Clearly, alum ’12, a nerve was touched.

            Today, only 4% of the world’s population lives in the US. 87% of Brown’s applications come from the US. Do you assert that the US represents 87% of all the talent in the world, all the “best and the brightest”? Clearly not.

            Brown’s parochial focus betrays its institutional narcissism. Not only does Brown ignore foreign students, it also ignores trends to improve education and to attract the best and the brightest to its educational offerings.

            Rather than gaze at your own navel and say “watch where I am in 20 years,” why don’t you focus on how Brown can improve, on how Brown can eradicate its focus on events within the borders of the Brown campus, and become an institute of learning with a global reputation?

            BTW, Einstein went to ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich, two universities that even today represent the cream of German-speaking universities.

          • Whatever you have to say about the lack of achievement of Brunonians, that does not really affect the students at Brown right now. Maybe you should have a pep-talk at your next reunion, lecturing why none of your peers became president or sth. I know ETH quite well, almost studied physics there and I can tell you, that it almost exclusively draws from German speaking population. Getting in is no problem (no entry test or interview whatsoever,only High School transcript needed). So much for selectivity…

            In all honesty, if you want to improve Brown’s academic standing, cut sports recruiting and affirmative action. Students getting into Harvard and Brown are virtually the same caliber (just compare the SAT range). The only groups NOT living up to academic standards are those two student groups, which are not subject to “normal” admission procedures.

          • johnlonergan says:

            alum 12: I reject your comment on affirmative action completely. Brown can attract top students of any creed or color.

          • all your preaching about harvard.. it’s not just about statistics and rankings and prestige you know. we have far happier students. with the only exception of student in a varsity athletic team, I don’t have a single friend (out of 10+) that went/goes to harvard who ever could tell me the LOVED it there. in fact, majority is telling me, and everyone else, they hated it. hated the people, hated the culture, hated the social scene, and the undergraduate academics, often courses taught by TA’s.

            all people i’ve ever talked to who goes to/went to brown, however… absolutely love it, and won’t shut up about it. the only exception I know, being yourself.

            maybe the problem isn’t brown and it’s academics/professors/culture, but we simply need to market it a little better so more people understand what an AMAZING place it is 🙂

        • angry comment section regular says:

          ? i wasn’t nitpicking, i was pointing out a relevant statistic.

          i’m not really a big thinker, i’ll leave that to people like you. but i do have one suggestion for you: i think people might give your ideas more consideration if you were to articulate how we might go about implementing them incrementally. they’re pretty major changes; you yourself have called them “revolutionary”. it’s hard for me, at least, to see how we could get from here to where you want to be.

          regarding offering courses to the general public on a scale: where do we start? as far as i know, there’s no existing platform to do this. do we build our own? do we somehow mix-and-match existing ones? and in what order do we begin rolling out these courses: do we first establish the brown online course brand with free courses (like the few we’ve coursera ones we’ve done so far) and then move to charging? or do we develop the courses at different depths in tandem and deliver them all at once? who develops them, who teaches them, and when? are they adaptations of existing courses here? do we hire new faculty?

          regarding your second point, “ensure that teaching is brought up to par”: i’m sure you realize how vague that is… what’s wrong with the measures we’re currently taking and what would you suggest instead?

          regarding the outreach: what outreach are we already doing (i know it’s some, i just don’t know what) and how can it be improved? who is forming and maintaining these relationships? do we place delegates all over the world? (do we already have delegates all over the world? idk how this works.) i recently saw this video: which made me think of you… not sure if MIT as an institution was behind this, or the particular student who hosted him, but regardless, we might be able to look at this type of thing for a model of how to “discover” kids and build relationships.

          [reposted because of dumb disqus filter]

          • johnlonergan says:

            Great, you’re asking the right questions. Join us.


          • angry comment section regular says:

            i’ve looked at it before! nothing concrete there, either. it’d just help to have, like, a brief outline. ex: “first, we offer free online courses for a couple years, developed by profs who volunteer to pioneer the movement (again, see the coursera ones). then we choose/create a platform for charging for courses and add some for a couple hundred a pop. we incrementally add more features (ex.: free courses only have auto-graded assignments, next round courses have personalized prof feedback on assignments, next round have ‘office hours’) and charge more for each”

            …or “we hire new faculty and have them develop a bunch of courses that can be taught at multiple levels simultaneously, with each group having access to different materials/levels of professor interaction”

            …or whatever. it’s really hard for me to conceive of us just suddenly “[teaching] millions … from 8 to 80 years of age, and charge for the privilege, from freemium to $60k/student/year.” that just isn’t self explanatory to me at all. i need it to be fleshed out a little bit. it’s definitely not just a matter of “30 minutes, pen, paper, and video camera” like you’ve said in the past.

            and the same for reaching out to a pool of “hundreds of millions” and finding the next albert einstein or w/e.

            again, i think there are good ideas here, but what you have is so far is hardly developed enough to be taken seriously (at least by unimaginative people like me).

          • johnlonergan says:

            Much of what Brown is doing today, and the problems it is encountering in this internet era, can be converted and expanded. Professors give lectures every day. I’m sure that they would prefer recording them ala KhanAcademy (not filming the lecture–that’s too boring) and have 1 very good lecture rather than giving the same lecture every year. Most professors would prefer to spend their teaching time interacting one-on-one and with small student groups, rather than speaking to them from the center of a classroom. I’ve taught at the graduate level before, and I know the uncertainty–how many are following the course? how many are completely lost? how many are bored? This can be measured and tracked–and valuable student-teacher interaction can be increased and improved.

            Teaching hundreds of millions? It’s being done today. If Brown really DOES have excellent teachers, then they can compete on the world stage. If it DOESN’T, we’ll find out pretty quickly who’s good and who’s bad.

            The fact that Fiery’s lectures are compared to TED talks is revealing. TED didn’t exist 30 years ago, and now its a major venue for advanced thinking. The TED talk format clearly worked for Fiery and his students. It also clearly works for Harvard–the university who poached Fiery.

            Angry comment–> you’re thinking too small. You don’t know or want to understand how profoundly social media, KhanAcademy et al have changed education in the world You need to understand how the artificial walls of Brown’s campus have been breached–the boat’s taking on water, and Brown faculty and administration are bailing as fast as they can to no avail.

            So, Angry Comment, how do we implement the drastic changes needed at Brown? I’m not the only Brown alum who’s worked at McKinsey, graduated from Harvard Business School, and founded/funded successful companies. In fact, Jerome Vascellaro did the same thing–he’s Brown’s Vice Chancellor.

            There are other Brown alums, students and faculty who are change agents, and who bring the necessary passion and expertise to turn Brown around. I saw the same phenomenon in 1969 with the implementation of the Magaziner-Maxwell report findings. We can do it now. It just takes reaching out and bringing in the expertise that’s needed.

            The alternative is the continued, sad decline of Brown as a relevant educational institution.

  6. Current Student '16 says:

    Personally, I feel that beyond the admissions fight, it’s important and fitting to wish Professor Cushman the best in this exciting new opportunity, thank him for the time he’s given Brown, and remind him that he’s welcome to come visit us as a guest lecturer anytime. Taking Social Psych was one of the highlights of last year for me, and we’ll all be sad to see him go. Thank you for inspiring students, Fiery!

    • johnlonergan says:

      Thanks for reminding us, Current Student ’16, that the loss of Fiery Cushman to Harvard has real impact on those left behind.

      How can we turn Brown into a place where the Fiery Cushmans of the teaching world elect to stay at Brown, rather than go to a ‘better’ university?

  7. johnlonergan says:

    Want some more proof that Brown is behind the times, and that Fiery was right to move to Harvard?

    Wake up, Christina Paxson. The times are passing Brown by.

    As an alum of HBS, I just received the following letter from Dean Nitin Nohra of HBS:

    “We at HBS have put our toe into the online waters in the past, discovering a lot about what works (and what doesn’t) and gaining valuable experience along the way. As we thought anew about what HBS’s offerings might look like now, we were especially excited. Technology and the web have matured significantly. Students increasingly are digital learners. Our own portfolio of programs—MBA, Doctoral, and Executive Education—has deepened and evolved, and our means for managing and disseminating information, including Baker Library and Harvard Business Publishing, have grown in reach and impact. In sum, we felt we might innovate from a position of remarkable strength.”

  8. glen broemer says:

    The FBI would be quite content to use a citizen as bait in FBI stings over the course of a lifetime. There isn’t any shortage of sting opportunities, given the unending string of lawbreaking in the intelligence community, including their vast corrupt network in Los Angeles and Ventura, stretching into many businesses here, and obviously involving some government employees.These parties are all violating RICO , careful lies they believe are legally protected, with an obvious motive to attack an informant. Examine my federal cases, Central District of California Case Numbers, 01-4340, 03-9097, 08-5515, , 10-5193, US Tax Court 12000-07L –though I think you want to view my US Tax Court Appeal to the 9th Circuit for a good account of the day to day assaults, over the course of years.

    The intelligence community has framed me and given fraudulent psych profiles to the judiciary over the course of decades 2) the entertainment industry knew it, and quietly reaped the benefits of my creativity, fraudulently sold by the government (something like restitution or illegally seized property), and in fact colluded with the federal government, RICO 3) government and industry have killed my pets and physically attacked me for a decade in an effort to slow my investigation, and to intimidate, RICO II violation 4) government inspectors and FBI–those who were not complicitous, anyway– have ruthlessly used me in stings against the community and industry, in many cases ensuring i would be harmed by putting me in harm’s way against known, repeat offenders–often, I believe, as their own retaliation against me, RICO III 5) all of the above have curtailed my other options and interfered with my relationships in an effort to further their own schemes 6) i’ve lost a vast amount of intellectual property. my closest relationships, including a few engagements, were destroyed by the manipulations of the above individuals. i haven’t been truly free a day in my entire adult life, either manipulation of my options or direct interference with my cognition, usually both..7) some in the judiciary knew, and some should have known, that the allegations against me were contrived and fraudulent, and some have participated in harming me 8) while there is little political support for prosecuting criminal actions that involve half of government, two presidents, Obama and to an extent Clinton, tried to do what is right, right a very corrupt situation. you don’t need to be a genius to figure the politics involved, the problems they’ve faced so doing.9) you probably won’t get a denial of any of this if you ask US Senators, and can in fact find letters of support from them as exhibits in my case filings. 10) yet the press has not covered this because? 11) the right has been physically attacking me or harming my pets in connection with every public criticism i’ve made. These parties are all engaged in RICO conduct, careful lies they believe are legally protected, with an obvious motive to attack an informant. Examine my federal cases, Central District of California Case Numbers, 01-4340, 03-9097, 08-5515, , 10-5193, US Tax Court 12000-07L –though I think you want to view my US Tax Court Appeal to the 9th Circuit for a good account of the day to day assaults, over the course of years. Those in government who support this sort of llegal persecution are invariably lying. Invariably–and that’s from someone who spent a decade documenting four decades of lies.

  9. Emma Jurgens says:

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