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News, University News

University pauses contentious search for Brown Center for Students of Color Director

Students stage sit-in over appointment of new interim director Tuesday afternoon

By
University News Editor
Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Following weeks of heated discussion over the search for a new director of the Brown Center for Students of Color, Assistant Vice President for Campus Life Nicole Truesdell paused the hiring process Tuesday.

That same day, Truesdell named Charrise Barron, a presidential diversity postdoctoral fellow, as interim director to serve for the academic year — a move that upset many students and led to a sit-in in Truesdell’s office Tuesday afternoon. Students opposed the decision over concerns that the appointment unfolded without adequate student involvement. “The search was halted — it was halted so we could figure out solutions together,” said May Niiya ’20, who sat on the first search committee.  “We don’t even know if an interim director is the best way to move forward.”

Conflicting accounts followed over whether or not the interim director would remain in place, but the University confirmed late Tuesday night that Barron would keep her title.

“While conversations around the best approach to solidifying the BCSC’s long-term leadership plan will continue well beyond those that took place this afternoon, Charrise Barron will indeed take on the role of interim director until the end of the academic year,” wrote Brian Clark, director of news and editorial development, in an email to The Herald.

But three students at the sit-in said Truesdell told them that she intended to remove Barron from the position and not have an interim director this year.

Neither Truesdell nor Barron responded to request for comment about the search process for the interim director.

The search for a new director began over the summer. At a BCSC town hall held on Sept. 19, the search committee announced that they had selected three finalist candidates to bring to campus during the first weeks in October. Those candidates will no longer be visiting campus this month, Truesdell told The Herald.

The turmoil on Tuesday followed the emotional town hall, when students and faculty called for more information about the departure of the Center’s former director from the University this summer. The former director, Joshua Segui, stopped working at the University on June 20 after seven years at the Center. Truesdell said she could not comment on the terms surrounding the former director’s departure due to University policy that limits public statements about personnel issues.

Many students said they felt confused and upset by Segui’s sudden departure, noting his apparent love for his job and that he had received an award for excellence in leadership at the 2017 Brown Employee Appreciation and Recognition Day.

“One glue to our center, gone, and no clear explanation,” said Rafael Gonzalez-Cruz PhD’18, a postdoctoral researcher at the town hall.

Segui did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“There’s a lot of opposition right now, a lot of distrust,” said Naoko Shibusawa P’14, P’21, associate professor of American studies and ethnic studies, at the town hall. “If you want to succeed, you have to build trust. One way to do that, tangibly, is to put a stop to the search.”

Truesdell’s decision to pause the search committee’s work and restructure the process was in direct response to the town hall. “We will rebuild the search committee to ensure student, staff and faculty voices are represented,” she wrote in an email to the BCSC community Tuesday. “I was able to hear student concerns and frustrations around the director search, along with the hurt felt by the departure of the former director.”

The search committee originally consisted of two administrators, including Truesdell, one staff member, one faculty member, one graduate student and two undergraduate students, according to a Monday op-ed in The Herald written by Niiya, Shivani Guturu ’20 and Jessica Jiang ’20.5. “We call on Truesdell, as the senior director of the Institute for Transformative Practice at Brown, to halt the search process until a new search can be run that takes undergraduate input fully into account,” the students wrote.

Students and faculty responded enthusiastically when Truesdell announced the new search committeee Tuesday.

“I hope that this is the first of many steps taken to rebuild trust and to model for the Brown community how transformative justice can look like in actual practice,” Shibusawa wrote in an email to The Herald.

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