The Brown University Student Veterans Society, a newly formed group on campus, met officially for the first time last week.
The organization arose out of a desire to institutionalize an already existing informal group, according to one of the group's founders, Chaney Harrison'11, and it kicked off its official existence with a spaghetti dinner.
Harrison served five-and-a-half years in the air force as a special operations pararescueman and served three tours in Iraq in 2004, 2005 and 2006. The inaugural meeting was also organized by Miranda Summers GS, Christopher Baker '11 and John Hermansen '11.
Although not yet officially recognized by the University, the group received interim funding through the Office of Campus Life to hold this event, Summers said. An active-duty national guardsman and graduate student in Public Humanities through the American Civilization department, Summers joined the National Guard in 2002 and served in Iraq for 13 months beginning in January 2006.
In the past, the Office of Admission has not kept track of the number of veterans applying to Brown, said Director of Admission Annie Cappuccino, but will be better able to in the future because it now accepts the Common Application. Summers said she first met Harrison along with other veterans at a Veterans Day Ceremony at Brown in 2007, and they, along with Baker and Hermansen, began meeting informally but regularly.
The group's founders see the small number of student veterans as even more of a reason for their group to exist.
"We wanted to make the group official because even though we were having the same experiences and going through the same things, we realized we wouldn't have met if it hadn't been for that event," Summers said.
An official group will help future veterans know where to find social support and logistical help navigating life as a veteran on campus.
"When I first got here, I asked the person sitting at a desk in some important office if there was a person for vets to talk to. She told me, ‘I don't think I've ever seen a vet here,'" Summers said.
Brown is unprepared to deal with veterans in many ways because so few of them are here, both Summers and Harrison said. One of the group's objectives is to make Brown more hospitable so more veterans will attend, they said.
Veterans may sometimes encounter ignorance, Summers said, but "never malice." The administration, she added, "might not get it right the first time" but is "quick to fix it."
Harrison has spoken with President Ruth Simmons about the group, and said Simmons asked him to put together a list of veterans' concerns so the University could begin to address them.
Both Harrison and Summers expressed an interest in including Brown faculty and staff in the group, and they said a number had expressed support for the group, including one Department of Public Safety officer — himself a veteran — who stopped by the group's inaugural event.
The group has submitted a constitution and the requisite number of signatures and expects to achieve official group status by the end of this year.
"This is not a group by veterans for veterans," Harrison said. "It's about building a community around service, as well as raising Brown's reputation as a service-friendly institution."