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Editorial: PLME bait and switch

Have you ever had something promised to you and then taken away? Of course you have. For some, it was probably something pretty important, like, say, your ability to make free choices about your career. At this point, if you're a student enrolled in the Program in Liberal Medical Education, we're no longer speaking hypothetically. Though all PLMEs were told when applying to Brown that they would have guaranteed admission to the Med School, the University has enacted a new rule, and applied it retroactively to the class of 2011 and below, that will rescind this assurance if a PLME chooses to apply to other medical schools.

The backward-looking implementation of this rule is grossly unfair. The University has an obligation to keep its promises to students. Were the University to, unilaterally and without student input, impose course requirements, we would have just cause for complaining that Brown wasn't the school it told us it was when we applied. The PLMEs' case is even stronger: Brown students aren't explicitly guaranteed a right to the New Curriculum as part of the program they enroll in. But until now, PLMEs who fulfilled several academic requirements were guaranteed admission into Alpert regardless of whether they chose to "apply out." This promise probably affected at least some students' decisions to enroll in the PLME program. There is a world of difference between a high school senior certain he or she wants to attend Brown's Med School and one who isn't so sure but saw the guarantee as a compelling reason to pick Brown over other schools. If every PLME were the first type, this new policy wouldn't be a problem. But judging from the angry reactions from PLMEs who spoke to the Herald, that's not the case. Some students almost certainly did think of Alpert as a fallback in case applying out didn't work — an assumption that the University guaranteed that they were free to make.

We should be clear that we actually think that the policy is a good idea for future classes of Brown students. We're sympathetic with Associate Dean of Medicine Phillip Grupposo's claim that ending the guarantee is necessary to properly calibrate admissions into the Medical School. We would also prefer to give students who actively want to attend Alpert the first open slots.

However, we believe that the University's obligation to current PLMEs — and admitted early decision PLME applicants for the Class of 2014 — trumps its interest in efficiently filling the Med School class. "Many aspects of these students' lives, from their choice of college all the way down to their decision to take Orgo 2 (required for non-Brown medical schools but not for PLMEs), were premised on an offer of admission to Alpert." The University ought to respect that.

Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to


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