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Since the 2008 economic crisis, there has been no shortage of "belt-tightening" rhetoric in our periodic e-mails from President Ruth Simmons. The administration's promise to reduce the budget deficit became incarnate in the Feb. 2 report of the Organizational Review Committee. The report is littered with recommendations for "streamlining" (read: cutting student services) and "reorganizing" (read: layoffs of) various University departments in order to reduce the budget deficit.

The ORC recommended charging Brown students for access to fitness facilities, reducing the amount of fresh fruit and salad offered at the dining halls and possibly cutting varsity sports.

I have a simple recommendation for the administration: Keep the student services, and stop spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on frivolous lawsuits.

A judicial decision filed last Thursday brought an end to a protracted legal battle between Brown and one of its professors, Beverly Haviland. Judge Allen Rubine's 31-page decision recounts the ignoble story of two Brown administrations — one sneaky, one profligate.
In the spring of 2000, the University wanted to hire Paul Armstrong as Dean of the College. Armstrong was interested in the position but was loathe to leave SUNY – Stony Brook, where he and Haviland, his wife, held tenured positions. Armstrong stipulated that any employment deal at Brown must include a tenured position for his wife.

After learning that there were no tenured positions available in Haviland's department, the administration decided to, in then-President Sheila Blumstein's words, "think outside the box." This apparently entailed sidestepping the limit on the number of tenured faculty appointments, a non-trivial restriction designed to limit expenses and increase competitiveness among professors.

Interim President Blumstein, Provost Kathryn Spoehr (now professor) and Professor of Sociology Mary Fennell devised an employment deal that hired Haviland with the title of visiting associate professor and senior lecturer, but with the job security of a tenured professor. They did so in a manner that University counsel approved of, in language that Judge Rubine deemed "clear and unambiguous."

At the time, then-Assistant Provost Brian Casey wrote a letter to Spoehr, stating that "...the real risk to you is whether (if this all goes sour) you look like you were a Provost trying to give someone tenure through the backdoor." Aptly put, Mr. Casey.

As shameful as this hiring practice was, the story could have ended happily. Dean emeritus, now-professor Armstrong left us with a valuable legacy of first-year seminars and a renewed emphasis on career counseling. While I have never attended Haviland's classes, she fares well on the Critical Review.

President Simmons was aware of the arrangement the administration had reached with  Haviland, yet in 2004 and again in 2009, she attempted to wriggle out of the deal. Her refusal to honor Brown's written commitment forced Haviland to appeal to the state Superior Court for a decision. (Nota bene: She did not sue Brown; a "decision" amounts to a legal clarification.)

Trials are acrimonious and costly. Simmons' obstinacy resulted in expenditures that, according to Haviland's attorney, total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. It also lead to the alienation of Brown's own faculty and a black mark on the integrity of the University.

Throughout the course of the trial, Brown had no fewer than six lawyers in the courtroom at all times: three were University counsel, and three were litigators hired from the pricey firm Ropes and Gray LLP. One of the litigators was Joan Lukey, the first female president of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

At first, I thought it was nifty that Brown University was associated with Lukey, but then I pondered how dearly this association cost us. I decided I would prefer to have fresh fruit and free gyms.

I exchanged e-mails with Haviland's attorney, Kathleen Hagerty. She described Brown's big-ticket defense as employing a "...scorched earth litigation strategy," which included "...enormous blow ups (exhibits used in trial) ... which cost many thousands of dollars." She "offered to settle the case on two occasions prior to trial, both of which I was told were rejected by President Simmons."

Despite the fact that hiring University professors is an essential function of the administration, Brown hired an expert from Harvard to testify to academic hiring practices. She was paid $700 per hour, according to Hagerty. How did the judge react? He found her testimony "...of limited assistance (in) material issues." Hagerty noted that "$700.00 per hour doesn't buy what it used to."

I understand that budget cuts must be made, but let's start out with some obvious lessons before we cut student services and varsity sports. Don't play fast and loose with tenure positions, and don't spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation fees to learn that you should stick to your "clear and unambiguous" promises.

I contacted the President's office to get their take on this issue. They informed me that Simmons' schedule is so full that she won't have time to meet me for several months.

Will Wray ‘10 is really busy for the next several months.


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