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Brown is the only member of the Ivy League that does not refer to its engineering division as a school of engineering. Fortunately, efforts are well underway to change this and align Brown more closely with its peers. The faculty plans to vote April 6 on a proposal to establish an engineering school, and the Corporation will make a final decision in May. We hope both the faculty and the Corporation approve the measure.

The change in nomenclature will have a symbolic impact that will help Brown recruit the most talented students and faculty. Indeed, outsiders currently considering Brown's engineering program are likely puzzled about why it lacks the school designation. 

The resolution currently under consideration by the faculty is relatively straightforward. It approves school status for the engineering division and holds that the change will not affect the usual processes for student admissions and faculty appointments. The resolution also endorses the search for a new dean of engineering who will be given the "latitude to shape many details of the current proposal" — including fundraising, new space for engineering activities, additional faculty hires and collaboration with other science departments. 

This resolution is much less detailed than a blueprint for expansion originally written in 2008 by several members of the engineering department and recently amended. The latest version of the blueprint puts forth a $100 million plan — funded mostly by donations — to add 12 new faculty and six new staff, start additional programs and build 35,000 square feet of new space. 

We are also supportive of this more ambitious plan for development. Engineering plays a central role in creating innovations that spur economic growth and solve societal problems, and Brown should seek to have an engineering program that is among the very best. The introduction to the blueprint noted that Brown's engineering faculty is smaller than engineering faculties at most peer institutions and that no new research space for engineering has been created or acquired since Barus and Holley was completed in 1965.

The proposed expansion strikes us as not just worthwhile but overdue.
However, the more detailed, ambitious plan drew criticism at a recent faculty meeting, The Herald reported earlier this month. Faculty members voiced concern that a major expansion in engineering might come at the expense of the other sciences. Several professors also criticized particular details of the engineering department's blueprint.

Many of these issues are specific to the implementation of the plan, the particulars of which are not yet finalized. As long as professors believe they will have adequate opportunity to voice their concerns as the implementation process plays out, they should not delay matters now by voting against the resolution.

As for the question of whether boosting engineering takes away from other areas, the current leadership in the Division of Engineering has said that it hopes the expansion will facilitate collaboration and cooperation between engineering and the other sciences. And since engineering techniques are essential to research across the sciences, it makes sense that the benefits of a larger engineering program will accrue to a wide variety of disciplines. 

Brown might be the last Ivy to have a school of engineering, but it was the first one with a civilian engineering program. Establishing a school of engineering and encouraging its growth is an important next step in this proud historical progression.

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



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