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Last week's weather began to undo some of the damage done by the cold, rain and snow of the past four months. Most students quickly forgave Mother Nature and embraced the outdoors. But on Thursday, several tore themselves away from the festivities on Main Green to attend the State of Brown lecture. Those who did were treated to an extremely informative and engaging look at where the University stands now and where it is going in the future.  

Thursday's lecture was the first State of Brown address President Ruth Simmons has delivered since 2006. Simmons addressed the University's internationalization efforts, plans for expansion and response to the economic crisis, as well as its identity and position relative to other schools. She also took students' questions, and brought along several other top administrators to help provide as detailed answers as possible. We thank President Simmons for agreeing to give the talk and speaking candidly, and we applaud the Undergraduate Council of Students for arranging the event.

In deciding whether to hold another State of Brown lecture next year, President Simmons and UCS should not be discouraged by the low attendance — which can mainly be attributed to the beautiful weather outside. The State of Brown presents a unique opportunity for students and the administration to engage with one another. The speech should become an annual tradition. 

The next several years will be especially challenging for the University, as it seeks to recover from the economic downturn while simultaneously growing. And with new dorms and expanded graduate programs on the agenda, the University could very well undergo a surprisingly great amount of change in just a few years. At the very least, four years must not be allowed to pass before the next State of Brown address.

We don't doubt President Simmons' willingness to give a speech like this more regularly, nor do we doubt UCS' willingness to arrange it. We mainly want to impress upon students that attending the State of Brown is extremely worthwhile. We'd even go so far as to say it's obligatory for those who want to be informed and engaged members of the Brown community — a community centered on College Hill but also including alums across the globe. 

Current students may be primarily concerned with Brown's consistently strong showing in the Princeton Review's annual student happiness rankings. But as alums venturing into a competitive labor market and an interconnected globe, we'll all have reason to be equally if not more concerned with how Brown is perceived both domestically and internationally. All students make a tremendous investment in Brown in terms of both time and money, and the State of Brown crucially exposes students to the kind of long-range, strategic thinking that one sensibly applies when considering any big investment. 

For underclassmen, the need to stay informed about the administration's outlook is particularly pressing. At the speech last week, President Simmons noted that the University must expand and improve its graduate school and research capacity if it wants to remain competitive with its peers in the years to come. But she also expressed her belief that the graduate school can grow without affecting Brown's emphasis on undergraduates. Current underclassmen will watch this expansion continue to unfold and will have to be active in ensuring that it is mutually beneficial.

We look forward to the next State of Brown address — we just hope President Simmons and UCS will keep the weather report in mind before finalizing the date.  

Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.


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