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Simmons: Dorms, grad school, internationalization on agenda

Large tuition increases "absolutely will not be an option" to balance the budget in the future, President Ruth Simmons told a less than half full Salomon 101 in her State of Brown address Thursday afternoon.

She also announced that the University is designing a plan to expand and overhaul student residence halls on campus. The "long-overdue" study will be completed next year, she said.

Simmons stressed the importance of expanding graduate research and international outreach.

"When the needs are so numerous, it is understandably difficult to know where to start," she said at the event, which was organized by the Undergraduate Council of Students.
Simmons said the University Resources Committee needed to raise tuition in order to avoid making "more draconian decisions." But she assured the audience that "substantial" tuition increases will not be considered "going forth."

She also responded to "frustration" over Brown's place in national rankings compiled by publications such as U.S. News and World Report. 

"The rankings don't seem to give Brown credit for the excellence of its standards and its programs," she said.

Simmons explained that Brown's profile — with graduate students comprising only 27 percent of the student body — is very different from other top American universities, many of which have professional schools and considerably larger faculties and facilities.

"We have no desire at this point to be like those institutions," she said. "Brown does not seek merely to be large."

"But if Brown does not consider expanding modestly over the coming decade," she added,  "we will find it very difficult to achieve our goals in a feverishly competitive global environment."

She told the audience of approximately 100 students and faculty, "Our strength derives from our interdisciplinary agility, a manageable scale, the deep engagement of faculty and students and the proven ability to innovate."

While Brown performs "exceedingly well" in most undergraduate categories, Simmons acknowledged weaknesses in the University's financial resources as well as research and graduate programs.

"We are less competitive," she said. "There is just no way to move the needle on Brown's assets, reputation and rank without committing to more research productivity."

She also spoke of the importance of collaborative relationships with institutions outside of College Hill. She highlighted the University's partnership with the Marine Biological Laboratory of Woods Hole, Mass., and a venture with IBM to develop a supercomputer.

"These relationships provide opportunities for students to become familiar with the world in a way that no previous generation has been able to contemplate," she said.

Simmons placed great emphasis on the University's global presence as well as crafting a "meaningfully international curriculum." 

"Brown must do its part in both bringing students and scholars from around the world to Brown and in sending our students and scholars to other parts of the world," she said. In particular, she stressed Brown's connection with India, a nation unique "by virtue of its population size, economic potential and educational prowess."

Simmons will be traveling to India over spring break for the first meeting of the University's newly formed India Advisory Council. "In order for our visibility in their country to increase, we have to be there," she said.

Simmons later described the University's organizational review process in response to the economic crisis that severely hurt Brown's endowment. She said that the University Resources Committee and the Organizational Review Committee were careful to minimize the impact of budget cuts on student life.

"Nevertheless, some difficult ones will be felt," she said.

Simmons said the University is proceeding on schedule with its capital plan, which includes the renovation of the Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center at Faunce House and the construction of the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts.

UCS President Clay Wertheimer '10 said attendance was "not ideal, but understandable given the weather." A group of students relaxing on the Main Green said sunny skies and unseasonably warm spring temperatures likely deterred many from attending the afternoon event.

Simmons spoke for approximately 40 minutes and answered questions from the audience. The State of Brown address had not taken place since 2006, but Wertheimer said it was important to hold the event this year as the University conducts its organizational review.
But, he added, "I see a need for this event annually."



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