We want to believe that most alums recognize the major contributions Brown makes to the surrounding community. And we would hope that this is particularly true of anyone who graduated from Brown and went on to serve as mayor of Providence. Unfortunately, Providence Mayor and congressional candidate David Cicilline '83 hasn't been a friend to Brown lately — far from it. Now that he's seeking a seat in the House of Representatives, he absolutely shouldn't plan on any support from the University or its students.
Last year, the General Assembly considered two bills that targeted Rhode Island's private colleges and universities, The Herald reported July 19. One bill would have allowed localities to charge schools a $300 per year fee for every out-of-state student. The other bill sought to end the property tax exemption traditionally accorded to large not-for-profits like Brown. According to The Herald, the two proposals "originated" in Cicilline's office.
At the time, we opined that Cicilline and other supporters of the tax increases were blatantly ignoring the fact that the University and its students already spend hundreds of millions of dollars locally each year. Moreover, students at Brown give up countless hours to volunteer in public schools and other community organizations. Cicilline could have worked collaboratively with Brown to find new ways for the school to give back to the city. Instead, he actively encouraged the state legislature to impose an additional financial burden that undoubtedly would have fallen on Brown's students and employees.
Fortunately, neither of the proposed bills has become law. But that doesn't mean members of the Brown community should sit by as Cicilline pursues the seat being vacated by Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I. Indeed, if Cicilline wasn't a loyal alum during his time at City Hall, then he probably won't be an ally on Capitol Hill.
The "Students Against Providence Student Tax" Facebook group still has over 1,000 members. Each member of this group — and all others who would have been impacted by the proposals — should consider making a donation to Cicilline's opponents in the primary or general election. Cicilline initially wanted to impose the $300 per year fee directly on out-of-state students themselves, rather than the institutions they attend, WPRI reported last May. So even a small contribution to another candidate would be a worthwhile investment to keep Cicilline from becoming a member of congress.
Politicians throughout the state are certainly watching Cicilline's candidacy closely. Brown and Rhode Island's other private colleges and universities need to stand up for themselves now, at least to send a message that institutions of higher education in this state are important constituencies whose interests can't be ignored.
Cicilline overlooked one of the virtues of Brown students — namely, their strong commitment to volunteering in the community. Now, he probably won't be able to benefit from another one of our virtues: forgiveness. Let's send a message that politicians shouldn't try to squeeze a little extra tax revenue from college students.
Editorials are written by The Herald's editorial page board. Send comments to email@example.com.