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Editorial: Elections have consequences

Brown students' involvement in local politics varies widely — while some were out canvassing in advance of today's primary election, others might not have even known an election was happening. As Rhode Islanders and at least some students go to the polls today to choose their party's candidates for local, state and federal offices, we wanted to highlight several issues of great importance to Brown this election cycle.

For many of the issues that grab students' attention and motivate political action, the campus and the city of Providence is just one small part of a broader picture. But as last year's proposed tax on students demonstrated, we must be aware of the policy decisions that impact our immediate lives. In an e-mail to the editorial page board, Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations Marisa Quinn highlighted some of the items on the University's agenda this year.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the most important issues is the continued availability of federal funds in the form of grants to support research. Quinn reported that Brown "competed well" for the money provided in the stimulus act passed last year, but noted there is a "worry about the implication of those funds going away." While some are quick to criticize government spending, we think the federal government's continued support for research on campuses like ours crucially promotes innovation and long-term economic growth. As we wrote last semester, government grants have also allowed undergraduates work as research assistants on cutting-edge projects.

In addition, Quinn said Brown benefits significantly from government support for financial aid, and she mentioned Pell grants as "a strong and vital tool for ensuring access to higher education." As part of the health care reform law enacted earlier this year, Congress allocated money to increase both the amount and number of Pell grants, which provide about $5,000 per year to help students to pay for college. The bill also contained other changes to the student loan system, and we think it will be important to monitor how these changes are implemented.

On the local level, Quinn noted that the issue of taxing nonprofits, and specifically colleges and universities, comes up frequently. Students should be vigilant to ensure that our leaders and candidates know that we will not accept this treatment. As we have previously argued, Brown and its students already make a very large contribution to the local economy, and nonprofits generally should not be treated as a primary source of tax revenue.  

Regarding Brown's relationship with the local economy, the next several years promise to be crucial in the development of the "knowledge district" — the area downtown in the Jewelry District surrounding the new Medical Education Building targeted for a major revitalization effort. Quinn highlighted the importance of cooperation between the University and city government, as local officials will make important decisions regarding zoning and infrastructure in the area. If the University and the city can work collaboratively, we know both will reap major benefits in the long-term.  

Although some Brown students might be tuning in to the elections just now, it should be clear that there's a lot at stake. We encourage students who are registered voters to make time to get to the polls today, and we hope everyone pays attention as the Nov. 2 general election approaches.


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



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