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Corporation accepts gift to fund humanities

Capital projects top weekend’s meeting

During this weekend's meeting, members of Brown's highest governing body reviewed year-end budget results, accepted gifts, approved plans to expand housing and dedicated buildings.

The University formally accepted a $3 million gift to fund a new humanities initiative, which will serve as a "stimulus for innovation" in humanities and aid the University in its goal of attracting senior-level humanities faculty, said Dean of the Faculty Rajiv Vohra P'07.

Vohra said that in the past seven years, 60 percent of faculty hires have been assistant professors, while only 25 percent have been full professors. Vohra said the need for senior faculty hiring is "most acute" in the humanities due in part to resignations and retirements. In the next three years, he said he hopes to hire six new "pre-eminent humanists."

Vohra said the gift will not be used for hiring faculty directly, but will most likely be used for programmatic purposes such as developing new curricula, running seminars and conferences and supporting research projects.

"When you're trying to recruit a lot of senior faculty at the same time, it helps to be able to show we've thought about the humanities," Vohra said. "This says to them there's a lot of other support that will come with these positions."

Chairs of humanities departments will meet this week to decide what to do with the gift, Vohra said.

Michael Steinberg, director of the Cogut Center for the Humanities, praised the notion of attracting more senior faculty in the humanities. He said he hopes the humanities initiative can be used to draw scholars from around the world and help make more interdisciplinary bridges at Brown among not only the traditional humanities, but also the sciences.

"There really aren't clear borders to the humanities," Steinberg said. "This, for me, is really Brown at its best."

Corporation members — who meet in October, February and May to make key strategic decisions such as approving the University's budget — also heard about the state of the University's endowment, which ended fiscal year 2010 at $2.180 billion, up from $2.038 billion at the end of the previous year. After a 10.2 percent appreciation in the endowment's funds, a draw of $134 million used to cover operational expenses and $55 million in gifts to the endowment, the endowment showed a 6.9 percent gain for the year, according to Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Beppie Huidekoper.

The current five-year and 10-year returns were 4.6 percent and 6.2 percent, respectively, she said.

Huidekoper said the University aims to reduce its draw from the endowment for operational expenses from last year's 6.5 percent to about 5 percent.

If and when the endowment might return to its peak of $2.8 billion is still unknown, she said.

"Nobody is terribly optimistic about having big high returns in the market," Huidekoper said. "Our investments are slightly more conservative now than in the past."

The Corporation also heard a report about the Campaign for Academic Enrichment. The fundraising drive, which is set to end Dec. 31, has raised $1.542 billion toward its increased goal of $1.6 billion by the end of fiscal year 2010, according to an Oct. 2 campus-wide e-mail from President Ruth Simmons. The Brown Annual Fund — composed primarily of donations by alums and parents — reached $36 million, with 31,342 individual donors, Simmons wrote.

The Corporation formally accepted $36 million in gifts.

A $15 million gift from anonymous donors composed nearly half of the gifts accepted. Of the gift, $3.5 million will be used for brain science, $3 million for the new Humanities Initiative, $2.5 million for arts initiatives, $1 million for the Marine Biological Laboratory collaborative research initiatives and $5 million pending donor designation in support of the Plan for Academic Enrichment, according to the e-mail.

The Corporation also approved funding for renovations beginning next summer to 315 Thayer St., which is currently used for auxiliary housing. Living units in Brown's auxiliary housing system are usually rented out to graduate students and upperclassmen with off-campus permission, but have also been used recently to house younger students as a result of a shortage of on-campus housing.

The Corporation gathered in a tent on a rainy Friday evening along with administrators and students to dedicate the $20 million Stephen Robert '62 Campus Center.

Chancellor Thomas Tisch '76 P'07 and Simmons also led the Corporation on a door-opening visit to the newly renovated $42 million Metcalf Laboratories on Saturday. The building is slated to be the new home of the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences.



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