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Norris-LeBlanc '13: The Corporation is back in town!

Yes, everyone, it is once again that time of the year. The body of people who have the final say in every decision pertaining to this University has graced us with its presence and, so to speak, laid down the law. After reading President Ruth Simmons' e-mail to the community informing us of the Corporation's many conclusions, my interest was piqued by the implications of several data points and promises.

Since the total amount of money raised for the "Boldly Brown" Campaign for Academic Enrichment was $1.4 billion in May 2009 and $1.61 Billion in December 2010, this means our University received more than $200 million in new funding last year.

In light of the contract negotiations between University administration and the dining services and library workers over the past two years, my jaw is left hanging ajar, low and slightly to the right. Although a great deal of this money is earmarked for pet projects of the Campaign for Academic Enrichment, we must not forget that donors do not always have a shining vision of where they want their money to go. Rather, the University often solicits funding for certain projects.

In my opinion, it is the University's responsibility as an employer and as a supposed agent of positive change in the world to ensure that above all else, their community members are taken care of. If we operate under the assumption that our University should strive to make sure its students, faculty and staff are protected as much as possible throughout this financial crisis, how can the Corporation begin to justify yet another tuition hike while the majority of the United States is still suffering from the reverberations of the most recent economic crash?

If the answer to this question is their standby — to ensure the future financial success of Brown University — it will mark the most ignorant and backwards inability to recognize economic privilege I have seen in my three years as a part of this community.

Unless the University plans on a public admission of "Whoopsies, our bad" closely followed by the immediate reinstatement of the benefits University employees were forced to forfeit in the name of the economic downturn, I think it's high time the Corporation come clean and change their name to the Man. Yes, I mean the Man you stick it to.

Simmons goes on to report that another key priority is to ensure "that compensation remains competitive in order to continue recruiting and retaining the best faculty; and attracting and rewarding staff who are working ever harder to keep Brown functioning as well as it does." To unpack this statement a little, I think it is reasonable to extrapolate that "recruiting" and "attracting" mean hiring, "retaining" means tenuring and "rewarding" means increasing compensation.

First, though Simmons claims that the University wants to continue hiring — and subsequently tenuring — faculty, there has been a serious debate brewing among administration and faculty about our tenure rate as compared to those of our peer institutions. Specifically, some feel that our tenure rate is too high. This leads me to believe that "recruiting and retaining the best faculty" is no more than empty rhetoric, vaguely suggesting a positive and placating idea while the administration actively pursues its opposite. Especially given the fact that since the 2002-03 academic year, the percentage of assistant professors has increased by 49.5 percent while the number of tenured professors has increased by only 9.3 percent, I am highly skeptical of the University's commitment to follow through with this promise.

Second, we can notice that in the latter part of this statement, "faculty" is changed to "staff." Since the median salary of tenured professors actually decreased by about $1,000 last year, I am left wondering where administrative compensations stand in this picture. Though information about the composition and compensation of faculty is easily obtained, charts detailing this information about administrators are either buried deep in the bowels of some university website or do not actually exist.

But since our chief investment officer, Cynthia Frost, and our president, Ruth Simmons, both make more than $800,000 per year, I am inclined to believe that high-level administrators are certainly included in this program of "rewarding."

So, what does all of this mean? At the end of the day, I think it strongly points towards a conclusion reached by Herald opinions columnist Julian Park '12: Corporate profiteers run our University ("Corporatization and a pirate ship metaphor," Feb. 11). And it suggests not only that these people run our University, but that they are changing it in a fundamental way. Considering the disagreement between university statements about tenure rates and their subsequent actions and the all-too-familiar use of corporate rhetoric about "rewarding" accompanied by bloated administrative salaries, I have to agree with Park one more time: It is time for mutinous revolt.

Chris Norris-LeBlanc '13 is from Rhode Island. He can be contacted at chris.norris.leblanc@gmail.com.


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