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Simmons: Increasing revenue 'a defining issue'

Seven top University administrators pulled back the curtain on hot-button issues including the international student experience and faculty tenure during the second annual State of Brown address yesterday in Salomon 101. In a departure from last year's format, which featured a keynote address from President Ruth Simmons, this year's event featured other senior administrators more prominently and explored a larger number of topics in greater detail before an audience of about 150.

The University does not want to mimic other educational institutions, said Simmons, who spoke last. "We are staunchly in favor of doing what is right for Brown, and not just being a follower of other policies."

University Hall plans "to promote growth and strengthen programs that have the potential to be globally known programs," she added.

The University will implement initiatives to improve the quality and quantity of resources available to undergraduates. Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron announced projects that will "enhance the undergraduate experience." She said there has been a "rebirth" of the Career Development Center, which recently welcomed new Director Andrew Simmons, an internship coordinator and advisers who represent new areas of expertise. Bergeron discussed emerging projects to help students network and find internships, such as the "Brown to Brown" internship program, which will pilot this summer and create paid internships for undergraduates at companies where alums work. The program will begin in Boston and could expand to other cities.

A January Career Lab — which will feature workshops and networking events for undergraduates the week before spring semester begins — is also in the works. Lastly, Bergeron spoke about the initiative to improve the college experience for international students. To this end, the University has hired an English as a Second Language specialist who will work with both undergraduate and graduate students in the Writing Center.

Margaret Klawunn, vice president for campus life and student services, talked about projects that related to the goals of "fostering a sense of community, advocating for facilities that support learning and making sure that diversity is valued and nurtured." There is a plan to renovate undergraduate housing so students can move out of temporary housing. Her office plans to set aside housing for sophomores, who feel they get "leftover" housing, Klawunn added. She also discussed the needs of international students and announced plans to add another day to orientation so students from abroad can better adjust to life at Brown.

Dean of Admission Jim Miller '73 predicted a change in recruitment strategies due to a "profound demographic shift" in applicants to colleges across the nation. Specifically, the University expects to see more applications and students from the south and the west regions of the country, as well as a growing number of students of Hispanic and Latino backgrounds. Miller also emphasized the need to understand and use new forms of communication and outreach. "We need to be very current, going forward as an institution … in the way we reach the next generation of Brown students," he said.

Jim Tilton, director of financial aid, said the University will continue to provide financial support for students despite the state of the economy. The need-based scholarship budget is $82 million, up from only $31.9 million in the 2002-03 school year, Tilton said. More than 43 percent of current students receive some form of financial aid.

Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration, discussed the University's financial situation. Currently, about half the University's income is from tuition, while around 18 to 20 percent comes from the endowment, 6 percent from gifts and the rest from research grants, she said. The Campaign for Academic Enrichment yielded significant results — $1.61 billion — though the University lost $800 million from its endowments in 2008. The University does not plan to continue making budget cuts in the near future, Huidekoper said.

Provost David Kertzer '69 P'95 P'98, who will step down this summer after five years in the position, addressed questions regarding faculty tenure and internationalization. "We only give tenure to faculty who are both committed, excellent teachers … and outstanding researchers," Kertzer said. He also emphasized there is no "inverse relationship" between the level of teaching and the excellence of research that faculty members perform.

The University is striving to be "known globally as one of the great universities," he said.

Simmons spoke about the Plan for Academic Enrichment, which she credited with promoting transparency and inclusion of the greater University community.

During a question-and-answer session, Simmons said the University is moderating the rate of tuition increase, but is under pressure from other institutions that are increasing tuition at a much faster rate. Finding new sources of revenue is a "defining issue of Brown," especially because the University competes with larger and better-funded peer institutions, she said.

Another student asked about class size and the quality of teaching in popular departments such as political science and economics. Kertzer assured the audience that student evaluations play an important role in tenure decisions. Bergeron said there are already possible solutions proposed to reduce class size in certain departments, but the administration continues to work to improve the situation, especially for seniors.

The event was organized by the Undergraduate Council of Students, which provided a list of topics and questions for the speakers to discuss. "The main goal is to establish some sort of recognition, communication or dialogue between the undergraduate students and the senior members of the administration," said UCS President Diane Mokoro '11. UCS decided to increase the number of speakers to familiarize undergrads with other University leaders, she said.

"I really enjoyed this event. I thought it really elucidated a lot of the issues the University is dealing with," said Elizabeth Rothman '11.

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