As of Sunday, only 766 students had responded to a survey issued by the Undergraduate Council of Students last week to collect student opinion on the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, said Katherine Bergeron, dean of the College and chair of the Committee on ROTC, at yesterday's Brown Community Council meeting. The survey deadline — originally set for May 4 — will be extended in hopes that more students will offer their feedback. Surveys conducted by UCS usually average 1,500 respondents, said UCS President Diane Mokoro '11.
About 50 community members gathered in the Kaspar Multipurpose Room for the meeting to hear updates from the Committee on ROTC and the Athletics Review Committee. Many in attendance expressed dissatisfaction with both committees, criticizing a perceived lack of transparency and the athletics committee's recommendations.
Bergeron began the meeting by summarizing the committee's progress in reviewing the University's stance on ROTC. In the past two months, there have been over 15 meetings and a wide range of responses from members of the Brown and Providence communities, she said.
She also spoke with an assistant secretary of the Navy, who is interested in involving the University in a cross-institutional program, Bergeron added. This plan would allow Brown students to travel to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts to participate in their naval ROTC programs because no such programs are currently offered in Rhode Island. ROTC's current arrangement with Providence College would likely remain unchanged.
At this point, the committee is not recommending changes to the 1969 resolution, which recognized ROTC programs as extracurricular activities, thereby rendering ROTC courses ineligible for University credit.
In a question-and-answer session, audience members brought up the issue of transgender discrimination and how it factors into the committee's recommendations. Bergeron said the committee still needs time to "formulate an appropriate response."
Another audience member questioned the academic implications of allowing ROTC back on campus. President Ruth Simmons assured the audience that faculty members will have the opportunity to offer input on the committee's recommendations.
Simmons said the committee's report on ROTC will be made available to the public, though she did not specify when. After she reviews the report, it will then be presented to the Corporation, though the University's highest governing body has not indicated a desire to provide much input on the decision. She said she hopes the committee will offer its recommendations before summer break.
Athletics Review Committee Chair Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior adviser to the president, led the discussion on the proposed cuts to four varsity teams.
Spies said the recommendations should be considered as a "whole package" that will strengthen athletics in the long run. In addition to cutting teams, the committee's report also recommends increasing the athletics budget by 10 percent. But even with the budget increase, it will be challenging to support the 34 remaining teams, Spies added.
Cory Abbe '13, a member of the women's fencing team, asked about the criteria on which the review committee based its recommendations to cut teams.
"In the end, it wasn't a formula. It was a judgment of a combination of factors," Spies replied.
A member of the audience also asked if it would be possible to postpone a decision on cutting the programs to allow the teams to figure out alternative plans.
Students expressed collective disappointment and frustration with the quality of the answers from review committee members, characterizing them as overly vague, and said the committee lacked transparency.
"We feel that the reports, which obviously took a lot of time and effort, may not have had as much data or rigorous analysis that we feel should have been included," said Tanya Nguyen '13, a member of the women's fencing team.
The Organizational Review Committee first proposed cutting athletic teams two years ago, Simmons told The Herald after the meeting. But the proposal to cut teams was struck down at that time. "The aim here was to bring it back and have a fuller discussion," she added.
Teams were not given more time to respond to the recommendations because the Corporation set guidelines for the review process that were not presented to the Athletics Review Committee until this February, Simmons said. Consequently, it was difficult for the committee to alert teams sooner because the committee could not formulate recommendations until recently, she added. "The timing is very unfortunate," Simmons said.
Simmons said she believes that public discussions, such as those on ROTC and the review committee's proposals, are valuable but do not always occur at peer institutions.
"What made our process different is we don't make our decisions just like that. When we have people participate, we're ahead," she said. "It's not just about a budget. It's about what's the best experience we can give our students."