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Paxson names members of Ray Kelly committee

The committee will review the events surrounding the canceled lecture and recommend U. action

President Christina Paxson announced the names of the students and faculty members selected to serve on the Committee on the Events of Oct. 29 in an email to the Brown community Thursday afternoon.

The Committee will make recommendations on the University’s response to the interruption and subsequent cancellation of a lecture by New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly on Oct. 29 but will not determine whether disciplinary action will be taken against the student protestors, Paxson wrote in the community-wide email.

The committee comprises five faculty members, two undergraduate students and one graduate student.  The faculty members chosen are Associate Professor of Neuroscience Carlos Aizenman, Professor of English Amanda Anderson, Professor of Africana Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice B. Anthony Bogues, Professor of Anthropology Lina Fruzzetti and Professor of Pediatrics Philip Gruppuso. The students who will serve on the committee are Terra Laughton ’14, Dakotah Rice ’16 and Lakshmi Padmanabhan GS, according to Paxson’s email.

Associate Dean of the College for Research and Upperclass Studies Besenia Rodriguez ’00 and Michael Grabo from the Office of the General Counsel will staff the committee, Paxson wrote.

The committee will both “review the activities and circumstances” that led to the Kelly lecture and the protest as well as analyze the “policies and procedures surrounding lectures on controversial topics,” Paxson wrote. Members will put together a report on these events by the end of winter break.

The committee will then “address the broader issues of campus climate, free expression and dialogue,” Paxson wrote. Possible courses of action include developing new seminars, student programs or guidelines on larger issues the committee identifies.

The committee will complete a report on this portion of its work by the end of the spring semester, Paxson wrote.

It has not been determined whether either of these reports will be made public or if they will be privately presented to Paxson, Laughton said.

“These are questions I have myself,” she added.

The committee will not be responsible for determining whether students involved in organizing or attending the protest will be charged with violations of the student code of conduct, said Provost Mark Schlissel P’15.  He added that if students were to be charged with any violations, that information would not be made public in order to protect students’ privacy.

Bogues, committee chair, said he did not know and did not ask why Paxson selected him to be on the committee. But he said he decided to serve because it was “important in trying to understand what happened” at the lecture and to play a part in developing “a set of protocols” to address “the controversial issues at hand.”

Bogues said that even if he did have reactions to the lecture, he would not share them, because he does not want personal views “to color the work” with which the committee has been tasked.

Gruppuso, who previously served as associate dean for medical education and as an administrator in the Office of Student Life, wrote in an email to The Herald that he might have been chosen to be on the committee because “someone must consider me thoughtful and fair-minded.”

He heard about the lecture protest on public radio, does not know details of the sequence of events and does not know other committee members, but agreed to participate because “President Paxson asked me that I serve,” he wrote.

Laughton said she believes she was chosen to be on the committee because of her ability to be open-minded and her understanding of the issues at hand due to her understanding of the criminal justice system.

She said she had not previously  experienced “energy” like the atmosphere on campus in the aftermath of the protest. She wanted to be a “part of the conversation” to make sure students were getting the facts, particularly because of the amount of misinformation that circulated around campus in the days following the protest.

Though she does not know other committee members, Laughton said she hopes to soon contact Rice, the other undergraduate representative, to speak about their actions going forward.

Gruppuso also wrote that he does not know the other committee members but that he has “confidence in the president and her leadership team.”

Laughton said she will make herself available to fellow undergraduates, probably through the Undergraduate Council of Students, so that they can share their opinions with her.

“I am very open to hearing perspectives,” Laughton said, adding that she joined the committee to represent the views of “the undergraduate community” rather than her own.

Justice Gaines ’16, who protested the lecture, said he knows a few of the members of the committee and heard from others they had “awareness of the issues” and were going to be “fair.”

Though he did not have an opinion on whether organizing a committee was necessarily the “right way” to address the aftermath of the protest, he said he was interested to see how the committee “investigates issues.”

Anselmo Fuentes ’16, who supported the protest, said he appreciated students were “given a voice” through representation on the committee. He said he would like the committee to consider the 2006 report from the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice as the committee makes recommendations, so that it understands how the University “perpetuated racism” in the past. Fuentes added he would like the committee to make meeting minutes public and reveal its timeline.

Fuentes said he hopes the committee can foster “meaningful dialogue” among Brown and Providence community members, understand different perspectives and “hear the voices of the protestors.”

Though the committee has not determined when it will first meet, the members will work to convene before Thanksgiving break, Laughton said.

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