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TWC creates new name, mission

Brown Center for Students of Color chosen as new name as part of five-year strategic plan

The Third World Center emerged Wednesday from a period of strategic planning ongoing since last fall with plans for new initiatives, a new mission statement and a new name — the Brown Center for Students of Color.

“The name, while powerful, was not accessible or easy to explain to people who needed the Third World Center,” said Mary Grace Almandrez, the center’s director and assistant dean of the College. “Students of color wanted a name that was reflective of the work we did.”

The center’s name has long been a source of some debate on campus. The strategic planning committee, composed of faculty members, students and alums, discussed over 30 potential names submitted before selecting the Brown Center for Students of Color, Almandrez said. Many of the proposed names included the words “multicultural,” “intercultural” or “cross-cultural,” though some students had voiced opposition to “multicultural” as not strong enough, she said.

“We wanted the name to be clear and simple so there was no confusion about who the center serves,” Almandrez said.

Since the public announcement of the name change and new mission statement in a campus-wide email Wednesday afternoon, Almandrez said she has received “overwhelming support” from students, alums and faculty members.

She cited the transparent process of selecting the new name and the revised mission statement as reasons for the community’s backing.

“Students are encouraged to build meaningful relationships across difference, develop racial and ethnic consciousness, and to enact change at Brown and beyond,” the new mission statement reads in part.

New initiatives outlined in the five-year strategic plan include a social justice peer education program and a student activism series. The social justice peer education program will replace the Minority Peer Counselor Friends program, which was discontinued last semester, Almandrez said. Funding has been allocated to hire a coordinator for the social justice peer educator program, she said.

Angie Ocampo ’15, a committee member, said the new initiatives will help the center better transmit social justice issues to the greater Brown community.

The social justice peer education program will be a better platform to discuss issues related to students of color than the MPC Friends program, said Justice Gaines ’16, a member of the student advisory board, which worked with the strategic planning committee to discuss changes to the center.

In phase two of a report on the shutdown last fall of a lecture by former New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and related issues, the Committee on the Events of October 29 suggested that it was important to start “dialogues so students have a broader understanding of how diversity works on an institutional level, and how students navigate systematic marginalization,” Gaines said. The social justice peer education program could address similar issues that might arise in the future, he added.

The new name was accompanied by a new mission statement that centers broadly on social justice and serving students of color, Almandrez said.

“We reworded the mission statement to be forward-thinking and include the programs we’re adding. Our tagline is ‘Visualize. Vocalize. Mobilize,’” Almandrez said.

In a letter sent to the campus community accompanying the public announcement and responding to the strategic plan, President Christina Paxson commended the BCSC for its new mission statement. She offered University funds for introducing card swipe access and increasing accessibility to the BCSC building, Partridge Hall.

Card swipe access will allow students to use the building later on weeknights and on weekends, when the building is currently closed, Almandrez said. Interior renovations will combine two smaller rooms into a larger room, which will increase available programming space, she said.

In the letter, Paxson also wrote that she would ask Almandrez to work with Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn to come up with a budget before the University approves funding for the new initiatives.

Klawunn, who co-chaired the strategic planning committee, said the social justice peer education program would be a priority for the center. Extending the center’s first-generation initiative — which provides services to help first-generation college students transition to Brown — will also be discussed as a working group develops related programs, Klawunn said.

The majority of BCSC programs are funded through the University’s division of Campus Life and Student Services, except for the pre-orientation Third World Transition Program, which was funded with an endowment in 2012.

The committee “decided it was appropriate for TWTP to keep the name to honor the center’s history,” Almandrez said. TWTP is looking to expand with a one-day conference for students who did not participate in the pre-orientation program, sessions for family members of TWTP students and a program for alums, she added.

A program review and Undergraduate Council of Students poll from fall 2012 suggested that the TWC consider changing its name, The Herald previously reported.

The strategic plan also recommends several programs or initiatives for further review, including the housing of the MPC program within University structures and allyship training for white students.

Other proposals include strengthening community partnerships with local youths and schools; finding sustainable funding for commencement ceremonies for students of color; building up faculty fellows and sophomore seminar programming; providing formal leadership training; and compensating multiple graduate student interns each year.

“The center is ready for transformation, and it is time to re-imagine the ways it engages and empowers students,” the plan’s authors wrote in its conclusion.


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