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Editorial: A more engaged Corporation

Unbeknownst to the majority of students, the Corporation convened on campus this past weekend. Many of the 42 trustees and 12 fellows came together for the first of three meetings this academic year to discuss the current standing of the “Building on Distinction” strategic plan and accept a variety of monetary gifts to the University. In light of recent discussion regarding the extent of undergraduate representation on the University’s highest governing body, the community has been analyzing the possible mechanisms that would facilitate a more fluid and transparent relationship between the student body and the Corporation.

The most prominent recommendation — brought forth and backed by the Undergraduate Council of Students — deals with increasing the number of student representatives to the Corporation. But this proposal may raise more questions than it answers.

The UCS president is currently the only undergraduate member of the Corporation and serves as a non-voting representative on the Committee on Campus Life. In 2010, the Corporation announced the creation of two positions for “young alumni trustees,” who would each serve three-year terms. These members provide the Corporation with a more intimate view of the campus in their respective communities, and they are well-positioned to contribute to productive conversation in Corporation meetings. Though we undoubtedly acknowledge the noticeable dearth in student representation on the Corporation, the method of changing this should rest not in, for instance, the “UCS Statement of Support for Students on the Corporation,” but rather in more a broad-based form of engagement and discourse.

The movement to put a student on the Corporation touches on at least two important principles: a voice in the decisions that affect our daily life and a representative to keep distanced members apprised of popular sentiment. Both Chancellor Thomas Tisch ’76 and President Christina Paxson have noted that issues of confidentiality raise concerns if students were placed in difficult voting positions, though students have been present in high-level discussions including search committees.

Rather, the principal obstacle is the issue of selection and capturing the sentiment of the entire undergraduate population, if not graduate and medical as well. That is, providing the Corporation with a single voice for the entire, 6,000-person undergraduate population may give members a sense that they do not have to seek out other voices. Fringe movements and minority opinions within the community would be muted and marginalized by a representative attempting to speak for the entire community.

In the past, the Corporation has met with student leaders and formed committees to address major concerns among students. In April 2013, Paxson formed an ad hoc committee including six Corporation members to address concerns over the divestment from coal companies. The group met with student leaders and reported back to the larger Corporation to inform its discussion. On a historical basis, the Corporation adopted the New Curriculum proposal from then-undergraduate Ira Magaziner ’69 P’06 P’07 P’10.

Such interaction between students and the Corporation transcends the idea of representation. We can achieve a significant symbolic victory and put a student on the Corporation, but this does not guarantee change. The issue of connecting students who live on College Hill with those who visit three times a year is an ongoing struggle that can only be solved by frequent and constant interaction between the two groups. Ad hoc committees, dinners and forums offer students a chance to question decision-makers and inform them of what life at Brown means today.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15, and its members, Natasha Bluth ’15, Manuel Contreras ’16, Baxter DiFabrizio ’15, Manuel Monti-Nussbaum ’15, Katherine Pollock ’16 and Himani Sood ’15. Send comments to


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