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Brown preserves faculty, staff benefits

Working group proposes cutting budget for hiring temporary faculty, curtailing visiting scholars housing program

The newly released recommendations from the Deficit Reduction Working Group, headed by Provost Richard Locke, plan to resolve the $5 million dollar structural deficit without eroding benefits or laying off employees, Locke said at a Tuesday faculty meeting.

The deficit reduction plan, released in May, targeted employee benefits as sources of savings. The working group — made up of 23 faculty members, students and staff members — was charged with finding $7 million in savings over the next three to five years, Locke said.

The group’s initial recommendations included freezing the Tuition Assistance Program, increasing the health insurance contribution, introducing annual deductibles and changing early retirement policies. After receiving much negative feedback from Brown community members, the group modified the recommendations.

“We actually read through the comments ... and we listened,” Locke said. In the new recommendations, these benefits are untouched.

Some of the other recommendations are the same but now include other initiatives, such as installing energy-saving technologies in buildings for long-term savings, cutting the budget for hiring temporary faculty members by $1 million and rolling back the visiting scholars housing program to reduce the vacancies that arise from short-term leasing. The group also cited changes the University could make to save money such as consolidating some of the 70 transportation services employed by the University.

The final, detailed plan will be released next week.

The rights and privileges of emeritus faculty will be a focus for faculty discussion this year, said Thomas Roberts, chair of the Faculty Executive Committee and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. They have “drifted in ambiguity at best” in the past and have gotten increasingly restrictive, he added.

All faculty members will be required to take an online training course for sexual assault prevention this year, which President Christina Paxson P’19 said “is something we have to take very seriously.”

Conversations about mental health and sexual assault on campus will be among Paxson’s central focuses this year, she said. One of the priorities of the strategic plan is improving the campus climate around these issues, as well as general student health and well-being.

There will also be an open forum to discuss academic and campaign planning at the end of September.

“There’s an operational side to excellence that we really can’t ignore,” Paxson said, adding that the execution of Building on Distinction and its accompanying capital campaign would make significant progress in building “academic excellence,” which is a pillar of the strategic plan. Her goal is to make “academic excellence” sustainable through recruitment and finance.

The most important investment the University will make is in people, Paxson said. Forty-six new members of the faculty were welcomed at the meeting, and many more were promoted — not only faculty members of the College, but also of the School of Public Health and of Alpert Medical School.

Paxson also added that investing in people includes faculty chairs, financial aid, graduate fellowships and diversity initiatives. Flexible academic priorities, financial resources and financial and operational systems are also essential, she said.

The strategic plan’s programs include enhancing the curriculum, furthering the Engaged Scholars Program, strengthening research infrastructure and promoting integrative themes of scholarship. Other initiatives include new facilities, such as the engineering building under construction, the performing arts center being planned, a renovation of the Sharpe Refectory, new athletics facilities and other campus life priorities, Paxson said.

Corrections: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Brown was introducing a visiting scholars housing program to fill vacancies. In fact, it is curtailing that program because its short-term leases lead to frequent vacancies. The article also initially misstated that the purpose of an open forum later this month is to discuss the deficit reduction recommendations. In fact, the forum is to discuss academic and campaign planning.

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