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Editorial: An unacceptable budget cut

Last week, we wrote about our concerns regarding the impact of the newly announced operational plan on the quality of undergraduate education at Brown and the university-college model. The week prior, we wrote about our concerns regarding the University’s plan to reduce its structural deficit. Both of these plans, we believe, reflect a disconcerting trajectory for the place of undergraduate education among the University’s priorities as it plans for the future. Last week’s news regarding a cut in temporary teaching funds confirms a simply unacceptable reality. Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12 told The Herald that in order to reach its total goal of slashing temporary teaching funds by $1 million in the next three years, the University will reduce its temporary teaching fund by $450,000 this fiscal year.

Regarding the impact of this cut on undergraduate education, Senior Lecturer in Education Luther Spoehr told The Herald, “We are already far from able to hire enough temporary instructors to cover courses left uncovered by faculty sabbaticals. … The proposed cuts in the University’s budget for such temporary instructors will make it even more difficult to sustain the number and quality of undergraduate courses.” We share this concern and demand in the wake of the University’s veritable fundraising success a commitment from the University to maintain the incredible quality of undergraduate education that brought our peers and us to Brown.

We find discomfiting the following statement from McLaughlin: “We are very much focused on the money. … We’d rather not do this, but we’ve been told that we have to find $1 million.” In short, we are distressed by such talk from an office responsible for maintaining one of the world’s premiere faculties.

Brown offers one of the country’s best undergraduate programs. Rankings confirm this (though we need no confirmation): U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings list Brown as third in the country for quality of undergraduate teaching. If anything, Brown should share with the community how it plans to maintain this particular strength, rather than send signals to the community about a shift in focus away from maintaining the quality of undergraduate education.

More specifically, we are interested in understanding how this cut will impact particular departments. As Spoehr’s statement suggests, this cut will have an impact on departments already struggling to maintain course offerings amidst faculty sabbaticals. We would like to know how this cut will affect the University’s smaller departments in particular, which are often dependent on the plans of a few core faculty members. The great variety of small courses offered by Brown indicates no administrative issue, but instead reflects the incredible array of opportunities for students to learn intimately with faculty.

Rather than make cuts that might impact the quality of our undergraduate education, we strongly believe the University ought to look to other areas of more legitimate excess. We find it difficult to believe the University is allotting too many dollars to an undergraduate experience that many students would call invaluable. As such, we demand further clarification from the University administration on the impact of this announced cut. 

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Manuel Contreras ’16 and Meghan Holloway ’16, and its members, Emma Axelrod ’18, Noah Fitzgerel ’17 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to


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