Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Editorial: The university-college model

At 4 p.m. today, students, faculty, staff and other Brown community members will join President Christina Paxson P’19 at an open forum to discuss the operational plan that will shape the University’s expansion over the next decade. The “Operational Plan for Building Brown’s Excellence” will guide the implementation of the goals outlined in Paxson’s strategic plan, “Building on Distinction.” In the spirit of Paxson’s invitation to community members to share their input on the operational plan, we would like to add our own.

The plan is ambitious and wide-reaching. Its key pillars — integrative scholarship, educational leadership, academic excellence and campus development — represent important areas of growth for the University. We believe strengthening these areas will add to the student experience, and the University will emerged enhanced. Missing from the plan, however, was a discussion of the ways Brown aspires to strengthen its university-college model.         

Former President Henry Wriston coined the term “university-college” in “The University College,” a 1946 pamphlet from the Corporation to alums. The university-college model represents leveraging the resources of a great research university to enhance the intimate and rigorous learning environment that characterizes an outstanding undergraduate experience. Brown’s proud university-college model reflects the academic community that attracts tens of thousands of applicants every year. It features prominently in the University’s mission statement, which calls Brown a “unified community known as a university-college.” And after students expressed concern in 2013 that Paxson’s initial draft of “Building on Distinction” did not mention the term “university-college,” Paxson revised the plan to include the term.

We are therefore dismayed by the term’s omission in the operational plan. In short, we would like to see how the University plans to double down on its commitment to that which makes Brown unique within the Ivy League — its university-college model — as it expands and improves. We fear that in not orienting the undergraduate experience around this model as we look toward the future, we will leave the essence of the Brown undergraduate experience behind.

While it can be described in many ways, the university-college model is reflected in the opportunities that abound for undergraduates to work side-by-side with the renowned faculty members, graduate students and staff members who help comprise the Brown community. Coupled with our beloved open curriculum, the university-college model represents the inclusivity that distinguishes the Brown experience. We believe the University can commit to enhancing the university-college model in the operational plan in a few ways.

Most appropriate for the section of the plan concerning the enhancement of the undergraduate community, a focus on the university-college model would complement a plan that seems heavily career-oriented. While the plan ensures that the number of opportunities for students to make their educations relevant to their career goals is of the utmost importance, it features little discussion of the intrinsic value of increasing opportunities for undergraduates to immerse themselves in the academic community and explore the boundaries of human knowledge. And while the plan makes various references to increased undergraduate access to Brown’s initiatives and centers, such as the Cogut Center for the Humanities, we believe the plan would benefit from a concerted effort to discuss concrete steps to ensure that our university-college model remains relevant to Brown’s future.

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


Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.