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Paxson P’19 stresses advocacy, diversity in ‘State of Brown’ address

In annual address, Paxson addresses executive order, faculty diversity, graduate program expansion

President Christina Paxson P’19 highlighted the increased diversity in faculty hires, expansion of master’s programs and challenges of the Trump administration at the annual State of Brown address held by the Undergraduate Council of Students at 85 Waterman St. Thursday.

In this new federal landscape, “advocacy is important,” Paxson said. Though “not-for-profit universities are required to be nonpartisan, that doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for things that upset (the university’s) functions,” she said.

“We’ve been very, very vocally opposed” to the executive orders on immigration, Paxson said. Paxson recently joined 47 university presidents in signing a letter asking President Trump to “rectify or rescind” the order.

In response to the cuts to research proposed by Trump in his first budget request to Congress, the University set aside a $5 million contingency fund to support projects that are at risk of having their funding cut. If cuts occur, it will have “a big impact on . . . doctoral students, research labs and graduate students” who rely on government funding, Paxson said.

The University has increased diversity amongst new hired faculty, such as in “physics, political science and I hope — knock on wood — computer science,” Paxson said.

The University has also added new graduate programs, including fifth-year masters programs, which allow undergraduates to gain further depth in a discipline, such as the new data science program.

Paxson assured students that the expansion of graduate programs will not detract resources from the undergraduate program. She added that having a larger PhD program will help attract the best faculty, who often collaborate with advanced students.

Despite the progress made under the Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan, as summarized in the first report released last month, “We have a lot of work to do. This is not a one-year plan,” Paxson said. One major area of improvement is increasing accessibility across campus. A video project by a Brown student about the inaccessibility of Wilson Hall influenced the decision to renovate the building to make it wheelchair accessible, she said.

Over her five years at Brown, Paxson said she has overseen large increases in financial aid, from $88 million budgeted aside when she arrived for the 2011-12 academic year to $120 million budgeted aside for next year. “This is the single fastest growing part of Brown University’s budget,” she said.

Progress to increase financial aid for international students is well on its way, Paxson added. Paxson, who recently visited three cities in China, said the University is trying to increase the socioeconomic diversity of its international students from China, where most of the international students come from.


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