To the Editor:
I am disappointed in the Brown administration’s efforts to cite its current programmatic investments in Providence schools as a way to excuse Brown’s failure to meet its more than decade-old commitment to raise $10 million for a permanent fund to support K-12 education in Providence.
While Brown does support valuable programs that benefit students in Providence, the article does not explain how many of these programs benefit both Brown students by providing them with service learning opportunities and benefit Brown by improving its public image.
The Herald would do well to explore the ways in which these programs benefit Brown, which is not to say they are bad for the district or city, just that reporting them only as pure donations from the University is an uncritical broadcasting of the Corporation’s message.
In the case of the $10 million fund, in 2007 Brown was able to get the public relations boost by making a splashy promise without then having to fulfill the commitment.
Brown’s current investments and its mostly unfunded Fund for the Education of the Children in Providence are conducted entirely on the university’s own terms: Brown decides how to spend funds in the way that best serves the University’s interests, not based on what best serves the public interest. These efforts help Brown when it works together with other private universities and hospitals to ward off efforts that would require these organizations to pay taxes to the City of Providence. These organizations only contribute relatively small payments in lieu of taxes, despite owning much of the most valuable land in the city.
Like any wealthy corporation that pays little in taxes, Brown can point to whatever voluntary choices it has made to support worthy programs. But in a democracy, governments determine how we fund our schools — and wealthy corporations, both for profit and nonprofit, should contribute to the public good as taxpayers and not just on their own terms.
By Peter Ian Asen ’04