For the first time in its history, the University has published its official policies for gift acceptance and the naming of University spaces and positions.
The Oct. 27 announcement, which followed the annual fall Corporation meeting, comes as universities nationwide face pressure to increase transparency about their financial relationships. The Corporation is the University’s highest governing body.
“Conversations on our campus and nationally have made clear the need to share more fully the principles and practices that guide decision-making when Brown is engaged in discussions with prospective donors about gifts,” said President Christina Paxson P’19 in a press release.
In a campus-wide email Oct. 27, Paxson announced that the Corporation had approved a number of revisions to the Gift Acceptance Policy and Naming or Renaming University Buildings, Spaces, Programs and Positions Policy.
The revised version of the gift acceptance policy now contains elements that “were understood as foundational but weren’t articulated previously,” wrote Assistant Vice President for News and Editorial Development Brian Clark in an email to The Herald. The policy newly states that “the University is committed to transparency and will share information about the receipt of gifts in a manner that best serves the interests of both the University and respects the wishes of donors,” an example of “new language that contextualizes long-standing principles underlying gift acceptance,” Clark wrote.
These revisions follow both recent controversy surrounding the late financier Jeffrey Epstein’s anonymous donations to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as protests by Brown student groups against the role of Warren Kanders ’79 P’23, owner and CEO of Safariland, at the University. Kanders is a member of the advisory council for the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society.
In a Sept. 12 op-ed, six University students and alums who are members of the student collective Warren Kanders Must Go wrote that the University must “devise, implement and publicize strict procedures for ethical gift review, with the substantive involvement of students, faculty and staff.” The Herald also published a Sept. 23 editorial in response to the local and national debate arguing that “Brown must further clarify its ethical guidelines for donations.”
The published gift acceptance policy states that a gift’s acceptance “does not imply nor mean that the University endorses or approves of the donor’s views, opinions, businesses or activities.” Earlier in the year, Paxson said in a Feb. op-ed that using the rejection of gifts to take sides in social or political issues would be contrary to Brown’s value of intellectual freedom.
In order for a gift to be accepted, it must be aligned with “Brown’s mission of education, research and scholarship,” according to the revised policy. A gift will not be accepted if the donation was acquired illegally by the donor, if it compromises the academic freedom of the community or if “being associated with the donor of the gift could inflict damage to the University’s reputation, standing or integrity or be contrary to University values.”
The policy also allows for the University to treat gifts as anonymous, but not with the purpose of “shielding the University from damage to its reputation or disguising a gift which it would otherwise not have accepted.”
The revised policies were informed by “feedback and input (Paxson) received on the polices from student and faculty leaders,” Paxson wrote. By making the policies available to the public, the University is “fulfilling a commitment to greater transparency” in the University’s naming and gift acceptance practices, she added. The policies can be viewed on the Corporation website.
During the meeting, the Corporation also accepted over $57 million in gifts and pledges that will go toward financial aid, endowed professorships, graduate education, the performing arts, athletics and academic programming. The Corporation also approved the establishment of seven new endowed positions and four University spaces in recognition of the gifts.
The Corporation also received a report on the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on Equity and Integrity in Admissions, which Paxson formed in spring 2019 after the national college admissions scandal revealed corruption in several colleges’ admissions processes, The Herald previously reported. The committee, co-chaired by Senior Fellow Maria Zuber MS’83 PhD’86 P’11 and Provost Richard Locke P’18, was formed to ensure that the University has “adequate safeguards to protect the integrity of the admissions process, particularly around athletics recruitment,” and that admission is accessible to students of all economic backgrounds, Paxson wrote. A report on the committee’s progress will be released to the community within the semester, she added.
In addition, several students met with Corporation members on Oct. 24 and 25 in informal discussion groups to “increase communication and engagement between trustees and fellows and the student body,” Paxson wrote.
The Corporation also received updates on the Lincoln Field Building renovation, “which will create improved space for research and teaching” in the Earth, environmental and planetary science departments, Paxson wrote. The Budget and Finance Committee also authorized construction for “the health and wellness center and residence hall” along Brook Street, across from Pembroke Field. Construction will begin later this semester.
The Corporation also welcomed twelve new trustees and two new fellows, and approved the appointment of four faculty members to named chairs.