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Locke: Sophomores to have choice between remote spring courses or summer term if not allowed back on College Hill next semester

UCS hosts undergraduate town hall with Paxson, Locke, Brown administrators on public health, campus life issues

At a virtual town hall event hosted by the Undergraduate Council of Students Friday, students discussed the University’s COVID-19 plans, policing on campus, academic concerns and more with administrators, including President Christina Paxson P’19, Provost Richard Locke P’18 and Dean of the College Rashid Zia ’01.

When discussing the University’s plans for the spring, Locke said that in the event that sophomores may not return to campus, they will have the choice to either take courses remotely during the spring semester or enroll in the summer term. Paxson added that she aims to announce a concrete plan for the spring semester by the end of October. 

The event began with introductions given by UCS President Jason Carroll ’21, UCS Vice President Summer Dai ’22 and Paxson.

“Today we have an excellent opportunity to discuss concerns on the minds of our students and the future of our community,” Carroll said.

Paxson also acknowledged student concerns about what the spring semester will look like. “We’re in a very precarious position as a country and globally,” she said, noting that with COVID-19 case numbers on the rise statewide and across the country, “this pandemic is not going to just disappear any time soon.”

“On the other hand, at Brown, we’re doing well, in large part because you are taking this situation seriously and following public health protocols,” Paxson said. She added that on her regular walks around campus, she has noticed near-universal mask-wearing and social distancing. She praised the student body for their diligent efforts to protect the University and greater Providence communities.

Paxson also emphasized the importance of civic engagement in light of recent protests against anti-Black racism in the United States, the University’s work with Providence public schools, external audits of the Department of Public Safety and the University’s efforts to mitigate its financial deficit caused by the pandemic.

Carroll and Assistant to the President for Special Projects Olugbenga Joseph ’16 then read student questions to the panel. Students were able to submit questions prior to the meeting as well as during the event using Zoom’s Q&A function.

Carroll began the question-and-answer portion of the town hall by asking administrators about the University’s plans for students who test positive for COVID-19. 

In response, Vice President of Campus Life Eric Estes said that the University is “immediately focused on making sure we’re supportive of the student (and) any personal or medical needs they may have.”

Dai asked for clarification on what move-in will look like for students returning in the spring, specifically for first-years. 

“We will be sending out a more detailed communication on Tuesday of next week to our first-year students that will give them more information about pre-registration and the housing assignment process,” Associate Vice President for Campus Life Koren Bakkegard said, noting that several virtual community-building events are scheduled for first-years to get to know each other before their arrival on campus.

Later, Samy Amkieh ’21.5 asked the panel about the University’s future plans regarding the role of DPS and Providence Police on campus. 

Since the start of the fall, DPS has taken on new responsibilities to enforce the University’s COVID-19 Campus Safety Policy, The Herald previously reported. Grasping at the Root, a campus coalition formed in the wake of the national reckoning on policing and racial injustice, has called for the abolition of DPS as part of its demands surrounding carcerality and policing at the University.

“Reducing our reliance on police and shifting our alliance is a phased approach, and we are absolutely having those conversations,” Director of Student Activities Joie Steele said. “We are definitely thinking about alternative options to keep our students safe without having police officers on every corner.”

Other questions addressed difficulties in remote learning posed by students’ different time zones, bias incidents on campus and mental health concerns.

Vice President for Institutional Equity and Diversity Shontay Delalue, Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91, and Executive Director of Health and Wellness and Associate Vice President for Campus Life Dr. Vanessa Britto MS’96 also participated in the town hall.



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