Members of the University’s administration and student body discussed the ongoing selection process for a new Vice President for Campus Safety, the progress of the Task Force on Anti-Black Racism and the University’s plans to transform general safety procedures at the Brown University Community Council meeting March 10.
Mark Porter, the University’s current executive director and chief of Public Safety, announced his upcoming June 2021 resignation late last year, The Herald previously reported.
The position has been changed from Department of Public Safety Director to Vice President for Campus Safety. The change better “reflects the principles and holistic approach to campus safety this council has discussed,” said Russell Carey ’91 MA’06, executive vice president for planning and policy.
Following Porter’s resignation, the University formed a search committee, which is chaired by Carey and Barbara Chernow, executive vice president for finance and administration, and will work in conjunction with administrators, students and alums. The committee drafted a position profile for the job and shared it with faculty members, senior administrators and campus partners for feedback.
Carey encouraged all members of the University's community “to suggest names, both of potential candidates and sources of candidates” upon the finalization and publication of the position profile.
Shontay Delalue, vice president for institutional equity and diversity, and Andre Willis, associate professor of religious studies, discussed updates on the University’s Task Force on Anti-Black Racism in their roles as its co-chairs. Since its formation, the task force has engaged in discourse with Black members of the University community, including students, faculty and staff, according to the co-chairs.
Delalue discussed the importance of gauging community needs before developing actionable steps. “We wanted to ensure we had a clear understanding of the issues that pertained to the community members the most to create conditions that would be best for the community,” Delalue said.
Delalue and Willis outlined the committee's goals as developing education initiatives to help community members better understand anti-Black racism, fostering a welcoming and supportive environment for Black community members, expanding on the curriculum of Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan designated courses, scholarship and research on the history of anti-Black racism and expanding collaborations with historically Black colleges and universities.
“To try to help Black folks thrive in this community, … our central question was: Can students go through these programs without ever learning about Black life, Black history and how race functions in America?,” Willis said.
The committee is divided into four sub-groups, each researching a different aspect of the University experience: curriculum and the classroom, culture and climate, administrative and academic policies and broader Rhode Island community engagement. These sub-committees have since come together to discuss possible recommendations to make to the administration to achieve accountability, equal representation and transformation at the University.
Once finalized, these recommendations will be made public, and community members will be encouraged to provide feedback. “The recommendations are not an end, they’re a beginning,” said University President Christina Paxson P’19.
The task force has also made a list of separate University resources available to community members to help both individuals and departments begin to understand and address anti-Blackness. “I think the message of the task force will be to help folks keep pushing outside the task force so we can keep the work going,” Willis said.
The meeting also addressed changes to the role of public safety in University and student events. The University is in the midst of making changes regarding campus safety and security, including alterations to who responds when issues arise. For example, DPS is no longer responsible for helping students who are accidentally locked out of their rooms or for carrying out wellness checks, The Herald previously reported.
Joie Steele, associate dean and director of student activities, and Mikele St-Germain, interim director and associate director of University event and conference services, detailed the current process of event coordination, which happens in conjunction with certain security and event management departments such as DPS, Event Staff Services, Brown Healthy ambassadors and community volunteers.
While these collaborations help mitigate risks and liability and “make sure events are planned well and executed safely,” problems arise surrounding union contracts and rules of seniority, St-Germain said. For events involving DPS, planners often do not have the ability to choose which officers they would like for security or to request that they be unarmed.
To create environments at events where more “people feel welcomed and … safe,” Steele introduced possible future initiatives for event coordination, such as initiating discussions about decreasing the presence of armed officers or eliminating them entirely. The University also hopes to create additional paid staff roles that respond to issues traditionally managed by DPS and have trained staff members present at events to have important discussions with community members who may feel unsafe or upset.
Additionally, Paxson gave a president’s report on general University announcements.
Responding to questions regarding the University’s future plans for vaccinating students, Paxson gave no concrete details but assured that “things are moving in a good direction.”
Grace Calhoun ’92 and Mary Joe Calen were introduced as the new Vice President for Athletics and Recreation and Executive Director of the Swearer Center, respectively. Calhoun will start in her position in April and Calen in May.
Paxson also addressed the University’s financial standing, stating that the pandemic has led to a “tough year for all institutions in higher education. Brown is no exception.” Paxson cited a projected $103 million deficit for the University for Fiscal Year 2020 but emphasized that the projection is an improvement from initial numbers and has only been improving since an October projection thanks to “the good work of people on this campus.”
Alex Nadirashvili is the managing editor of multimedia and social media for The Brown Daily Herald's 133rd Editorial Board. As a former University News editor, he covered faculty, higher education and student life, though his proudest legacy is The Brown Daily Herald TikTok account.