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Pre-college programs to be held on campus this summer

Students enrolled in summer classes express concerns regarding campus health, uncertainty surrounding University priorities

The University intends to run its annual Summer@Brown and Leadership Institute pre-college programs in person at limited capacity this summer. The landscape of this summer’s programming will be distinctly different, with campus resources split between enrolled undergraduates in a modified summer trimester and pre-college program attendees.

Undergraduates enrolled in summer courses have expressed concerns regarding the safety of hosting the programs and courses concurrently given COVID-19 guidelines and limited campus resources. Still, the University says that it has protocols in place to ensure a safe summer for both populations, and an equitable division of resources among them.

Many undergraduates encountered difficulties registering for summer courses in an already altered academic and residential campus climate. Additionally, few underclassmen have experienced more than one full semester of normal, in-person instruction. 

“I think that the University’s decision to host summer programs is incredibly dismissive of the struggles that current students have gone through this year,” said Jared Giszack ’24. “This whole situation comes across as the school catering to the wants of non-Brown students while ignoring the genuine concerns of those who are currently enrolled,” he added.

Ella Spungen ’23.5 shared Giszack’s concerns and expressed disappointment at the University's perceived lack of communication with undergraduates regarding the decision. “I learned of the University’s plans to bring high school students on campus (this summer) through their pre-college advertising, not from any communication from the school directly,” she said.

Spungen also expressed skepticism that the University’s plans to keep undergraduates separate from Summer@Brown attendees will actually mitigate interaction between them. “It seems to me, whatever Brown’s plans are to keep these populations separate … that there will inevitably be interactions between the two (populations),” she said.

In response to these concerns, Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes wrote in an email to The Herald that “my understanding is that Summer@Brown is going to be a very self-contained experience and there will be no real interaction between students attending those programs and undergraduate students enrolled for the summer semester,” 

“Pre-college students will stay in residence halls that will only be used by them, pick up meals in dining halls only used by them and participate in activities in areas that are only used by them or that will be supervised by pre-college program staff to maintain safe distance from … other members of the University community,” wrote Adrienne Marcus, dean of pre-college and undergraduate summer programs in an email to The Herald.

The University has run both the undergraduate summer session and pre-college programming on campus at the same time for many years, Marcus explained. The main difference in the pre-college programming this year is the number of individuals who will be on campus. While the University would typically welcome 1400 to 2400 pre-college students in any given week, the program has been limited to approximately 400 high school students per week for this summer, according to Marcus.

The pre-college programs themselves will also look quite different, Marcus added. “Normally, these programs closely reflect the experience of a first-year college student by providing high school students the ability to choose how they spend their days,” she said. This typically includes — but is not limited to — getting to class on time, making healthy decisions about what to eat, completing coursework and getting enough sleep.

“This summer, pre-college students will follow a highly structured schedule that helps to ensure they are following health and safety protocols and minimizes unplanned interactions with undergraduates on campus,” Marcus wrote.

Students also expressed concerns about COVID-19 safety during the summer semester. “This decision puts an unnecessary extra burden, both in terms of health and work, on the members of Brown's staff who must interact with and accommodate” extra students this summer, Spungen said. “I can't imagine what Brown's plan is to avoid this risk, nor do I imagine that was the first thing on the administration's mind while choosing to invite high schoolers on campus.”

Pre-college students will be held to similar standards of health and safety as undergraduates and will be required to follow the same testing schedule at a site on campus only used by them, Marcus wrote.

She also addressed student concerns about summer semester course availability, assuring them that Summer@Brown will not detract from their academic opportunities.

“There are currently no Brown faculty who will also be teaching pre-college students this summer,” she wrote. “Pre-college courses are often taught by graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and other instructors selected for their subject matter expertise and teaching experience,” she added.

Still, Spungen worries that the already diminished undergraduate experience will continue into the summer as a result of the split resources. “I find it irresponsible, unnecessary and — frankly — a slap in the face for the undergraduate students who have had their college experiences so restricted throughout the pandemic,” Spungen added.

Giszack echoed Spungen’s concerns, reflecting that he has “been on campus all spring and (has not) had any in-person classes nor been able to make use of most on campus resources.”

Marcus wrote that “the University is committed to providing high school students with the opportunity to experience some of the excellence in living and learning that Brown has to offer, while ensuring the community’s health and safety.” 

Giszack and Spungen both said they feel that this commitment detracts from their respective experiences at Brown. “It doesn’t really sit right with me for the school to be making this much of an effort to make opportunities readily available for high school students that they have not even given to currently enrolled students,” Giszack said. 


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