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Brown holds student listening session on provost search

Attendees share concerns, questions with Paxson, search committee members

The provost has responsibilities related to admissions, financial aid, implementing policies, budgeting and “making sure things run smoothly,” according to Christina Paxson P’19.
The provost has responsibilities related to admissions, financial aid, implementing policies, budgeting and “making sure things run smoothly,” according to Christina Paxson P’19.

President Christina Paxson P’19 led a student listening session for the ongoing provost search Thursday in Petteruti Lounge. Students in attendance shared questions, comments and suggestions with Paxson and search committee members Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, associate professor of Sociology, and Jennifer Friedman ’92 MD’96. The event was open to undergraduate, graduate and medical school students.

Provost Richard Locke P’18 announced in August that he would depart his role as provost at the end of 2022 to become vice president and dean of Apple University, The Herald previously reported.

The provost will have responsibilities related to admissions, financial aid, implementing policies, budgeting and “making sure things run smoothly,” Paxson explained. She also said the provost will have a significant role in working with deans and academic leaders to create “diverse and inclusive environments with academic departments and schools.”

Paxson and the provost will work “really close on taking the vision of where (the University) is going and actually executing it,” she said.

In September, Paxson announced that she would lead a search committee, The Herald previously reported.

The committee comprises ten faculty members from “all over the University,” Paxson said.

Gonzalez Van Cleve said that the committee is looking for a provost candidate with “exceptional judgment … (who) operates with integrity… (and) broad intellectual interest.”

While previous provost search committees have included students, Paxson said, the search committee for Locke’s successor does not. Rather than formally including students in the committee, input will be provided by leaders of the student governance groups who will meet with the “end stage finalists.”

Isaac Slevin ’25 asked if there would be a student town hall once the final candidates are decided upon, and Paxson responded that a town hall would not be held due to confidentiality concerns.

“Most of the people who put their hat in the ring for a search like this, their employers (and) colleagues do not know they’re applying,” Paxson said. “I don’t want to limit the search that way.”

Gonzalez Van Cleve brought up her concerns of “backlash” against candidates of color and added that the committee wants confidentiality to ensure the pool of applicants is “as diverse as possible.”

Sophie Lazar GS spoke about her experience in the School of Public Health’s Masters of Public Health program and its lack of STEM certification.

“For international students graduating, it puts them at a very significant disadvantage in entering the job market,” Lazar said. To increase the “global competitiveness” of the MPH program, Lazar emphasized the need to revamp the MPH program along with other graduate school programs.

Paxson explained that the Office of Global Engagement is under the direction of the provost’s office and that the new provost could work toward making the graduate programs more competitive globally. Lazar and other attendees requested that the new provost focus on establishing more global health partnerships, such as allowing colleagues in other countries where Brown students conduct research to access University resources.

“I learned so much from my Kenyan colleagues,” Lazar said, referencing her time researching in Kenya.

Besides the University’s global impact, students voiced concerns about the importance of the future provost prioritizing sustainability efforts.

“Different candidates come from different backgrounds (and) have different opportunities to express a commitment to sustainability,” Paxson said. The committee took note of student concerns and indicated that they would ask about sustainability in the interview process.

Isabella Garo ’24 asked that the committee find a provost who would prioritize student accessibility to classes, such as through posting PDF versions of readings or providing Zoom options for class.

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Requiring textbooks or print versions of readings is a “huge block” for lower-income students, Garo said.

Paxson said that the future provost will work with faculty to understand how “the rules of engagement or policies within the classroom might impact students differently.”

At the session’s conclusion, Paxson encouraged students to submit memos or emails with further concerns and suggestions to Marguerite Joutz, Paxson’s chief of staff.



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