The Undergraduate Council of Students hosted a teach-in with the Brown Activist Coalition — a group that includes Students for Educational Equity, Resource Generation at Brown and Sunrise Brown, among others — in the Petteruti Lounge Monday night.
The teach-in was focused on “Brown’s historic lack of accountability, where we stand today and what you can do to make sure that Brown supports Providence,” according to a March 14 UCS newsletter.
The coalition presented arguments as to why the University should pay at least $15 million in voluntary payments to the city of Providence and how it believes students can advocate for this change.
According to UCS Chair of Academic Affairs Daniel Newgarden ’25, UCS approved “a resolution to call on the University to pay at least $15 million per year in (voluntary) payments under the next memorandum of understanding between the City of Providence and local higher-education institutions.”
“This number, put forward by the Brown Activist Coalition, is well-founded on the growth of Brown’s financial capabilities and resources such as its endowment, and accounts for recent acquisition of property in the Jewelry District,” he added. “We should have an interest in the well-being of the Providence community beyond services that Brown provides directly, and I’m proud to see UCS being more receptive to student interest on that front.”
Lorenzo Mahoney ’24, a BAC presenter at the event, said that the $15 million number “accounts for the last decade of growth in the endowment.” The coalition asks that Brown’s payments in lieu of taxes to the city “grow proportionally to the endowment.”
“Brown’s increasing endowment has done the opposite of benefiting Providence,” Mahoney added.
“If Brown was not tax-exempt, it would owe the city of Providence $49 million per year,” he added, citing a figure which was reported in January 2022 by the Providence Finance Department and the Office of then-Mayor Jorge Elorza.
Presenters also contended that the University does not sufficiently support Providence public schools. Carina Sandoval ’23, a co-founder of Students for Education Equity, noted that the Providence Public School District is “closing two schools this year” due to funding issues.
“Brown recognizes its own responsibility to the students of Providence,” Sandoval said, citing the University’s response to the 2019 Johns Hopkins University report about PPSD. Still, the University “has a huge array of resources it does not give to the city,” she added.
Presenters described the importance of immediate action, as voluntary payment negotiations are currently ongoing.
“It’s important that we act and mobilize now (to) ensure continued investment in the city,” Mahoney said.
In addition to advocating for at least $15 million in voluntary payments, the group is also requesting University support for a bill that would tax previously exempt buildings and House Bill 5603, which would tax the endowments of private universities to provide funding for local public schools.
The coalition is also asking the University to permit community access to campus libraries, create a PPSD to Brown pipeline and build “on-campus heating spaces for the unhoused population” of Providence, BAC organizer Garrett Brand ’26 said.
In October 2021, the University announced the creation of an initiative that “will aim to prepare Providence Public School students to enter selective four-year institutions, in addition to bringing more PPSD students to the University,” The Herald previously reported. The program was initially planned to launch in fall 2022, but the University now expects to recruit its first cohort of PPSD students this upcoming fall.
The presenters cited Yale as a model of accountability the University could potentially look to emulate. Yale recently agreed to pay an additional $52 million to the city of New Haven over the next six years, according to the Yale Daily News.
Presenters emphasized the importance of students acknowledging their positionalities at Brown.
“I come from a college town,” said presenter and SEE co-President Jada Wooten ’24. “I can definitely tell when college students reflect on their positionality and when they don’t.”
President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 “has committed to listening to student voices,” Newgarden said. “We just need to make our voices as loud as possible.”
Indigo Mudbhary is a University news senior staff writer covering student government. In her free time, she enjoys running around Providence and finding new routes.