Before Thanksgiving, 60 staff members signed onto a Nov. 9 faculty letter in support of arrested students that was previously delivered to President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20. The letter came a day after 20 students were arrested in a University Hall sit-in demanding Brown call for a ceasefire in Gaza and divest from Israel.
With over 200 signatures from faculty members, the letter called on the University “to insist that all legal charges against the students be dropped immediately, to exempt the students from any University disciplinary proceedings (and) to open a campus-wide conversation that engages seriously with the students’ demands.”On Monday, the University dropped legal charges against the 20 students. It will continue to pursue disciplinary proceedings, The Herald previously reported.
One staff co-signatory said that large groups of staff rarely sign on to public petitions or letters. The staff member discussed the letter on the condition of anonymity due to potential professional retribution. Staff emailed Paxson and Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes to express their support for the faculty’s letter with the additional signatures, the anonymous staffer said.
Students, faculty and staff share a baseline level of protection for freedom of speech, though tenured faculty have an especially high bar for termination.
The University “affirms that faculty members and students shall have the freedom of religious belief, of speech, of press, of association and assembly, of political activity inside and outside the University, the right to petition the authorities, public and University,” among other protections for academic freedom, according to the Faculty Rules and Regulations document. The University Code of Conduct, which also applies to staff members, echoes the statement found in Faculty Rules and Regulation.Tenured faculty can be fired for violating the University’s policies on sexual, gender-based and relationship harassment and violence — or for other serious causes including illegal activities, academic dishonesty or “neglect of duty,” according to the University’s Faculty Rules and Regulations.
“The Handbook of Academic Administration describes the practical application of rules and policies governing the faculty, including policies related to hiring, appointments, review and tenure. Staff and student employees are generally covered by Brown’s human resources policies, as well as other governing agreements like union contracts,” wrote University Spokesperson Brian Clark in an email to The Herald.
The letter followed an initial faculty letter that called for Paxson to urge lawmakers to support a ceasefire and affirm support for freedom of expression. At a Nov. 7 faculty meeting, Paxson declined to comment on calls for a ceasefire but stated that there is no “Palestine exception” to free expression, The Herald previously reported.
Ryan Doherty is a Section Editor covering faculty, higher education and science & research. He is a sophomore concentrating in chemistry and economics who likes to partially complete crosswords in his free time.