Office of the President
May 26, 2020
Tags Community Messages

News from the Corporation Meeting

From the President

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Last week, the Corporation of Brown University met virtually for the meetings that typically take place on campus leading into Commencement and Reunion Weekend. While the impact of COVID-19 on society at large and Brown in particular was a theme of our discussion, so were many other academic priorities and initiatives related to our strategic plan, Building on Distinction. Members of the Corporation engaged with faculty, students and administrators over Zoom and conducted the business of continuing to move the University forward, even with the great challenges and uncertainty we find ourselves facing.

Strategic Planning and Other Business

Despite the constraints of virtual meetings, Trustees and Fellows were able to review and discuss a wide variety of topics and reports regarding sustainable academic excellence. These included the annual report on our Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan; progress on capital projects, including the Performing Arts Center and the Health and Wellness Center; the work of Dr. Megan Ranney, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine, to establish the Center for Digital Health; an update to the Campus Life Committee from the President of the Medical Student Senate; and many other important areas of ongoing work and progress.

Naturally, academic continuity planning for the 2020-21 academic year was a substantive area of discussion as well. Provost Richard Locke reviewed with the Academic Affairs Committee the various scenarios currently under consideration, and the efforts that faculty are undertaking to prepare for multiple modes of course delivery. Ongoing work to resume laboratory-based research and the progress of the Healthy Fall 2020 Task Force were also discussed in detail.

Base Budget for Fiscal Year 2021 and Financial Planning

As I wrote to you following the February meeting of the Corporation, this year we initiated a new base budgeting process to provide for more accurate, multi-year budgeting and planning for individual academic and administrative units and the University overall. Consistent with that process, the University Resources Committee (URC) made recommendations regarding tuition and fees, which were approved in February, and presented their recommended budget for next year to me in April for action at this meeting. I recommended to the Corporation, and they approved, a $1.3 billion consolidated base budget for the University’s Fiscal Year 2021.

It is important to recognize that because the URC developed the budget proposal on a September to April timeline, the FY21 budget approved by the Corporation focuses primarily on finances prior to the arrival of COVID-19 and does not incorporate the full impact the pandemic will likely have on Brown’s financial position. We will use this base budget as the core for developing detailed budgets for a range of scenarios that consider the varying trajectories of the pandemic and reflect the significant impact of COVID-19 on the University.

The budget that the Corporation approved is — thanks to the work of the URC and the finance team led by Provost Locke, Executive Vice President Barbara Chernow and Vice President Michael White — an excellent foundation for achieving the appropriate balance between responsible fiscal discipline in light of the pandemic and our need for continued investment in academic excellence, diversity and inclusion, and financial sustainability given the University’s mission and ambitious goals. The budget includes a 9% increase to $347 million in total funding for undergraduate and graduate student financial support; $552 million for faculty, staff and student salaries, wages and benefits; a 6% increase to $169.6 million in endowment distributions to support students and advance research and teaching; and 10% growth in revenue from Brown’s continually expanding research enterprise.

In order to arrive at the FY21 budget, the new base-budgeting process was designed to capture actual academic and administrative costs and needs each year with the goal of ensuring an increasingly predictable budget that is less reliant on tuition and fees. Units across Brown worked with finance staff to propose budgets that align with spending needs to meet their strategic objectives. As a result, the URC did not deliberate on specific line-item funding requests and focused attention on strategic decisions to support Brown’s academic mission.

Among the key decisions reflected in the approved budget:

-- Brown will maintain its commitment to meeting the full demonstrated financial need of all undergraduates, with an undergraduate financial aid budget of $153 million, a 6.8% increase over the previous year.

-- The University will provide $178 million in student aid and support for graduate students, an increase from a budget of $163 million in FY20.

-- Endowment distributions are expected to increase by $12 million despite a decrease in the payout rate from 4.85% in FY20 to 4.80% in FY21, part of a strategic decision to enhance the value of the endowment over the long term and reduces reliance on tuition and fees. The payout will enable support for vital activities that range from undergraduate scholarships and professorships to graduate student fellowships, library acquisitions, academic programs and varsity sports.

The base budget reflects a modest $8.4 million deficit which, considering the scale of the University’s total operating budget, is comparable to FY20’s deficit. However, with the impact of COVID-19, that deficit will be quite a bit larger. As I have previously communicated, an ad hoc administrative committee focused on finance and strategy in response to the pandemic is developing plans to maintain Brown’s short- and long-term financial stability. That group will work closely with a COVID-19 Finance Committee of Brown Corporation members on financial plans in the months ahead.

I strongly encourage all members of the community to read the full URC report, which is available here:

Election of Trustees and Fellows and Other Actions

The Corporation elected the following new Trustees: Marcia J. Dunn ’82, Robert P. Goodman ’82, Alan G. Hassenfeld, Earl E. Hunt II ’03, Joelle Murchison ’95, Greg Penner and Maria T. Zuber ScM’83. Divya Mehta ’18 will serve a two-year term as a New Alumni Trustee, following an election process in which current students and recent alumni participate directly. Jeffrey F. Hines ’83, MD’86 and Joan Wernig Sorensen ’72 were elected to the Board of Fellows.

Brief biographical notes on the new Trustees and Fellows will be available later this morning on the University’s news website:

The Corporation approved the appointment of the following faculty to named chairs:

-- Faiz Ahmed, Joukowsky Family Distinguished Associate Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History;

-- Sheila Bonde, Christopher Chan and Michelle Ma Professor of History of Art;

-- Beshara Doumani, Mahmoud Darwish Professor of Palestinian Studies;

-- Michael Littman, Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science;

-- Wendy Schiller, Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence in Political Science;

-- Lisa Biggs, John Atwater and Diana Nelson Assistant Professor of Africana Studies;

-- Jesse Bruhn, Annenberg Assistant Professor of Education and Economics;

-- Sasha-Mae Eccleston, John Rowe Workman Assistant Professor of Classics;

-- Jack Fanning, Michael Wu Assistant Professor of Economics;

-- Oriel FeldmanHall, Manning Assistant Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences;

-- Tyler Kartzinel, Peggy and Henry D. Sharpe, Jr. Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies;

-- Teddy Mekonnen, Orlando Bravo Assistant Professor of Economics;

-- Emily Owens, David and Michelle Ebersman Assistant Professor of History;

-- Reid Pauly, Dean’s Assistant Professor of Nuclear Security and Policy;

-- Ellie Pavlick, Manning Assistant Professor of Computer Science;

-- Jessica Plavicki, Manning Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine;

-- Jason Protass, William A. Dyer, Jr. Assistant Professor of the Humanities;

-- Gabriel Rocha, Vasco da Gama Assistant Professor of Early Modern Portuguese History;

-- Brenda Rubenstein, Joukowsky Family Assistant Professor of Chemistry;

-- Neil Thakral, Nancy Donohue and Diane Elam Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs and Economics;

-- Parker VanValkenburgh, Stanley Bernstein Assistant Professor of the Social Sciences.

The Board of Fellows also approved the candidates for 2,657 degrees awarded on Sunday, May 24. In April, the Fellows had approved the candidates for 48 doctors of medicine degrees for Warren Alpert Medical School students who opted to graduate early to assist with the response to

COVID-19. Acceptance of Gifts

The Corporation formally accepted individual gifts and pledges made since February in the amount of $1 million or more. Totaling approximately $88 million, these generous commitments provide critical support to a wide range of Brown’s academic priorities. The success of the BrownTogether campaign to date and in the future builds from gifts of many dollar amounts, and all are essential to our success and deeply appreciated. The Corporation approved the establishment of a number of endowed positions in recognition of generous gifts having been received. These include the following:

-- The Peterson Family Assistant Professorship in Health Policy with the generous support of The New York Community Trust - the Peter G. Peterson Fund, in honor of Holly Peterson ’87 and Michael A. Peterson ’91;

-- The Opus Foundation Professorship of the Practice in Visual and Literary Arts with the generous support of the Opus Foundation;

-- The Mahmoud Darwish Professorship in Palestinian Studies with the generous support of multiple donors;

-- The second of two Mencoff Family Translational Research Professorships with the generous support of Samuel M. Mencoff '78, P'11, P'15 and Ann S. Mencoff P'11, P'15;

-- The Yang Family Assistant Professorship with the generous support of anonymous donors;

-- The Stark Family Directorship for the Howard R. Swearer Center for Public Service with the generous support of Brian J. Stark '77, P'11, P'18 and Debra Altshul-Stark P'11, P'18;

-- The Davis/Emma Family Assistant Coach for Sailing with the generous support of multiple donors.

On numerous occasions throughout their meetings, Trustees and Fellows expressed gratitude and admiration for the courage and generosity of members of our community who are on the front lines of responding to the pandemic across the nation and the globe, and for the staff in Dining Services, Facilities Management, Public Safety, Environmental Health & Safety, University Health Services, Residential Life and so many others who are keeping our campus and our community safe. As we look forward to better days ahead, we do so with the comfort and knowledge of being part of a community that truly cares for all its members.


Christina H. Paxson