Office of the President
January 24, 2024

Priorities for Spring 2024

From the President

Dear Members of the Brown Community,

I hope that you have enjoyed a peaceful and restorative winter break. As we head into the start of the Spring 2024 semester, I want to take the opportunity to share with you some campus updates, as well as Brown’s priorities for the remainder of the academic year. I also want to tell you about some important communications that will come out in the next few weeks.

First, I feel it’s important to reflect on some of the challenges facing Brown and so many campuses across the country concerning campus climate. In periods of intense conflict, questions about the policies that govern academic freedom and freedom of expression, along with protest and activism, often come to the forefront of discussion at colleges and universities. This has certainly been the case given the lasting conflict in the Middle East and the ensuing national debate about the ways that universities protect freedom of expression while preventing and addressing harassment and discrimination.

I have connected with hundreds of members of our community in recent weeks whose broad range of concerns, viewpoints and experiences make our guiding principles clear: It is essential that our actions as a University community remain grounded in our mission of advancing knowledge and understanding within a caring and inclusive environment. Adhering to these values is especially important because of – not in spite of – the nature of a conflict that is deeply personal for so many, and the tensions and divisions it has created on campus.

Like so many institutions over the past several months, Brown has experienced a rise in reports of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian and anti-Israeli harassment and discrimination. Any harassment, discrimination or racism is entirely antithetical to who we are as a University and a community. It is critical that members of our community are educated about these issues and understand how to report incidents. Later this month, the campus will learn about enhancements to the ways administrative offices will work together to streamline reporting mechanisms, procedures and access to support in line with our anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies.


We will continue to communicate about the range of initiatives being undertaken as part of our ongoing commitment to ensuring that Brown is a caring and supportive community where all members feel safe and can thrive. Over the winter break, with the assistance of an external consultant, we reviewed our policies, organizational structures, reporting processes, resources, and other aspects of our responsibilities related to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. (This is the statute that prohibits discrimination and harassment based on race, color and national origin, including shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics, by entities that receive federal funding.) I look forward to sharing with the campus in early February new programming to strengthen education and understanding about Title VI, and to ensure that incidents at Brown are being appropriately investigated, addressed and prevented from recurring.

We will also communicate in early February about a series of University-wide programs, trainings, lectures and events being curated with the goals of opening discussions of academic freedom and freedom of expression. I want to thank the Brown faculty in advance for their role in developing important programming for our community focused on modeling constructive dialogue on difficult and divisive issues, as well as supporting an appreciation for our diverse academic community. While the issues that will be addressed are broader than the current conflict in the Middle East, they are particularly salient in this moment. These offerings will be sponsored by the Faculty Executive Committee, as well as a range of academic, administrative and student-facing units across campus. This communication will also include information about workshops and lectures that specifically address antisemitism, Islamophobia and anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian and anti-Israeli harassment and discrimination that will be sponsored by the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity.


We continue to make strong progress toward our goal of growing research and scholarship across all disciplines. Over the fall we worked to implement plans, announced last spring, to expand institutional support of research and scholarship in all fields of study. Additionally, Brown and the Lifespan health system are exploring ways to strengthen and expand our existing partnership to enhance biomedical research and improve access to primary and specialty care in Rhode Island.

Plans for Brown’s Integrated Life Sciences Building, which will support high-impact research in the heart of the Jewelry District, are moving forward. Architectural firms TenBerke and Ballinger are deep into the design of this cutting-edge facility that will expand laboratory space for researchers in biology, medicine, brain science, bioengineering and public health. Construction is anticipated to begin later this year. And, for the Cogut Institute for the Humanities, the renovation of Andrews House is well underway, further supporting the advancement of scholarship and research in the humanities.

Last week, we announced a new faculty-led initiative in conjunction with the upcoming commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the United States. Titled “Brown 2026,” this initiative, supported by the Office of the President, will encourage and promote scholarship, teaching and programming on the history and legacies of the American Revolution, as well as the role of research universities in a democracy.


Last year, thanks to the continued generosity of donors, the University surpassed its $120 million fundraising goal to fully endow the Brown Promise, which removes loans from undergraduate financial aid packages. Only months later, the University exceeded an ambitious $25 million fundraising goal to permanently fund full scholarships for all undergraduate student veterans. And soon, we will share positive news about progress made toward our goal of becoming need-blind for international undergraduate students beginning with the Class of 2029. These efforts support Brown’s long-standing commitment to reduce barriers to enrolling the most exceptional students from the widest possible range of backgrounds.

We are also excited to further support college readiness among Providence high school students with the launch of the Brown Collegiate Scholars Program in summer 2024. The program, which will provide year-round academic and college-preparation support to students from the city at no cost to them, began accepting applications this month.

In addition, an ad hoc committee charged with examining Brown’s undergraduate admissions policies to ensure they align with Brown’s stated commitments to excellence, access and diversity continues to develop its recommendations. In the coming weeks, we will communicate about the committee’s ongoing work to explore policies related to Early Decision admissions, standardized testing requirements, and preferences for applicants with family connections to Brown.


During the fall semester we were thrilled to celebrate the opening of the Lindemann Performing Arts Center, which supports our vision for arts innovation and making Brown the leading institution for students who want to fully integrate the arts into their education. The Brown Arts IGNITE series, which runs through December 2024, celebrates this extraordinary new venue with ongoing activations and installations.

We dedicated the newly renovated Churchill House, home to the Department of Africana Studies and Rites and Reason Theatre, during an extraordinary Black Alumni Reunion weekend, which brought generations of alumni to campus. Churchill House is now home to a state-of-the-art black box theater and interactive spaces that will propel scholarship and creative work.  And, we launched the Brown Center for Career Exploration, significantly expanding career support through personalized advising, one-on-one mentoring and an expansive array of experiential learning opportunities.


We are making good progress toward the development of an indoor turf facility at the Erickson Athletic Complex that will support student-athletes competing at the highest levels and expand community participation in recreation and wellness activities. Architectural firm Sasaki is currently working on the design of the facility, and construction is anticipated to begin this summer. Meanwhile, in December, the University purchased its portion of South Street Landing, which continues to be the home of more than a dozen administrative offices. This furthers a long-term commitment to investing in the economic and cultural vitality of Providence’s Jewelry District.


In closing, I hope that you will take the opportunity to participate in the many on-campus community programs and events planned for this semester, including the robust programming in support of a diverse academic community that is grounded in free inquiry and mutual respect.

I am looking forward to our next Ogden Lecture, titled “Defending Democracy,” on Tuesday, February 13, with former U.S. Representative Liz Cheney, as well as the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture featuring civil rights attorney and legal scholar Sherrilyn Ifill on Thursday, February 15, where she will speak about “Reimagining a New American Democracy.” We are thrilled to be hosting these accomplished speakers as we begin the spring semester, and I hope you will be able to attend.

I wish all of you a valuable and rewarding spring semester and that you will continue to take care of yourselves and each other. I look forward to coming together in community with you throughout the semester, and to all that we will accomplish as a welcoming and supportive university community.

Christina H. Paxson