Office of the President

Strengthening our community amid conflict

From the President

Dear Members of the Brown Community,

Over the past several months, the Brown community has experienced tensions and division on campus as a result of the terrible violence in the Middle East – a conflict that has claimed far too many Palestinian and Israeli lives, and is deeply personal for so many. Like many university communities across the country, we also have experienced a rise in reports of antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian and anti-Israeli harassment and discrimination – all of which is unacceptable and antithetical to our values.

At the same time, I have heard from many faculty, staff, students and alumni with a broad range of viewpoints and experiences who have expressed a strong desire to come together to learn from each other, deepen their understanding of the incredibly complex issues at the heart of the divisions, and simply have opportunities to embrace the caring and positive interactions with each other that have long made Brown, “Brown.”

I continue to assert – and it remains clear – that we have an obligation to both secure the safety and well-being of all members of our community by addressing bias, harassment and discrimination, and also to remain steadfast in upholding the core academic values at the heart of what we do every day. Within this context, I’m pleased to share the concrete steps Brown is undertaking to enhance our anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and processes, and – just as important – to offer new programming and initiatives aimed at fostering constructive dialogue and cultivating a caring and supportive community.

Information about these efforts, as well as a range of related community resources, appears on a new “Strengthening Our Community Amid Conflict” website that launches today:

The new programming and initiatives aim to strengthen education and understanding about Title VI (the federal law dealing with harassment and discrimination); streamline and clarify processes for addressing unacceptable behavior under our policies; create opportunities to engage in constructive dialog across difference; and support our ongoing commitments to academic freedom and freedom of expression that are embedded in the foundation of our teaching and learning community.

This letter provides an overview of these initiatives, and it’s important to note that the website brings together efforts by academic and administrative units from across campus. I am deeply inspired by the clear commitment of so many faculty, staff and administrators to preserve and strengthen what makes Brown a caring and supportive academic community

Working Together to Confront Harassment and Discrimination

In late January, I wrote to the community about changes to the ways our administrative units work together to address reports of bias, discrimination and harassment, and to support the members of our community who report these incidents. This includes the creation of the Office of Equity Compliance and Reporting, and is one part of a series of actions being undertaken in the weeks and months to come.

A number of steps will further strengthen the University’s policies, systems and operations to maintain a strong educational, working and living environment where all are safe and supported. These include, among other measures:

  • Title VI enhancements that include improved and consolidated incident forms for reporting bias, harassment and discrimination (, and clarifying the complaint resolution process for reports of incidents.
  • Developing education and training on nondiscrimination and harassment principles, and clarifying guidance about appropriate responses to protected speech that some may find offensive.
  • Augmenting Brown’s suite of campus climate surveys through short surveys and focus groups that collect information on the experiences of Jewish, Muslim, Israeli and Palestinian and Arab students.

Building Mutual Understanding

As the events in the Middle East bring to the forefront deeply held and often conflicting views, events, training and other programming will emphasize the importance of productive dialogue, mutual understanding and respect. This includes, among other initiatives:

  • Workshops and lectures offered by the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity on antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian and anti-Israeli discrimination, as well as all forms of racism.
  • Continuing skills-building workshops on dialogue across difference offered by the Division of Campus Life.
  • Resources, including federal guidance to higher education institutions, on understanding and combatting antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian and anti-Israeli discrimination.

Safeguarding Freedom of Expression and the Open Exchange of Ideas

In alignment with Brown’s mission of advancing knowledge and understanding, the Provost’s Office, Faculty Executive Committee and academic units across campus will engage our campus in a discussion about the fundamental principle of academic freedom, and its meaning and implications, including during times of intense conflict. This includes:

  • Lectures, seminars, panels and discussions about the principle of academic freedom and the ongoing debates it inspires.
  • A range of lectures and forums about the current situation in the Middle East and possible paths forward.

In Closing

I hope you will visit the new website and review the initiatives and resources, and I invite you to take an active part in the programming that will be offered this semester. I also encourage you to please come to the next Brown University Community Council meeting on Monday, February 12, at 4 p.m., where the topic will be “Promoting Community-Building and Civil Discourse.”

Brown has a long history of supporting academic freedom, taking the strongest possible stance against bias, harassment and discrimination, and fostering a caring and supportive environment where all members feel safe and can thrive. These core values are ingrained in the heart of our mission of advancing teaching and learning in service to society.

I look forward to joining together with many of you throughout the semester as we deepen our knowledge and understanding about these complex and important issues.

Christina H. Paxson