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Brown Campus News

Kanders ’79 resigns from Whitney Museum amid protests, remains on advisory council at University
by Brown Daily Herald
Jul 27, 2019
“Warren Kanders ’79, a member of the advisory council for the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, stepped down as vice chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art on Thursday over protests about his company’s sale of tear gas.
Activists flocked to the Whitney for months to protest Kanders’ role at the museum, demanding his removal from its leadership. His company, Safariland Group, sells tear gas that law enforcement officials have reportedly used on migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, among other incidents worldwide. 
“The targeted campaign of attacks against me and my company that has been waged these past several months has threatened to undermine the important work of the Whitney,” Kanders wrote in his resignation letter obtained by The New York Times . “I joined this board to help the museum prosper. I do not wish to play a role, however inadvertent, in its demise.”
Kanders could not be reached for comment by press time. 
While protests at the Whitney escalated over the past month — eight artists withdrew from the Whitney Biennial exhibition last week over Kanders’ position at the museum — many University faculty, students and alums have long called for the University to cut all ties with Kanders. In addition to his position on IBES, an institute that explores the relationship between the natural world and sustainability in human society, he and his wife, Allison Kanders, have supported a Brown Arts Initiative lecture series since 2017. Allison Kanders also resigned from her position as co-chairwoman of the museum’s painting and sculpture committee on Thursday.
“The call for the removal of Kanders cannot stop at the Whitney,” wrote Professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Culture and Media Ariella Azoulay in an email to The Herald. “We as a community should expect the University to stand behind its explicit promise in its report on Slavery and Justice to ‘uphold a strict procedure for the ethical review of gifts,’ and to avoid profiting from money earned through the destruction of life.”
Azoulay, Associate Professor of History Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar and Postdoctoral Research Associate in History of Art and Architecture Lindsay Caplan signed an open letter released April 5 calling for Kanders’ removal from the Whitney board. Over 100 other artists and intellectuals also signed on in support.
On College Hill, students have mobilized against Kanders’ involvement with the University for over a year. In the spring, student collective “Warren Kanders Must Go” dropped stacks of flyers in the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts with information on Kanders’ ties to the University. The group also led a “teach-in” about Kanders and Safariland alongside the Brown Immigrant Rights Coalition and student coalition Brown Divest. Brown Divest lists Safariland among the nine companies it has identified as allegedly complicit in human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Anchita Dasgupta ’21, who said she was involved in Brown Divest last spring, hopes Kanders’ resignation from the Whitney will inspire similar change at the University.
“I hope that this is a first step to getting the Brown administration to agree to the ‘Warren Kanders Must Go’ campaign’s demands that he and his wife should not be involved with the arts initiative and IBES,” Dasgupta said.
Kanders defended his company in a letter to the editor in February 2018, where he responded to an op-ed that condemned the University for its relationship with Kanders. Kanders wrote that Safariland, which manufactures supplies for law enforcement and military use, has helped save lives with products like bulletproof vests and should not be held responsible for every use of its equipment. 
“Our less lethal products are designed to give law enforcement crowd control options in dangerous situations, for which we work closely with first responders and provide extensive training,” Kanders wrote. “As with any product, ultimate responsibility for its use falls on the individuals involved in their use.”
Director of News and Editorial Development Brian Clark declined to comment on Kanders’ resignation from the Whitney and his position at the University, referring to the news as “not specific to Brown.””

Gottlieb ’99 joins NBA’s Cavaliers in historic hiring
by Brown Daily Herald
Jun 25, 2019
“Lindsay Gottlieb ’99 made history June 12th after the Cleveland Cavaliers hired her as an assistant coach, making her the first female collegiate head coach to join an NBA team’s coaching staff. 
“The vision for the Cavs’ future is compelling, and I look forward to helping make it a reality,” said Gottlieb in a statement issued by the Cavaliers. “At the same time, on a personal level, I am honored to hopefully impact young girls and women to be empowered to pursue their own visions and to be inspired to turn them into reality as well.”
Gottlieb will be the seventh female assistant in the NBA, and the only woman to be part of the Cavaliers’ coaching staff. 
“ It’s really incredible to see Lindsay make this jump to the NBA – both because of what an exciting opportunity it is for her and for what this means more broadly for women,” wrote Kai Felton, the current interim head coach at the University of California, Berkeley, in a statement to The Herald.  “We want the young women we coach to feel like they are capable of doing anything and being anything they set their minds to.”
Gottlieb played for the women’s basketball team during her time at Brown, and served as both a player and a student assistant during her senior season with the Bears. For her passion and contribution to the team, Gottlieb was awarded the team’s Heart and Soul Award during her senior year. 
Following her career with the Bears, Gottlieb rose through the college coaching ranks, working on coaching staffs at Syracuse University, the University of New Hampshire, Richmond University and the University of California at Berkeley. 
In 2008, Gottlieb was named head coach of the women’s team at the University of California at Santa Barbara. She led her squad to a 15-1 record and an NCAA tournament berth while earning Big West Coach of the Year honors. 
In 2011, Gottlieb rejoined Berkeley as the women’s head coach and embarked on an eight-year career that featured seven NCAA tournament berths and a 2013 Final Four appearance. The Golden Bears were consistently a top 25 team under Gottlieb, compiling a record of 179-89 during her tenure. 
“(Gottlieb’s) an amazing person and a fantastic coach,” Felton wrote.  “I am really proud to call her my friend and to have spent the last eight years working together at Cal. We will all be cheering her on in this big next step.”
“(Gottlieb) has an extensive track record of success and growth with her teams and players and has also been a strong culture-driver as a core part of that,” said Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman in a team statement. “The more we researched and got to know Lindsay, the more we came to understand that she would be an impactful part of where we want to go as a team.”
Gottlieb will assist Head Coach John Beilein, who will also be coaching his first season in the NBA after spending 12 seasons at the University of Michigan. 
The Cavaliers suffered through a disappointing 2018-19 season, finishing 19-63 and with the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference. Cleveland previously won the NBA championships in 2016 but is now transitioning after losing superstars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in recent years.
Gottlieb could not be reached for comment by press time.”

University to require sophomores to stay on meal plan
by Brown Daily Herald
Jun 02, 2019
“The University will require all sophomores to enroll in one of the four highest-priced meal plans beginning in the 2019-20 academic year in an effort to reduce food insecurity, according to a campus-wide email sent by Dean of the College Rashid Zia ’01 and Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes.
Some undergraduates responded to the new requirement in the form of a widely-circulated letter , criticizing the changes for limiting student choice and imposing burdens on those with dietary restrictions.
Following the pushback, the University announced more changes on Thursday, including moving the start date of meal plans up to August 31, providing lunch and dinner during senior week at no extra cost, piloting a meal gap program for “students experiencing temporary food insecurity” and starting a dining working group which will seek to build food options that better fit student schedules.
The University will also begin providing meals over spring break at no extra cost to all students on meal plans, according to the original announcement May 24.
Working group recommendations and findings
These changes follow recommendations made by the Working Group on Food Security, which assessed “the existence, scope and origins of food insecurity on our campus,” according to the announcement. The group was comprised of students, faculty and staff.
Previously, sophomores could opt out of a meal plan, but starting in the fall, they will be required to choose between the four highest priced meal plans: 20 meals per week, Flex 460, 14 meals per week and Flex 330. The 20 meals per weeks and Flex 460 plans are each priced at $5,550, while the 14 meals per week and Flex 330 plans cost $5,226. First-years must enroll in one of the two highest meal plans, a requirement implemented in fall 2018, The Herald previously reported .
In a survey distributed to the Brown community, the working group found that 28 percent of undergraduates did not have enough to eat at some point in the past three months. In addition, 30 percent of sophomores reported experiencing food insecurity compared to 15 percent of first-year students. The working group attributed this difference in reported food security to the requirement that first-year students choose one of the two highest meal plans.
Food insecurity can impede students’ ability to succeed academically at the University, said Marisa Quinn, chief of staff to the provost and a member of the working group. The working group made its recommendations because members “were persuaded that students were devoting a lot of time and energy … to thinking about where they were going to get their next meal, and that’s a drain on being able to thrive as a student here,” she said.
Quinn added that “two-thirds of (sophomores) were already enrolled in meal plan, and a large percentage of them were on that more comprehensive plan,” making the sophomore meal plan requirement a natural extension of the requirement for first-years.
“Looking at the data, (University leadership saw) how the first-year meal plan changes last year had worked,” Zia said. “We felt it was our obligation, our responsibility, to help make this change that would help to best ensure that the hundreds of students who experienced food insecurity on this campus this year would be less likely to do so in the future.”
The University will also encourage sophomores to opt into one of the two highest meal plans, though they will still offer them the option of the smaller 14 meals per week and Flex 330 plans.
The working group examined practices at other peer institutions when crafting their recommendations, Quinn said, adding that many of the University’s peer institutions require that sophomores to stay on meal plan as well.
Dartmouth, Harvard and Yale each require second-year students residing on campus to be on meal plan, and Princeton requires a meal plan for all second-year students, according to data reviewed by The Herald. Meal plan requirements were unclear for Columbia, Cornell and Penn.
Student pushback
In response to the changes, a group of rising sophomores wrote a letter to Zia and Estes expressing concern with the new meal plan requirement. The letter had over 700 signatures as of press time.
The authors of the letter wrote that requiring sophomores to be on a meal plan “imposes restriction on student choice and freedom,” which is particularly limiting for students with dietary restrictions or those who observe religious practices.
Estes said that Dining Services at the University already seeks to accommodate students with dietary restrictions and will continue to do so under the new meal plan requirement. “Dining (Services) recognizes that students will have a range of dietary concerns, and there is already an existing process to work with students,” he said. Students with dining accommodation requests work with Dining Services to “find a reasonable solution or accommodation,” he added.
The authors of the letter also wrote that the meal plan options for sophomores “pose a significant financial cost to many students.”
The authors cited research from the Economic Policy Institute, “which totals monthly food costs for a single adult in the Providence metro area to be $276.” Using this statistic, the authors concluded that in 7.5 months — the approximate time of meal plan coverage — a student off meal plan would pay $2,070 in food costs, compared to $5,226 for the second highest meal plan.
Neev Parikh ’22, who circulated the original letter, added that the way meal plans are priced incentivizes students to pay for the most expensive options. Of the four available options to sophomores, the two most expensive plans cost less per credit.
For students on financial aid, the cost of attendance and their scholarships factor in the price of the highest meal plan, said Dean of Financial Aid Jim Tilton. “If (students) pay less for their meals, we still have included the total amount of the maximum meals as part of the scholarship, so they might have additional scholarship left over.”
Parikh also said that as an international student, cooking off meal plan would be a way for him to feel more connected to his culture. “I hope the University understands why we want the right to cook and why we are protesting against this sweeping requirement” for sophomores, he said.
Chiara Bellomo ’22 added that many students prefer to enjoy their meals at untraditional times when some dining halls may be closed.
In an email to the Brown community Thursday, Zia and Estes acknowledged “that food security and dining options are complex issues that engender strong reactions. We have and will continue to share student feedback with our colleagues in Dining Services to help inform their work moving forward.”
Moving forward
Looking forward, the working group is exploring “the possibility of locating a co-op or an at-cost grocery store here on campus” to give upperclassmen alternative options to obtain food, Quinn said.
According to the executive summary of the working group’s findings and recommendations, the group also plans to “assess the feasibility of requiring all students living on campus to have an unlimited meal plan.”
The working group will continue to solicit feedback from the community in the coming year through another ongoing committee including “representatives from dining and a diversity of students from across the campus to think about how our dining services really support the needs of students, to address their curricular and co-curricular demands,” Quinn said.”

University releases third annual DIAP progress report
by Brown Daily Herald
May 25, 2019
“Earlier this month, the University published its third annual report on progress made toward goals established in its 2016 Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan. The report, which assessed data from the 2017-18 school year, highlighted an increase in the recruitment and retainment of faculty and graduate students from historically underrepresented groups.
Released in February 2016, the DIAP aims to increase the presence of HUGs on campus, improve campus life and create more research and learning opportunities addressing diversity and inclusion issues. The plan defines HUGs as individuals who self-identify as “ American Indian, Alaskan Native, African American, Hispanic or Latinx and Native Hawaiian and/or Pacific Islander.”
The annual report also noted other achievements across campus that aid the University’s diversity and inclusion goals. For instance, 126 courses that focused on race, gender and inequality were designated as DIAP courses in fall 2018. The University also hosted its first annual DIAP Community Awards May 2018,  during which six community members were each awarded $4,000 for their efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in their field of work. The report also noted the University’s efforts to improve working climate for staff, as this was “one of the most pressing issues” to address in terms of diversity and inclusion.
While the University made progress in accomplishing several of its diversity and inclusion goals, the report also pointed out areas for improvement. In the 2017-18 academic year, enrollment among first-generation undergraduate college students decreased by 1.1 percent. The University has attempted to attract more first-gen students in recent years, said Shontay Delalue, vice president for Institutional Equity and Diversity . HUGs’ representation in the undergraduate student body has also remained roughly stagnant, increasing by 0.1 percent.
Despite continued calls from the Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Board — which annually evaluates the University’s progress toward the objectives in the DIAP — for the University to implement a campus-wide accessibility survey, the annual report did not discuss any plans to conduct the survey.
To fund initiatives within the DIAP, the University established a goal of raising $165 million through the BrownTogether campaign with $100 million slated to support the goal of hiring faculty from HUGs, The Herald previously reported . To date, $65 million has been raised for this goal. Additionally, $45.5 million has been raised for other diversity initiatives, including supporting graduate student fellowships and expanding research centers such as the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice and the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America.
“As a community, we should feel good about the progress we’ve made and continue to work individually and collectively toward the goals that we set,”  Delalue said.
The DIOB is expected to review the annual report within the next several weeks and provide feedback and recommendations to the University to improve its progress.
Recruiting and retaining faculty, graduate and undergraduate students from HUGs
In the original DIAP, the University established a goal to double the number of faculty from HUGs by 2022 and diversify the graduate and undergraduate student populations.
Since the release of the DIAP, The number of faculty from HUGs has increased by 34.4 percent, according to the annual report. With three years left to double the number of faculty from HUGs, the University’s recruitment practices now include efforts such as enhanced training on unconscious bias for search committees.
Graduate school students from HUGs make up about 14 percent of all enrolled graduate students as of fall 2018, an 80 percent increase since fall 2014. Among new domestic doctoral students, 31.5 percent identify as members of HUGs, which is the highest percentage to date, according to the report. With these statistics, the DIAP goal of “diversifying” the graduate school has been met, Delalue said.
The Graduate School’s targeted recruitment efforts, which were followed in 2017 by on-campus initiatives like the New Graduate Student Diversity and Inclusion Programming, contributed to the school’s success, Delalue added.
During recruitment, groups “(see) the program happening,” Delalue said. “That’s a huge recruitment tool because it signals to the students, even if we don’t have huge, large numbers, we care about you, we care about your experience and this is what we’re doing to help. That’s a direct result of the DIAP efforts.”
Undergraduate HUG enrollment has not shown the continuous growth that appears in faculty and graduate student populations. While the 2018 first-year class showed a 2 percent increase in HUG representation from the year before, total HUG undergraduate representation is at 21.1 percent, a decrease of 0.2 percent from fall 2016. There was also a 1.1 percent decrease of first-generation college students among overall undergraduate student population from 2017 to 2018.
“We definitely have signaled both on-campus and nationally that this is a critical area for us” with the implementation of the U-Fli Center, Delalue said. “But we didn’t really see any gains. (We need to make) sure that we continue to attract and admit first-gen and low-income students.”
Staff climate and diversity
Following a 2016 climate survey that indicated staff concerns about  their work environment, the University has implemented various professional development opportunities to improve staff climate.
“We had enough data that told us that staff in some places didn’t feel appreciated, didn’t always feel respected,” Delalue said. “We don’t want to lose sight of that.”
Staff-centered initiatives include the Administrative Fellows Program, which gives staff members opportunities to pursue research and attend workshops and meetings with seniors leaders, The Herald previously reported . Beginning in 2017, the Faculty in Focus lecture series allowed faculty from across the University to share their research with staff members over lunch.
Staff from the Office of the Dean of the Faculty also met with managers of academic departments to collect “feedback on their careers and climate issues and concerns,” according to the annual report.
The University issued a second climate survey in spring 2019  to faculty and staff members. The data has not yet been analyzed, but it “will provide information about whether there have been improvements in staff climate over the past two years,” according to the report.
No progress on accessibility survey
Both the 2017 and 2018 DIOB memos encouraged the DIAP to focus on community members with disabilities, with the 2017 memo recommending a “campus-wide survey of the built environment of Brown, with a focus on accessibility for the wide range of disabled persons in our community.” The 2018 memo called for a “more granular operational plan, or at least an articulation of areas to be addressed.”
Neither disability services nor accessibility surveys were addressed in the 2019 annual report, though the 2018 annual report addressed disability inclusion, The Herald previously reported .
The 2018 annual report noted that the University “took actions to ensure that disability was included in all definitions of diversity and integrated into all conversations and activities centered on diversity and inclusion.”
While the 2019 and 2018 annual reports did not confirm the University’s plans to implement an accessibility survey, it was “on their radar,” said Vanessa Britto MSc ’96, the assistant vice president for campus life and executive director of health and wellness .
Britto added that progress on this front would solidify once the University hires a new director for the Student and Employee Accessibility Services. Catherine Axe, the previous SEAS director, stepped down this March, The Herald previously reported .
The University has not yet announced her replacement but intends to hire a new director this summer, said Britto, who is chairing the search to fill the position.
“To do (the accessibility survey) well it should be done in partnership with facilities and other partners on campus,” Britto said. “It would be a collaborative initiative to set the stage for the new director.””

Saanya Jain: Making choices, taking chances
by Brown Daily Herald
May 23, 2019
“I have spent this semester counting my lasts — granola bowls, John Street basement concerts, all-nighters in the Rock. At each occasion of arithmetical gymnastics, one question inevitably arose: Would I do it all again the same way?
Each time, I would think back to a memory from my senior year of high school. My family sat around the kitchen table, the afternoon light streaming in on a warm Tunisian day, as my parents and I debated, yet again, where I should go to college. My mother insisted on one school and I, naturally, vehemently disagreed. After tears (mostly mine) and slammed doors (all by me), I sat on the staircase, fuming. But I was close enough to hear my father tell my mother: “I want her to make her own choice; then there’s no reason to regret it.”
Up to that point, my life had been defined by serendipity. Whenever anyone asked why I had grown up halfway across the world from where I had been born, I didn’t quite know what to say: some combination of a chance job application, a missed email, a delayed flight and a civil war. These events had brought me to that moment, living in a country my grandparents couldn’t identify on a map, arguing about schools no one in my family had ever been to.
When I decided to come to Brown, all of that changed. Here, every aspect of my experience — from who my friends were to why I was awake at 4 a.m. — was my choice. Being solely responsible for mistakes and my successes alike, however, was easier said than done. Every shopping period, I hashed through a multi-sheet, color-coded Excel document with dozens of courses. Each time, I was paralyzed with indecision, wondering if I would be happier filming a short movie or playing around in virtual reality instead.
Perhaps this was why I was attracted to economics, the study of how we make trade-offs given scarce resources. Optimization was straightforward enough in my microeconomics problem sets, where costs and utility were given to me as algebraic expressions. But there are no givens when I had to optimize for my most scarce resource on this campus: time.
Each semester, I got a little better at it. That class that everyone said I had to take? I eventually gathered the courage to drop it. My existential crisis when a philosophy concentrator dropped a theory course at the last minute because it was too theoretical? Turned out to be my favorite one of the year. From seeing my first article in print to jumping onstage in front of five hundred people, I learned to have a little more faith in my ability to make choices that were right for me.
Thus it was through my many missteps (and the occasional right one) that I began to realize that the true value of my Brown experience was not the classes I took or learning how to survive on instant ramen for days on end. It was the privilege and responsibility of charting my own path every day by defining passion, impact and success for myself.
When I called my father as I stepped out of my last class at Brown, almost exactly four years to the day that we sat around my kitchen table, I asked him what I would do now. It would be easy to no longer take chances without shopping period or S/NCs. It would be tempting to scapegoat “real-world” exigencies and have less ownership over my choices.
My father paused in his characteristic manner. Just as I began to wonder if the spotty internet connection had given out yet again, he remarked, “Whatever happens, I have faith, because I know you’ll continue to make your own rules instead of play by someone else’s.”
I knew then I had my answer: No, I wouldn’t do it differently. I hope I’ll be able to say the same about life after Brown as well.”

Emily Miller: Indelible ink
by Brown Daily Herald
May 25, 2019
“W hen Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced his presidential candidacy, few knew where to turn for in-depth analysis of his political philosophy or personal beliefs. The New York Times struck gold when the editors dusted off the opinions columns Buttigieg had written 16 years prior for the Harvard Crimson. 
According to the Times, Buttigieg’s writings as an undergraduate constitute the foundation for his current political ideology. As college students, it is difficult to believe that our collegiate musings could serve as the centerpiece of our future bibliographies. However, maybe this forum is more telling than we had imagined.
Though The Herald was never meant to be “vanity press,” as I look back on Brown and my time at this newspaper, I wonder what secrets others may uncover in my writings. The Buttigieg story makes me see my writing through the eyes of future employers or curious journalists, trying to glimpse the two-dimensional version of me that they might see.
That isn’t to say that I don’t own the words I have written in these pages. My columns can be seen as a window into my psyche. They reveal my political opinions. They detail my fascinations and my frustrations with Brown and our nation and our world. They chronicle the evolution of my writing, with the help of dedicated teachers and editors. My opinions columns offer a snapshot of my world over the past four years — many of my views, my grievances and my desires for Brown’s campus and beyond, and my enduring pride in my alma mater. However, they do not paint a complete picture of who I am.
Much like a final paper, my columns are polished products. They do not capture all the late nights in the Rockefeller Library or the import of long and often tense conversations with friends and faculty, all of whom have suffered my stubbornness with grace. They do not recount the endless exploration and thrashing out of ideas with bright and often unlike minds, which is a quintessential part of the Brown experience. These moments of intellectual development are among those I will cherish most from my time at Brown.
So many things become lost in this two-dimensional world: countless laughs on the Main Green, late nights, books devoured and mornings with the cacophony of “CAUTION: BUS IS TURNING” and my roommates singing. These moments, however invisible to the readers of my columns, fundamentally shaped my Brown experience. 
Brown students are much more than their academic and extracurricular output, just as Brown is a place steadfastly dedicated to inquiry beyond the classroom. We are all part of a vibrant community brimming with hope and intellectual experimentation. Still, each of us has left an indelible mark on this University, and I implore each of you to think about the tangible and intangible marks you have left on campus. I also would like us to look beyond these moments — our tangible achievements or most proud final products — and meditate on the process by which we reached them.
Alright, the New York Times, the Atlantic or even the Washington Examiner, if you ever feel compelled to make sense of me, just peruse my columns from The Herald archives. But my columns are not complete presentations of myself and my views; they catalog the evolution of my thoughts and serve as a reminder that this development is ever ongoing.
In the meantime, thank you to the Brown community for reading my past columns and now this one, my last attempt as a Brown student to offer my appreciation for the most challenging and rewarding four years.”

Rachel Gold: Speak to all pasts, and they shall teach thee
by Brown Daily Herald
May 25, 2019
“O n Earth Day this year, my friends and I stood on the Main Green for a few hours and asked passersby to guess the age of our planet. Our team of undergrad geology students had laid out a timeline of Earth’s history that spanned the Green: The formation of Earth was under Faunce Arch, the oxygenation of the atmosphere in front of Sayles Hall, the extinction of the dinosaurs in front of the John Carter Brown Library and the entire life of Homo sapiens squeezed into 0.7 centimeters only a meter away from the dinosaurs. We invited students to take a piece of sidewalk chalk, add an event to the timeline and revel in the wild and wonderful history we inherit as Earthlings.
Students’ guesses for the age of Earth were far-flung. “A couple million years?” “Must be older than me!” “Maybe a trillion years.” The most common answer?   “I truly have no idea.” Six semesters ago, before I took my first geology class, I certainly would not have known that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. American high schools seem to agree that Rome matters, the World Wars matter and sometimes, Mesopotamia and Vietnam matter, too. But the Earth? Why would it matter whether the Earth is four million or 4.5 billion years old? Our history educations stop at human timescales, leaving geology and Earth history to collect dust in old books.
After four years as a history and geology concentrator, I’m not only obsessed with both human and planetary timescales, but I think that we are irresponsible in studying either in isolation. (I once tried to count a geology class toward my history concentration, though I was unsuccessful.) Earth history puts human history in (measly) context; human history allows us to understand our relationship with Earth through different languages and lenses. At Brown, my professors in the geology department have taught me that the age of the Earth matters for the same reasons that my professors in the history department have taught me the Middle Ages and Industrial Revolution matter: because the past helps us render judgments on the present and imagine different futures. 
If we use the past — and our relative distance from different pasts — to understand ourselves, then we need accurate timescales. The Industrial Revolution, for example, takes on a different meaning in the context of Earth history, which teaches us that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere have not reached the present 415 parts per million since around three million years ago, when sea levels were 60 feet higher than they are today. Deeper timescales also help us recognize the fact that the coal powering the Industrial Revolution formed over a 300-million-year journey in Earth’s crust before being burned in two centuries. Now that’s nonrenewable.
This work of reconstructing the past is not easy. Over the past four years, while rushing to lab in the Geo-Chem Building or history section in Peter Green House, I’ve been caught off guard by the command etched into the side of the John Carter Brown Library: “Speak to the past and it shall teach thee.” We’re not asked to learn from the past, but to speak to it. The verb is resoundingly active.
What pasts do we speak to? We’ve learned at Brown that some pasts are more accessible than others. But that doesn’t excuse us from ignoring the histories buried most deeply. I’ll long remember Associate Professor of History Naoko Shibusawa teaching us third-year history students to “read against the grain” for voices missing in the history archives. The geologic past, as a rule of stratigraphy, is generally buried deep. I confronted this reality on Geology Field Trip #1 in GEOL0220, when our professors, Jan and Karen, brought us to North Attleboro, Massachusetts, and asked us to read the rocks. (As you can imagine, the rocks of North Attleboro are not the rocks on the cover of our geology textbook). Initially, the rocks seemed illegible. But over the next two hours, Jan and Karen helped us decode each paragraph of the story: A layer of larger sand grains hinted at a river flood; parallel scratches across the surface suggested the scouring of a retreating ice sheet. As it turned out, there was an accessible past written into these rocks. We just needed to learn how to read it.
At Brown, we’ve made the commitment — radical to some but routine to us — to read the pasts that are hardest to access. Every day, I am reminded of the urgency of this commitment. How can we write our future if we can’t read our past? How can we imagine future climate change if our conception of the possible doesn’t include the world three million years ago, when trees grew in Antarctica and the eastern seaboard of the U.S. was flooded and carbon dioxide concentrations last matched the levels we’re causing now? As you go about reading deep histories, Class of 2019, I’m sure you’ll run into sandstones that seem illegible and siltstones that stare blankly back. But I’m confident that you’ll find a way in. I’m confident that you’ll read to understand, to challenge and then to transform. Get out there, read history and rock the world.”

Mark Liang: On writing
by Brown Daily Herald
May 25, 2019
“I have this weird ritual at the end of every year. Instead of packing clothes for home as many folks do, I fill my suitcase with books and course packets, napkins and brochures, letters received and written — piles of printed material that I collected over the academic year. There’s the Orgo midterm I failed, drafts of papers I barely remember writing and thousands of other pen-stained notes, all condemned to sit in the damp basement of my parents’ house. Marie Kondo would be mortified.
Did you know that many Chinese people still believe in the divination of words? You write some characters, your name or something inconsequential like the things you recently ate, and the written lines can reveal something about yourself and your fortune. People around me take grand measures to protect their house with the right character positioned just so or by naming their kids auspiciously. They call this kind of fortune-telling a lot of other names … literomancy, cèzì (測字). Magic. I wouldn’t know… I can’t speak a lick of Chinese. Hell, I didn’t even get an A in English.
What I do know is that documentation of my family’s history, which spans two continents and is chock-full of generals and scholars, doctors and do-gooders, fits into a tiny cookie tin at the bottom of a closet in my grandmother’s house. There are a few pictures of the generations before me, but no writing — no words. It is hard to write, or even save scraps of writing, when you flee a war. When you enter a country where you cannot speak the language well, there are other priorities. To get me to where I am today, my parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, toiled, quite literally, without words.
Not a day goes by without me recognizing what a privilege it was to study at a place like Brown. How lucky I was to be able to write for the sake of learning, rather than for a paycheck or a visa. I met the best writers I have ever known here: My writing mentors, Mili Mitra ’18 and Lainie Rowland ’17, who wrote the most amazing prose and commentary. My professors, in both science and humanities alike, who showed me the power of taking a stance and the pleasure of defending a well-constructed argument. And most importantly, my family, who for four years sent me their love across the country the only way they could, through texts and emails and birthday cards.
So I keep everything in my hometown, placed in plastic office bins and organized by year in black Sharpie. They’re not so much there for nostalgia or reference than they are a reminder of the things I still have to do. Like my parents, I still walk into rooms filled with people who do not look like me. I joined a newspaper with no experience, believing that I had something worthwhile to say. I think, in a weird kind of way, that writing is indeed like divination, because we define our world and make our own future from the things we put down on paper. I am reminded still that institutions even today limit the voices of those who look different or act different or believe in something different. This is because words are power: Resistance through words changes the world.
The Open Curriculum turns 50 this year, and despite its name, it still has one requirement that has held its ground through the years: competency in writing, demonstrated by a year of WRIT-designated classes. For all the lamentations from me and other STEM kids about the impossibility of writing, I find immense pleasure in the fact that Brown prepares all of its students to go out and prove something with their words — even if that thing is as small as bringing my grandmothers down into the basement and watching them beam with pride when I point at the boxes of papers and say, “This is my history.”
This month, we step away from what is most likely the four most productive years of writing in our lives. We walk away from doodles on post-its, battered blue books, heartfelt notes passed around, essays we aced (and didn’t), bubbled-in exams, all of it. We trade in all of our words in exchange for a diploma, that one last slip of paper. I think I know which was worth more.”

How is Brown investing in sustainability?
by Brown Daily Herald
May 25, 2019
“This month, campus discussion surrounding ethical investment took center stage following a motion to replace the University’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies, the University body that considers “moral responsibility in … investment policies,” The Herald previously reported. The committee has been a key mediator in divestment conversations. While faculty voted to postpone the final decision, the proposal sparked discussion on campus about student participation in ethical investment initiatives.
As an advisory committee comprising students, staff, faculty and alums, ACCRIP has called for increased sustainability in University investments. In 2013, the committee recommended that the University divest from 15 coal companies following activism from students in Brown Divest Coal. But the committee’s recommendations do not guarantee a change in institutional policy; the Corporation eventually decided not to divest from coal.
In a community-wide email at the time, President Christina Paxson P’19 urged Brown students to effect change in other ways beyond divestment, adding that Brown is in the position to “make real and important contributions through teaching and research.”
In 2015, the administration considered the subject of ethical investment through a different lens: donor agency. Paxson directed the Investment Office to investigate options for students and alums who wished to donate in ways that expressed their commitment to sustainability, according to a University press release.
After a year working as an Investment Office intern, Sophie Purdom ’16 designed and co-taught an undergraduate course on sustainable investment in her senior year. The class was instrumental in the 2016 launch of the Brown University Sustainable Investment Fund, an endowed fund that follows environmental, social and governance investment standards and accepts gifts of all sizes. While the fund was promoted by the University as the first of its kind at the time of its launch, BUSIF has since amassed only $12,631 from over 30 donors in the past three years, according to the Investment Office and the Division of Advancement.
Acronyms unpacked: ESG and BUSIF
While divestment is a form of “negative screening,” environmental, social and governance standards serve as guiding principles for fund managers in the selection of companies to invest in, said Adjunct Lecturer Cary Krosinsky. Social concerns might include investigating supply chains, for instance, while governance deals with the management of the company in question and the workplace environment that it fosters. 
Purdom finished the environmental studies concentration early in her time at Brown and realized that while she had discussed a lot of problems in her courses, she still desired more “tools and frameworks for solutions.” She built her “investing tool kit” by joining the Brown Socially Responsible Investment Fund, a student investment group, and found inspiration in friends who were pursuing careers in finance, banking and consulting. “I came to respect that they had a framework and tools that I hadn’t learned,” Purdom said.
While serving as president of SRIF, Purdom began an internship in the University’s Investment Office. After conversing with Chief Investment Officer Jane Dietze and others, Purdom focused on “incorporating climate into (Brown’s) endowment investment practices” by discussing ESG checklists with external fund managers.
Communicating the impact of this work to the larger University community came with its own challenges. It can be hard to “get the blood moving when it comes to sharing what Brown’s doing as a leader in ESG,” Purdom said. In order for students and others to understand both the power and potential of sustainable investing, there would have to be an outward-facing aspect to their work.
After Dietze and Purdom discussed their idea with administrators and Paxson, among others, they decided that a sustainability-focused fund would be the best avenue, Dietze said. While the University works with multiple fund managers who might adopt ESG principles, “we decided that Brown was in a position to basically be the first major University endowment to set up a specially cordoned-off part of the endowment to explicitly invest along ESG guidelines,” Purdom said. BUSIF is also remarkable in that — unlike other endowed funds — it does not require minimum donations of $100,000, a move that aimed to attract younger alums, according to a community-wide email from Paxson.
The fund’s payouts would be used at the University administration’s discretion, with an emphasis on sustainability projects, according to a University press release.
“Theory and Practice of Sustainable Investment”
The creation of BUSIF was only a part of the community outreach Purdom hoped to achieve. “I wanted to … have people share in what I thought was a real win for everybody,” she said.
In the fall of her senior year, she wrote the curriculum for a class on sustainable investment — what would become ENVS 1545: “The Theory and Practice of Sustainable Investment.”
“I just went for it and wrote the curriculum for it because no one told me not to, which is one thing I really love about Brown,” Purdom said. To her surprise, the course was approved by the University on the first day of her final shopping period in the spring, tasking Purdom with building student interest and finding an adjunct lecturer to join her in teaching the class. 
Dietze and Purdom found their match in the “hugely prolific” Krosinsky, Purdom said, describing him as “an excellent mentor” who “loves the students” in his class. Krosinsky’s teaching style “fits in really well at Brown in particular, where … it’s up to you to have self-agency and make the most out of stuff.” Purdom describes this mindset as “perfect in a complicated space like sustainable investing.”
But Krosinksy and Purdom were unsure if they would be able to attract students to the course. Students had already registered for classes and shopping period was underway. To Purdom, gaining the rapid approval of the course and Krosinsky’s commitment to teaching would seem like a “lost opportunity” if it did not receive student interest.
That is, until the first day of the course arrived and interested students poured into their classroom — a few waiting before Purdom and Krosinsky arrived themselves. “We kept moving down the hallways to these bigger and bigger rooms, and eventually ended up in an auditorium,” Purdom said. “That was when we realized we were on to something.”
The class’s first semester paralleled the creation of BUSIF. For the course’s final project, students recommended two appropriate ESG funds for BUSIF. The Investment Office presented their own findings concurrently, Dietze said. Both chose the Parnassus Endeavor Fund.
“It was this big reveal, where we were all really aligned,” Purdom said. “It was really beautiful because that was kind of why we started the class in the first place, … to build this mutual understanding.”
In an executive summary from the Investment Office, the Office reported that they selected the Endeavor Fund after analyzing performance, portfolio attributes and the fund’s ability to meet ESG standards, among other criteria.
“We use ESG as a lens to basically uncover risks and opportunities that the rest of the market is not as focused on,” said Robert Klaber ’07, a portfolio manager for one of Parnassus’ equity funds, the Parnassus Fund. Money donated to BUSIF goes to the Endeavor Fund, which specifically targets companies with model workplaces under the “basic thesis that these companies will be able to attract and retain top talent, which will lead to less turnover, which leads to better profitability and ultimately better shareholder returns,” Klaber said.
In addition to being fossil fuel-free, “the whole purpose of the particular fund that was chosen is to isolate companies that are good for working mothers and good companies to work for in general,” Krosinsky said.
The Parnassus Endeavor Fund has performed very well over the last four years, Purdom said. “It has done really well for itself and for all of the people who chose to invest in the BUSIF platform,” Purdom said. “We picked the leader. It doesn’t get better than that.”
Making the pitch
Despite continued conversations on campus about ethical investment and climate change, “we’ve got to do a better job as a university of figuring out how to pitch” BUSIF, Purdom said.
In 2017, ACCRIP recommended that the University better publicize the fund. One year into the creation of BUSIF, $6,600 had been invested in the fund, The Herald previously reported. In a community-wide email, Paxson responded to ACCRIP outlining measures to publicize the fund, including “making BUSIF more visible on the ‘Giving’ pages of the Brunonia website, featuring content on BUSIF in existing vehicles such as Advancement’s Campaign Impact eNews and integrating the BUSIF message into appropriate communication directed to young alumni.”
“As Advancement continues to evolve its marketing analytics capabilities, it might also be possible to better identify alumni, parents and friends with an interest in environmental and sustainability issues, who may be interested in targeted BUSIF giving opportunities,” Paxson wrote.
When Advancement officers “feel like somebody may have an affinity or an interest to a particular area, they will talk to them about it,” said Senior Vice President for Advancement Sergio Gonzalez. “Sustainability is something that certainly resonates, I believe, with Brown alums. It resonates with our broader community, so I think that there are a lot of opportunities in the future.”
“ESG definitely isn’t a dinner-table conversation yet,” Purdom said, emphasizing the need for Advancement officers to make their pitch for BUSIF “something that is really easy to understand and that (donors) feel emotionally connected to.”
“There used to be a notion that ESG (would) detract from investment performance, and I think what we’ve done a good job of at Parnassus is demonstrate that, no, actually, ESG helps enhance and boost performance,” Klaber said. “You can invest with your principles and generate top-tier performance as well.”
“As we move forward, one of the things we’re thinking about is how to energize more interest in this fund and other things that we’ll be doing around sustainability,” Gonzalez said.
For the fund to gain traction, Dietze and Krosinsky both believe action needs to come from students or alums. “When Brown students take charge — that’s usually the best things that happen at Brown,” Krosinsky said.”

Brain science blooms at Brown
by Brown Daily Herald
May 25, 2019
“David Berson ’75, chair of neuroscience, studies how information travels from the eye to the brain. One of his recent projects examines the spidery forms of cells in the retina at the back of the eye, reconstructing their shapes and interconnections at a very fine scale. They’re shaped like spaghetti — cut across them and you see small rings, but cut the long way and you see cigar shapes, he said. Black and white pictures depict the microscopic cells in animal models, and Berson uses colors to digitally mark up the images as he moves through the tissue one picture at a time. Tracing these structures is a painstaking process, but thanks to a grant awarded last fall, Berson and his collaborator Thomas Serre hope a computer program will soon do the work for them.
Funding for innovative projects like this one is an element of the University’s Robert J. and Nancy D. Carney Institute for Brain Science, which was established by a $100 million gift from the Carneys last spring. Within the next decade, the donation should position Brown as one of the top two or three places to study the brain, according to Executive Director of the Institute Diane Lipscombe.
The University has now received an $100 million donation three times in its history, according to a press release, each leaving legacies at the University. One gift from Sidney Frank in 2004 supported undergraduate financial aid. Another from Warren Alpert in 2007 went to the medical school, the New York Times reported. The Carneys’ gift will only continue to draw more interest in brain science at the University, said Alycia Mosley Austin ’01, who studied neuroscience at Brown and now serves as executive coordinator of the interdisciplinary neuroscience program at the University of Rhode Island. “It’s not the pinnacle,” she added. “It’s the start of something that’s going to snowball.” 
Blazing a trail in brain science
The Carneys’ donation will hopefully help generate cures for terrible brain diseases, said President Christina Paxson P’19. Formerly the Brown Institute for Brain Science, the center currently comprises scientists from across 23 departments: engineers, biologists, psychologists, doctors, cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, computer scientists and more collaborate to address disorders of the nervous system and to deepen understanding of the brain.
Josh Sanes, director of the Center for Brain Science at Harvard, considers the brain’s functioning to be the century’s greatest intellectual challenge. The Carneys’ gift is part of a national “wave of philanthropy” emerging as donors begin to view brain science as the next research frontier, he said. It will be especially transformative for Brown, whose brain science community is smaller than some.
The University had just begun to offer neuroscience as a concentration when Berson was an undergraduate studying psychology. It was one of the first curricular programs offered in the United States, he said. The explosion of interest in neuroscience happened nationally, but the University was near the forefront of this growth, partially because it was “blazing a trail” in neuroscience education, he said.
Three brain scientists still at the University authored an introductory neuroscience textbook whose first edition was published in 1996. That book is used at many peer institutions, said Marina Picciotto, deputy director of Yale’s Kavli Institute for Neuroscience. “Brown has been a major hub for neuroscience for a long time, and it’s really known across the field,” she added.
While the neuroscience program is separate from the Institute, the gift stabilizes a lot of long-standing research across departments at the University, preserving momentum while allowing scientists to move in a number of directions, said Christopher Moore, associate director of the Institute. 
“Already we can see how the gift is energizing and elevating the work of the Institute,” Paxson said.
Cross-pollinating ideas
In a paper published this spring, Professor of Biology Kristi Wharton and her team observed a circuit flaw that may act as an early indicator of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis   — a debilitating disease that rapidly erodes motor function, Wharton said. No effective treatments exist, but this study offers a site for possible therapeutics to act on. The findings emerged from a collaboration with Lipscombe’s lab, characteristic of the Institute’s interidsciplinary nature.
The Institute’s website lists close to 200 affiliated faculty members and 25 ongoing research projects. These projects span treatments for neurological disease and theory linking the brain to the mind. Scientists strive to identify genes linked to brain disorders, to understand the mechanisms behind human decision-making and to trace circuits of cells active in certain brain functions. This breadth is key to the Institute’s research, and helps foster interdisciplinary scholarship, Wharton said. The Institute is a “nucleating center,” providing the support for these collaborations to take hold.
The BrainGate consortium, which works with other universities across the country, fuses engineering and neuroscience to create technology that decodes brain signals to help people who have lost motor function. Their small devices, inserted beneath the skull, decode brain signals to help patients communicate or move. People who cannot move or speak have typed by guiding a cursor with their thoughts, and patients with paralysis have moved their hands again, according to publications by BrainGate researchers.    
In another crossdisciplinary project, Associate Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences Dina Amso uses computer vision to analyze children’s behavior. Infants play in a totally natural environment — a space filled with toys, books and colored mats, Amso said. But this SmartPlayroom also observes children’s behaviors, analyzing aspects like their movements and hand-eye coordination. Amso uses this information to investigate how a child’s environment can shape their brain development, posing questions about the effects of factors ranging from trauma to socioeconomic status.
Amso’s research is heavily reliant on the contributions of Serre, director of the University’s Center for Computation and Visualization. His work has also played a key role in Berson’s examination of retinal tissue. Serre’s Center often lets researchers make use of computer vision algorithms: Scientists will bring in animals like mice or zebrafish that have been treated or genetically engineered, and specialized equipment can track the animals’ behavior. The Carneys helped fund this rare technology even before their donation last spring, Serre said.
The Institute also facilitates collaborations by funding new spaces that encourage the cross-pollination of ideas, like its new central location at 164 Angell St. Computational neuroscience, for example, draws researchers from engineering, cognitive science, math and other areas at the University. Now they can have a space to brainstorm and work together, Serre said.
Funding from the Institute also supports pedagogy, fellowships and instrumentation. Andra Geana, a postdoctoral research associate, received funding from the Institute to teach a summer course on computational brain modeling. The Institute also offers funding to students through fellowships, according to Wharton — students working on ALS in different labs have benefitted from them. “The opportunity to learn in this environment is pretty much unparalleled,” Amso added. Wharton’s lab was able to buy new equipment pieces, which cost around one or two thousand dollars, with Institute funding. “If you want tools, they’re really good at getting you tools,” Geana said.
The Institute plans to hire about seven faculty members over the next decade, seeking people who might work across departments, Lipscombe said. Attracting and retaining excellent faculty is “really the most important thing we can do,” Paxson said.
The Carneys’ donation allows University brain scientists to think about the future of neuroscience rather than focusing on only their next research finding, Moore said. “It allows us to be strategic on a timescale that is actually the timescale of the biggest discoveries.””

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