Thursday, October 19, 2006

Brown University Slavery Report

Around 3 years ago, Brown University president Ruth Simmons organized a commission to investigate the school's ties to slavery. As anyone who has read Charles Rappleye's Sons of Providence knows, the Brown brothers benefitted from the slave trade and some of that money undoubtedly went towards the founding and expansion of the University. Yesterday, the commission released its report. According to the Providence Journal:
About a third of the report focuses on Brown’s deep ties to slavery and the slave trade; a third explores modern day slavery and reparations; and the remainder is recommendations and footnotes.

The recommendations include:

•Publicly acknowledging the participation of Brown’s founders and benefactors in the slave trade by revising Brown’s history to incorporate its connection to slavery and by the creation of an on-campus memorial.

•Establishing a university center for research on slavery.

•Adopting a more transparent and socially responsible investment strategy and policy for accepting gifts.

•Recruiting more economically disadvantaged students and diverse faculty, and offering more financial aid to diverse and international students. This includes actively recruiting students from Africa and the West Indies, “the historic points of origin and destination for most of the people carried on Rhode Island slave ships.”
The ProJo also termed "surprising" the recommendation that "Brown intensify and consolidate its efforts to improve education in Rhode Island, particularly the public schools in Providence." I don't know if it's surprising, but it's certainly a case of putting your money where your angst is. Instead of simply saying your sorry, it sounds like Brown is going to take some of the millions they make/have in their endowment and help out under-priveleged kids in Providence.
“To appreciate the dimensions of the crisis, one need look no further than Providence, where 48 of the city’s 49 public schools currently fail to meet federally prescribed minimum standards for academic achievement,” the report states. “This situation represents a direct challenge to Brown University. One of the most obvious and meaningful ways for Brown to take responsibility for its past is by dedicating its resources to improving the quality of education available to the children of our city and state.”

Brown’s previous and current efforts — tutoring and mentoring programs, arts and literacy initiatives and teacher training programs — are well intentioned, but “highly decentralized,” “ill-coordinated,” and “chronically underfunded,” the report states.

“If Brown is to make a meaningful impact in local schools, it will require a sustained, substantial commitment of energy and resources for many years,” the report states.

The committee suggests that Brown create more classes for teachers and allow public school teachers to take one Brown course a semester free of charge. The group also wants the university to expand its Brown Summer High School program, which prepares Rhode Island students for college-level work. The committee recommends an increase in financing for the university’s master’s degree in teaching program, including full tuition waivers for students who commit to teaching in local public schools for three years. The group also recommends that Brown faculty offer enrichment courses in local schools and help schools develop new programs.

The committee urges the university to expand its new urban education policy program. The committee also advocates expanding internships for Brown undergraduates interested in teaching; coordinating with other colleges in Providence that are active in the schools; and providing administrative and staff support for the education initiatives.
Good for them. I hope the University follows through.

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