Its agenda is as varied as giving more financial support to low-income students; doubling faculty from historically underrepresented groups over ten years; and expanding the institution’s scholarly focus on race, ethnicity, and social justice. Administrators will take feedback on the draft and its numerous proposals until December 4, 2015.
As a proponent of diversity among institutions, not just inside them, it strikes me as proper for Brown to pursue a course that reflects its well-established place on the left of the ideological spectrum. Even so, I hope it uses this process to solicit criticism from people who value racial inclusiveness but have very different notions of how to achieve it. After all, contrary to the most sweeping critiques of student protesters, Brown University administrators and faculty were earnestly trying, long before this autumn, to create a diverse, inclusive campus for people of all races.
Many students believe that Brown has failed. If these students are right, but wrong that lack of effort is the reason, it would seem to imply that at least some long-running assumptions about race held by Brown’s administrators and faculty are incorrect. I see no effort to wrestle with that possibility in the document, which seems entirely consistent with how Brown would have tackled these issues ten years ago.
I suspect rigorous debate about all aspects of this well-intentioned and overdue effort will increase campus tension in the short run, but improve outcomes in the long run. If recent history is any indication, some disagreements are all but certain. Some of the proposed ideas seem responsive to a statement recently put forth by 35 “concerned graduate students of color” at Brown, whose demands include these:
We demand visible and administrative accountability for departments and centers that have a tradition of racist hiring and retention policies and anti-Black pedagogy… Furthermore, we demand that the university support monetarily and otherwise departments and centers committed to social justice, as evidenced through anti-oppressive pedagogy, and the satisfaction and retention of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty of color. These departments and centers must be incentivized to continue their work with increased departmental resources and faculty hiring lines, like target-of-opportunity hires, cluster hires, postdoctoral fellows, and additional funding for centers....
We demand the introduction of compulsory, in-person, and regular anti-oppression training for faculty, staff, DPS, and administration. Anti-oppression trainings should be led and organized by people of color with significant experience in anti-oppression activism or scholarship...
We demand an in-person and compulsory Title IX training for faculty, staff, DPS, administrators, and students that includes an intersectional framework. The current non-compulsory online Title IX training module is ineffective and does not address the structural racism, queerphobia, economic violence and transphobia that is foundational to sexual violence on campus...
Glenn Loury, a professor of economics at Brown and a prominent critic of the graduate students’ statement, recently declared on Facebook that during his decade at the institution as a black faculty member doing scholarly work on race, ethnicity, and inequality, “I have found the university to be an extremely warm, welcoming, supportive and open environment to undertake my work. I know well the people who run this institution, and the notion that they are racially insensitive is a shameful slander with no basis in fact.” Noting that “the administration has lavished resources on me, and has enthusiastically supported any number of initiatives that contribute to promoting a just and decent society, both within the United States and throughout the world,” he expressed these specific misgivings:
The notion that Brown needs a revolutionary reshaping in order to become hospitable to "students of color," the idea that "anti-black pedagogy" at Brown needs to be countered with some mandatory indoctrination of faculty, the proposal that external student committees should review purportedly "racist" departmental appointment processes, the initiative of creating "specialty positions" in academic departments to ensure their openness to hiring "faculty of color"—these are all mischievous intrusions on the academic prerogatives of a distinguished faculty which no self-respecting scholar of any color should welcome. They are a step onto a slippery slope that slides down into intellectual mediocrity, and I will have nothing to do with them.
All of this is to say that there are passionate demands for change at Brown and deep disagreements about particulars. The newly announced plan will now frame that debate.