PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Brown University has ended speculation that its growing School of Engineering might move into Dynamo House, but a different educational option is still alive: building a long-discussed new state nursing school in the long-vacant former power plant.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Brown University has received $44 million as a down payment on construction of a new home for its three-year-old School of Engineering, the school announced Wednesday.
• Related: Watch Newsmakers with Brown U. President Christina Paxson (Nov. 21)
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – More than half of Rhode Island voters support allowing same-sex marriage in the state, while most opponents of the idea say it conflicts with their religious beliefs, according to a new poll released Thursday by Brown University.
The poll also found Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s approval rating is a dismal 26%. ”Lincoln Chafee still has not been able to move his numbers after over two years as governor,” WPRI 12 political analyst Joe Fleming said.
By Ted Nesi and Tim White
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – David Greco was born and raised in Rhode Island and says he’d like to stay, but he’s planning to leave when he finishes law school this year – because he and his fiancée can’t find jobs that will allow to pay off roughly $400,000 in student loan debt.
More than two-thirds of graduates who received a diploma in Rhode Island in 2011 owed money when they were done, and their average debt of $29,097 was fourth-highest in the country. A Target 12 analysis of Southern New England schools reveals Salve Regina University saddled borrowers with the most debt.
• Interactive: Average student debt at colleges in R.I., Southern Mass. (Feb. 7)
The New Republic’s Timothy Noah first made the case that Kushner’s main source wasn’t Doris Kearns Goodwin’s bestselling “Team of Rivals” but a much less famous work: “Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment,” a 2001 book by Michael Vorenberg, associate professor of history at Brown.
Vorenberg is surprisingly sanguine about Noah’s suggestion. “Films don’t have to have footnotes, and it’s hard to imagine how film makers could pay everyone who happens to have contributed to knowledge about a particular subject,” the professor said.
Noah wasn’t satisfied: “Clearly Kushner is well within his rights to help himself to narrative details that he found in ‘Final Freedom’ and elsewhere. Nobody owns history. But even if Vorenberg isn’t troubled, I find it (on his behalf) a bit disappointing that neither Kushner nor Spielberg has acknowledged what a valuable resource they had in ‘Final Freedom.’”
As for Kushner, the playwright eventually acknowledged to TNR that he read Vorenberg’s “fantastic” book but also argued it wasn’t the key source that Noah thinks it was. Either way, Vorenberg says he doesn’t mind: “If my book helped add accuracy to the film,” he told Slate, “I can take some pleasure in that.”
(photo: Brown University)
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s 11 higher-education institutions are combining forces to launch a new College and University Research Collaborative that will help state leaders understand what ails the local economy and what could help fix it.
• Related: Two must-read articles about economic development and RI (Jan. 15)
The Atlantic Wire’s David Wagner has taken on the thankless task of compiling “The 50 Worst Columns of 2012,” featuring his selection of the most misguided, boneheaded opinion pieces published this year.
Along with the usual media stars – Peggy Noonan, Dick Morris, Maureen Dowd – the list also features a Nov. 13 piece by Oliver Hudson, a Brown University undergraduate and a columnist at The Brown Daily Herald. Here’s Wagner’s writeup:
Oliver Hudson in The Brown Daily Herald on why voting rights are wrong Here’s one way to get everyone’s attention: attack a cornerstone of modern American democracy. “Most of us accept and celebrate our universal suffrage. But is it a good idea? In my view, no,” writes Brown undergraduate Oliver Hudson, who thinks voting rights should be determined by tax bracket (that’s not a joke). “If person A contributes 100 times more than person B in income taxes, person A should have 100 times more voting power than person B.” So basically, Donald Trump should get to handpick our presidents?
Hudson – who is also editor-in-chief of The Brown Spectator, an student-run conservative journal – certainly stirred up controversy, getting push back from the Brown Politics Memo and later publishing a reply to his “outraged readers.” Alas, the reply used a fake Jefferson quote.
The Atlantic’s list isn’t the only end-of-the-year roundup that Hudson’s column has made – USA Today College put the piece on its list of “4 Controversial Columns that Defined 2012,” too.
(photo: Brown Daily Herald)
• Related: Colleague of Bernanke and Krugman is Brown’s new president (March 2)
Amy Willis reports for The Daily Telegraph:
Emma Watson, the star of the Harry Potter films, is set to return to Brown University in January next year to complete her degree, her spokesperson has confirmed. …
Watson, who originally enrolled in September 2009 for a four-year degree, put her studies on hold at the Ivy League university in 2011 while she finished working on the final instalment of the Harry Potter films. …
The actress has previously admitted finding studying at Brown University hard and said she her success makes it a struggle going out in public places.
“My first two years at Brown weren’t easy, not because I was bullied or because anyone gave me a particularly hard time, but just because, you know, without the collegiate system … and at Brown everyone does completely different things and very much chooses their own path, which is great, but it’s also much more difficult, too. You’re not with a group of people all the time at one time,” she said.
Ms. Watson has a standing invitation to appear on Newsmakers or Executive Suite any week she likes.
As recently as 2004, more than 8% of Brown University freshmen had family members who’d attended the Ivy League school before them. And the university’s recently departed president sees no reason to change that, Chrystia Freeland writes in The New York Times (emphasis mine):
At the bottom and in the middle, American society is fraying, and the children of these struggling families are lagging the rest of the world at school. …
Educational attainment, which created the American middle class, is no longer rising. The super-elite lavishes unlimited resources on its children, while public schools are starved of funding. … An elite education is increasingly available only to those already at the top. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama enrolled their daughters in an exclusive private school; I’ve done the same with mine.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year, I interviewed Ruth Simmons, then the president of Brown. She was the first African-American to lead an Ivy League university and has served on the board of Goldman Sachs. Dr. Simmons, a Harvard-trained literature scholar, worked hard to make Brown more accessible to poor students, but when I asked whether it was time to abolish legacy admissions, the Ivy League’s own Book of Gold, she shrugged me off with a laugh: “No, I have a granddaughter. It’s not time yet.”
Brown University history professor Robert Self is out with a new book, “All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy since the 1960s,” and it sounds like it could be interesting. The conservative scholar Kay Hymowitz reviewed the book for The Wall Street Journal:
[Self] has heroically researched the history of the culture wars from the early 1960s to the present. He offers a provocative analysis that accounts for today’s alliance between small-government and social conservatives, on the one hand, and welfare-state and social liberals, on the other.
Mr. Self begins his history by describing “breadwinner liberalism” as the status quo of the early and mid-1960s. The architects of the Great Society assumed the primacy of male-earner and female-homemaker families.
By the late 1960s, male breadwinners were beset from all sides. … The traditional male-headed family was an anachronism.
But, the author concludes, breadwinning men weren’t disappearing; they and their female supporters were just changing political parties.
Self joined Brown as an assistant professor in 2004 and became an associate professor in 2006. He contributed an op-ed to NYTimes.com in August criticizing Republicans – little surprise, then, that the latter half of Hymowitz’s review says Self’s book “descends into a partisan tract” toward its later chapters.
The 496 interviews used for Brown University’s new survey were conducted in two sets over 10 days.
The survey results combine findings from two groups of interviews conducted almost a week apart, the first done from Sept. 26 to 29 and the second done from Oct. 4 to 5, according to Marion Orr, the professor who oversees Brown’s polling. “We did two consecutive sets of days,” Orr told WPRI.com.
Asked whether the poll included cell phones as well as landlines, Orr said the call list was created using phone numbers that some Rhode Islanders voluntarily write down on the official voter registration forms they file with the secretary of state’s office.
A breakdown provided by Brown shows the 496 survey respondents identified themselves as 45% independents, 37% Democrats and 10% Republicans, with an additional 6% of voters classified as “other” and 3% who didn’t know or didn’t say. As a comparison, the 501 voters surveyed in last week’s WPRI 12 poll were 40% independents, 41% Democrats and 17% Republicans, with another 2% who refused to say.
The Brown poll’s gender breakdown was 50.2% female and 49.8% male, and its age breakdown was 10% under 30; 18% ages 30 to 44; 31% ages 45 to 60; 28% ages 61 to 74; and 11% ages 75 and older. Orr said the university trains and pays undergraduate and graduate students to conduct the survey interviews.
• Related: Cicilline leads by 6 points in new Brown poll; Republicans trail (Oct. 10)
This post has been expanded.
A Brown University survey released Wednesday morning shows Cicilline at 46%, Doherty at 40% and independent David Vogel at 7%, with another 7% of voters undecided. Brown’s findings mirror the results of last week’s WPRI 12 poll, which showed Cicilline at 44% and Doherty at 38%.
The survey also shows Democratic Congressman Jim Langevin ahead by 18 points in the 2nd District. Langevin is at 49%, Republican Michael Riley is at 32% and independent Abel Collins is at 5%, with 14% undecided. Incumbent Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse has a 29-point lead for U.S. Senate, with Whitehouse at 59%, Republican Barry Hinckley at 30% and 12% of voters still undecided.
Brown said the telephone survey of 496 registered Rhode Island voters was conducted over 10 days, from Sept. 26 to Oct. 5, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points on statewide questions. Brown said the survey sample for the races included 236 likely voters in the 1st Congressional District and 235 likely voters in the 2nd District, with a 6.3-point margin of error for district-only questions.
Taveras’s approval rating is 60% among city voters, up from 47% a year ago, according to the new poll. The mayor’s fellow Democrat President Obama is even more popular, with a 68% approval rating in Providence. The telephone survey of 425 registered city voters was conducted Sept. 13 to 22 by Brown’s Taubman Center. Its overall margin of error is plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.
Taveras is doing significantly better than his predecessor David Cicilline was toward the end of the previous mayor’s second term. Cicilline’s approval rating was 41% in Brown’s September 2009 poll of city voters, down from 62% in an October 2006 survey.
Providence voters remain concerned about the city’s finances, with 86% characterizing its budget problems as serious or very serious, basically unchanged from a year ago. On pensions, nearly two-thirds of voters said they were aware of the issue. About the same share said retirees, current workers and future workers should share the burden of fixing the problem and also that city employees should switch to a 401k-style plan.
Other ideas were less popular: raising the retirement age (46% support, 44% oppose); raising health insurance co-pays (42% support, 46% oppose); eliminating cost-of-living adjustments (49% support, 35% oppose). As for the pension deal Taveras and retirees struck last spring, 45% of voters were satisfied with it and 21% were dissatisfied, while 24% chose neither option.
Providence’s economy remains a concern, with 82% of voters calling it not so good or poor. Voters were split on the city’s overall direction, with 38% saying it’s going in the right direction and 37% saying it’s off on the wrong track. Only 23% of voters said their families are better off financially now than they were a year ago.
Katie Nicholl reports for the Daily Mail:
The 22-year-old has postponed her return to Brown University in the US, where she is taking a literature course, until next year so that she can pursue a number of new film projects.
It is the latest twist in a long-running saga that began when, amid rumours that she was being bullied, Emma announced in March 2011 that she was deferring her course after spending 18 months at the university in Rhode Island.
She has spent the past year happily studying at Oxford.
Now it has been revealed that although she is hoping to return to Brown in January, it will be four months later than originally planned.
There is even speculation that she might not return at all.
Emma, you’re welcome to appear on Executive Suite once you make your triumphant return to Rhode Island.
“Brown is our major league franchise,” Providence Mayor Angel Taveras declared at his May press conference with Ruth Simmons, the university’s president. “Brown puts us on the map, not only in the United States but around the world.”
There’s no better evidence for that than this article in Wednesday’s edition of the Financial Times, the salmon-colored bible of the global financial elite. Clive Cookson, the London paper’s science editor, writes about advances in the use of electrical signals on the brain that “promise to transform the pharmaceutical industry.” His best evidence:
Perhaps the most remarkable was a recent US clinical trial in which tetraplegic patients used their thoughts to direct robotic arms. The research team, led by John Donoghue and Leigh Hochberg at Brown University, released a video of a 58-year-old patient called Cathy, whose mental activity drove a robot to pick up her drinking bottle from a nearby table and move it up to her mouth so that she could sip some coffee. …
Still, there will never be a mass market for personal robots – or even prosthetic limbs – controlled by tetraplegics. So Prof Donoghue and his colleagues are working on a second generation system, BrainGate 2. This would send signals from the brain to a Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) device, bypassing the injury that blocks the natural transmission of nerve signals and stimulating the patient’s own paralysed muscles to contract on demand.
Brown overhauled its technology transfer office in 2009 with an eye on moving these sorts of breakthroughs from the lab to the marketplace. (Cookson’s article also brings to mind Patrick Kennedy, who’s made brain research – at Brown and elsewhere – a major priority in his post-congressional career.)
Update: A regular reader notes, somewhat depressingly, that Professor Donoghue’s first effort to market the BrainGate technology (through a startup called CyberKinetics) failed.
During the long months Providence and Brown University spent discussing money, city officials refused to break out exactly how much cash they wanted from each of Providence’s seven tax-exempts to reach their $7.1 million goal. The mayor said on Newsmakers this weekend he doesn’t like to negotiate in public.
That, according to The Tax Foundation’s I. Harry David, is precisely the problem with these sorts of agreements.
Citing a much-discussed 2010 Lincoln Institute of Land Policy study [pdf], David warns that payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreements “are often secretive, haphazard, arbitrarily calculated, and an unreliable source of funds in the long-term.” He continues:
PILOT payments are less than what a nonprofit would pay if it was not tax exempt, but more than what it is obligated to pay as tax exempt organizations (i.e. zero). Because of this, PILOTs might be viewed either as a subsidy or as a tax. … Viewed either way, the payment is in an arbitrary amount.
The debate over PILOTs resembles the debate over whether to give nonprofits tax-exempt status as charitable organizations. The argument against the exemption is that it violates the benefit principle: nonprofits should pay the government for the services they use. And we have previously made the argument that giving some organizations tax-exempt status gives them a competitive advantage over similar organizations that are not tax-exempt.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Johnson & Wales University has agreed to advance Providence $5 million by June 30, but Mayor Angel Taveras says he won’t count the full amount toward his 2011-12 budget needs despite protests by other tax-exempt institutions.
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Brown University on Tuesday bowed to heavy pressure and agreed to pay the city of Providence $31.5 million over the next 11 years, bringing Mayor Angel Taveras a step closer to his goal of keeping the capital out of bankruptcy.
Update: All the mayor’s moves haven’t convinced Wall Street, however. Standard & Poor’s cut Providence’s bond rating from BBB+ to BBB on Tuesday, only two steps above junk status. S&P said that while Taveras has taken significant steps to fix the problem, “the city’s budget remains structurally imbalanced,” and Providence’s fiscal outlook is still negative (as opposed to stable).
Update #2: Want to read the Brown U.-Providence agreement for yourself? Download the PDF.
Read all about it - a productive 24 hours for the mayor, with a balanced budget now suddenly within reach.
Brown University President Ruth Simmons says it’s Providence’s own fault that it doesn’t have enough money to balance its budget, and Mayor Angel Taveras shouldn’t make Brown pay for problems the city caused.
“I don’t think it’s reasonable for the city, having made mistakes and having become insolvent because of those mistakes, to turn to institutions that are successful and to demand that they pay for those mistakes,” Simmons told the Undergraduate Council of Students on Wednesday night, according to The Brown Daily Herald.
Spokesmen for Brown and Taveras continue to say the two sides are still discussing a final resolution to their differences over how much more the university should contribute to the city – Taveras wants it to increase by $4 million, while Simmons wants to keep the increase at $2 million.
• Related: Brown U. student: ‘It’s not our families’ job to fund Providence’ (March 7)
By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Angel Taveras says Providence’s tax-exempt hospitals may not wind up making a cash contribution to the city budget but instead take over providing some services to residents that the city currently offers.
“We’re giving the hospitals ideas of ways they could help but still address their core missions,” Taveras told reporters after testifying before the House Finance Committee in favor of a bill that would allow cities to charge tax-exempt institutions 25% of the amount they would owe if their property was taxable.
State Rep. John Carnevale, the lead sponsor of the 25% bill, led the charge against the tax-exempts, saying it’s long past time the organizations contribute more money to the city budget to offset the cost of services from which they benefit, such as public safety.
“Like the Wizard of Oz, they hide behind that 501(c)3 [tax exemption],” Carnevale said during his extended, colorful testimony. “They’ve taken lessons from David Copperfield and put together the grandest illusion of all.” He argued the institutions are wealthier and less charitable than they claim.
Here’s an interesting chart city officials gave out on Thursday afternoon at a hearing on a bill to force tax-exempt institutions to pay 25% of the tax bill they’d owe if their property was taxable. It shows the latest assessments of property owned by the seven largest, led by Brown University and Lifespan hospital group:
• Related: Moody’s: Cities must balance tax-exempts’ cash, contributions (Feb. 15)
U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and his colleagues are dominating the news this week as they hear arguments over the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care law.
It turns out the chief justice’s wife of 15 years, Jane Sullivan Roberts, earned one of her two advanced degrees here in Providence: a master’s in applied mathematics she received from Brown University in 1981.
While her husband has the more high-profile job, Mrs. Roberts boasts an impressive resumé of her own. The Holy Cross graduate and native of the Bronx is a managing partner with the Washington office of
law firm Major, Lindsey & Africa.
Update: A reader reports Major, Lindsey & Africa is a legal recruiting firm, not a law firm.
After months of speculation, President Obama on Friday announced his choice to be the next president of the World Bank: Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim, a public health expert who went to college in Providence.
Kim immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea at the age of five and grew up in Iowa, where he was his high school’s valedictorian and quarterback. He graduated from Brown University in 1982, where he was involved with the Third World Center and the Asian American Students Association.
Kim’s honors include a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2003 and being named one of the world’s most influential people by Time magazine in 2006. He has remained involved with Brown, receiving the alumni association’s William Rogers Award in 2008 and lecturing there in 2009.
Brown President Ruth Simmons – who Obama also reportedly considered for the World Bank job – spoke at Kim’s inauguration as Dartmouth’s president in 2009, lauding him as “an international leader.”
(photo: Brown University)
You just never know what will get Providence attention in the Gray Lady:
ON a chilly February afternoon a line of people coiled around MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens, and disappeared down the block. It was Super Bowl Sunday, but despite a smattering of Giants gear, the young-looking crowd had committed the day to “From Scratch,” a five-hour performance of continuous improvisation by Nicolas Jaar, an even younger-looking electronic musician and producer. …
Mr. Jaar may have attempted to present the eureka moment of artistic conception, but it wound up even more spontaneous than he had planned. His hectic schedule the previous two months — he used his winter break from studying comparative literature at Brown to play concerts throughout South America and Europe — prevented him from listening to the vinyl albums he’d bought in São Paulo, Brazil, until he reached for them onstage.
Simmons was part of a diverse list of candidates “considered in initial discussions” by Obama and his advisers that also included Bill Gates and Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi, according to Bloomberg. The list has been narrowed down since then and apparently no longer includes Simmons.
A spokeswoman for Brown was not immediately available. Simmons served on investment bank Goldman Sachs’ board of directors from 2000 to 2009. She donated $5,000 to Obama’s re-election campaign in September.
“The breakthroughs that arrive on the coattails of his election may prove just the beginning of our understanding of the implications and longer term impact of his remarkable rise and run,” Simmons wrote after Obama won the presidency in November 2008.
Simmons will retire as Brown’s president on June 30. Princeton University economist Christina Paxson was picked as her replacement last week. Simmons has said she plans to take a leave of absence then return to Brown to teach as a professor of comparative literature and Africana Studies.
(photo: Brown University)
Matt Brundage, a Brown University freshman and columnist for The Brown Daily Herald, makes the case against the school complying with Mayor Taveras’s demands that it pay the city another $4 million a year:
I get it. I get how it sounds when the elitist Ivy League university sitting atop the bankruptcy-bound, poverty-stricken city below will not give what the mayor considers to be a sufficient amount of money to keep the city alive. However, while this tale sounds vaguely like the beginning of a Dr. Seuss book about fairness, equality and caring about your neighbors, the story from most students’ perspectives would be quite different. …
It’s not our families’ job to fund Providence. We have a responsibility to our federal, state and local government, and to Brown, but we have no such responsibility to Providence beyond what Brown has already agreed to pay. It is regressive and counterproductive to call upon the resources of local universities to fund a city before calling upon its own wealthy citizens.
In a follow-up piece, Brundage adds: “Providence should ask absolutely everywhere else first, then find places where we can cut the most marginally unimportant spending and then go back around to everywhere else before taking money away from education.”
Meanwhile, Taveras and President Simmons are scheduled to hold a third face-to-face meeting this week.
File this one under things I never would have guessed (via Slate):
When did douche become an insult?
In the 1960s. The Historical Dictionary of American Slang traces the epithet douche to a 1968 collection of college slang compiled at Brown University, which defined the word as “a person who always does the wrong thing.” The insult douchebag is somewhat older. The 1939 novel Ninety Times Guilty includes a pimp named Jimmy Douchebag, and the Historical Dictionary of American Slang traces the epithetical usage to a 1946 journal article about military slang, which offered the definition “a military misfit.”
Suddenly that GQ ranking from 2009 makes a lot more sense.