brown university

FT hails ‘remarkable’ brain research at Brown University

August 1st, 2012 at 3:28 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

“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.

Tax Foundation urges reforms after ‘arbitrary’ Brown-Prov. deal

May 14th, 2012 at 5:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

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.


Providence getting $5M from JWU by June; mayor downplays it

May 4th, 2012 at 11:13 am by under Nesi's Notes

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.

Read the rest of this story »

Providence, Brown U. seek to turn the page with $31.5M deal

May 1st, 2012 at 12:56 pm by under Nesi's Notes

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.

Read the rest of this story »

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.

Taveras strikes deals with Brown U., Lifespan on cash for city

April 30th, 2012 at 9:56 pm by under Nesi's Notes

Read all about it - a productive 24 hours for the mayor, with a balanced budget now suddenly within reach.

Brown U. prez takes Providence to task for its fiscal ‘mistakes’

April 12th, 2012 at 1:22 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

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)

Taveras: Deal with hospitals may give city services, not cash

March 29th, 2012 at 4:34 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

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.

Read the rest of this story »

Chart: How much property the tax-exempts own in Providence

March 29th, 2012 at 2:20 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

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)

Did you know U.S. Chief Justice Roberts’ wife went to Brown?

March 28th, 2012 at 3:59 pm by under Nesi's Notes

If you look hard enough, almost every story has some sort of Rhode Island connection. Here’s another example.

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.

Obama nominates Brown U. grad Kim as World Bank president

March 23rd, 2012 at 11:33 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

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)

NYT profiles Brown student Jaar’s five-hour improvised show

March 12th, 2012 at 10:08 am by under Nesi's Notes

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.

Report: Obama considered Brown president to lead World Bank

March 7th, 2012 at 6:35 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

President Obama considered nominating Brown University’s outgoing president Ruth Simmons as the new head of the powerful World Bank, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday evening.

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)

Brown U. student: ‘It’s not our families’ job to fund Providence’

March 7th, 2012 at 9:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

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.

Oldest use of ‘D-word’ as an insult found at Brown University

March 6th, 2012 at 9:54 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

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.

Colleague of Bernanke and Krugman is Brown’s new president

March 2nd, 2012 at 12:44 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Paxson, right, toasts Krugman for his Nobel

Brown University’s new president, Christina Paxson, is leaving a department studded with star professors.

Paxson, 52, is currently dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, the Ivy League institution where she has spent her entire career since arriving there in 1986.

Among the economists who worked with Paxson at Princeton: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who left Princeton in 2002 to join the central bank, and Paul Krugman, the influential New York Times columnist who won a Nobel Prize while Paxson was chair of the department.

“Person for person, this is the finest economics department in the world and I’m happy to be a part of it,” Krugman told Bloomberg News after winning the Nobel in 2008.


Mayor cites ‘progress’ before third meeting with Brown U. prez

February 28th, 2012 at 10:32 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence Mayor Angel Taveras says he’s “making good progress” in negotiations with Brown University over how much the Ivy League school should increase its contribution to the city budget.

Taveras and Brown President Ruth Simmons have met face-to-face twice in the last two weeks and spoke by telephone on Monday, the mayor told “We’re planning to meet again soon,” he said. “She’s personally involved.”

Taveras met earlier this month with the CEOs of Providence’s large hospitals to plead the city’s case with them. “We’re pursuing that, as well,” he said. “Those conversations are ongoing.”

The mayor has asked Providence’s largest tax-exempt schools and hospitals to contribute an additional $7.1 million to the city budget as he tries to keep the state capital out of bankruptcy. An exclusive new WPRI 12 poll set for release Tuesday at 6 p.m. will show whether Rhode Islanders think the state should keep the city out of Chapter 9.

Taveras will meet Saturday morning with city retirees to ask them to accept voluntary reductions in their pension benefits. “You have to have structural change,” the mayor said Tuesday. “You cannot simply rely on more revenue to solve this problem.”

• Related: Moodys: Cities must balance tax-exempts’ cash, contributions (Feb. 15)

(photo: Ted Nesi/WPRI)

Why Brown University graduates go take jobs on Wall Street

February 24th, 2012 at 9:45 am by under Nesi's Notes

In my Saturday column (you read it, right?) I highlighted a recent Ezra Klein piece that argued Wall Street, Teach for America, the law and management consulting are all “taking advantage of the weakness of liberal arts education” to recruit Ivy League Millennials into their professions.

Well, not one but two of Klein’s readers who described themselves as Brown University graduates emailed him after the piece was published and made points he thought were worth follow-up posts of their own. Here’s the first response:

I’ve seen these stats thrown around a lot, but I would love it if someone would investigate what percent of all grads go into finance — not just those who have a job before graduation!

I’m sure mine is a skewed sample, but the majority of people I knew at Brown did not have a job lined up at graduation. I suspect those going into finance are far more likely to have that settled, considering the very ordered, systematic recruitment process of big finance (and consulting) companies. Those going into, say, journalism, are more likely to figure that out in the months following graduation.

So the story here could just as well be: College grads going into finance figure it out earlier.

That’s possible, though I remember frantically and unfruitfully searching for journalism jobs throughout the second semester of my senior year. Here’s the second response:

I graduated from Brown last year and jumped right into law school back home after a couple of internships here and there over the summers. I quickly became disillusioned when I learned about the starting salaries in every other industry. It just never made mathematical sense for me to choose a career pathway that wasn’t going to help me reap the returns of my family’s financial investment, at least in the near future.Every Brown grad feels the need to try out consulting (Bain takes like apps from one of every three or four graduating seniors), whilst the rest of us will most definitely shoot our resume over to Goldman and Morgan Stanley even if we spent our college lives condemning Wall Street (as Brown kids are naturally inclined to do, despite the fact our President was on GS’s Board of Directors). All my friends are in investment banks/consulting/law/medicine.

Having said that, I think you might be reading TFA the wrong way. As much as I think there is something great about the scheme, I think TFA is not very different from banking. While it doesn’t have such great returns early, I honestly feel that TFA is just a way for most talented college grads to try to grab hold of something that’ll improve their chances of making bank in the future. I might be totally wrong, and I’m sure there are some wonderful people in TFA, but I wouldn’t say they were all motivated by the fact that it’s a more “socially-responsible” choice. Leaving this here for your perusal:

I know there are a number of current and former Brown students among the regular readers here – what do you think?

Analysis: Why Chafee can find solace in the new Brown U. poll

February 23rd, 2012 at 2:00 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

The headline numbers in the new Brown University poll are bad – really bad – for Congressman Cicilline and Governor Chafee. But there are other ways to analyze the results that look slightly better, though still pretty bad, for the two incumbents.

Political practitioners have long complained about “the science” of surveys that generate job approval ratings by asking voters to rate an official’s job performance as either “excellent,” “good,” “fair”/”only fair” or “poor.” Their argument is that while “only fair” isn’t a huge vote of confidence, it’s not necessarily a sign of out-and-out disapproval, either.

Evidently, Brown disagrees – the university lumps together “excellent” and “good” to create the metric it calls an approval rating. But by digging into the detailed breakdown of the poll, we can take another look at the numbers and what they say about local leaders’ standing among voters.

One way to do that is to strip out three of the four ratings and just look at the share of voters who describe each politician’s job performance as “poor,” which is clearly negative. While that probably understates the level of disapproval, perhaps Chafee (45%) and Cicilline (43%) can take solace that a majority don’t think they’re doing a poor job:


Cicilline, Chafee approval ratings now worse than Nixon in 1974

February 23rd, 2012 at 9:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Analysis: Poll’s possible silver lining for Chafee

Hard as it is to imagine, Congressman David Cicilline and Gov. Lincoln Chafee have managed to lose even more public support.

Cicilline’s job approval rating has sunk to just 15% among all Rhode Island voters, down from 24% in December, according to a new Brown University poll released Thursday morning. Chafee’s approval rating isn’t much higher at 22%, down from 27%.

To put those numbers in perspective, President Richard Nixon’s approval rating was 24% a week before he resigned over Watergate in 1974. Slightly more voters rated Chafee’s job performance as poor (45%) than said so about Cicilline’s (43%).

Cicilline’s successor, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, is the most popular elected official in Rhode Island based on Brown’s polling. The mayor’s statewide job approval rating is up to 60%. Treasurer Gina Raimondo comes next with 58% approving of her job performance.


Irony: Hard-luck worker praised by Taveras hired by … Brown

February 16th, 2012 at 9:20 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Those who watched Mayor Taveras’s State of the City speech on Monday night may recall that, not long after he criticized Brown University and the other tax-exempts for failing to contribute enough to Providence’s city budget, the mayor pulled the classic Ronald Reagan move of telling a story about someone in the audience:

Marc Nixon was unemployed and needed a way to support his two young children. He enrolled in a program at Building Futures and started an apprenticeship that led to an opportunity with Local 271 last year. Marc now has a good paying construction job and – more importantly – a career.

His story exemplifies the power of the Building Futures model, connecting Providence residents in need to meaningful careers in the construction trades. These are the types of success stories that will be replicated through our Emerald Cities Providence initiative. Marc is here tonight. Please stand and be recognized.

It’s a great story. But who hired Nixon for the “good paying construction job” that Taveras described? As it turns out, the same Ivy League institution the mayor has roundly criticized of late:

Wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the large words “Honor Labor,” Marc Nixon can’t help but smile when he thinks about his time in the spotlight. Monday night, the 35-year-old Providence resident was recognized by Mayor Angel Taveras during the State of the City address as a career “success story” — something that seemed out of reach just two years ago.

The father of four, Nixon was working a “dead-end job” in a thrift shop when he came to the Building Futures program in 2010. Building Futures is an initiative that aims to help low-income workers move into careers in the construction trade through an apprenticeship program. Since 2007, 147 Building Futures trainees have successfully completed the pre-apprenticeship training program and 100 workers have been successfully placed into apprenticeships at construction sites around the city, including 13 separate projects at Brown.

It’s not a huge surprise that Nixon got a job at Brown; the school is, after all, Providence’s largest employer. But it serves as a reminder of the delicate balance Providence must strike in balancing its need for revenue from the tax-exempts with its reliance on them as economic engines.

(photo: Frank Mullin/Brown University)

Moodys: Cities must balance tax-exempts’ cash, contributions

February 15th, 2012 at 1:14 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Moody’s Investors Service thinks Providence and other cities could reap significant rewards from pushing local tax-exempt institutions to fork over more money. But they should guard against killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTS, “represent a potential revenue boon for local governments with high concentrations of tax-exempt properties in their tax bases, many of which are in the Northeast,” Moody’s analysts wrote in a research note Tuesday that singled out Boston as a successful example.

“Though far from immanent, greater PILOT revenue comes with long-term risks for some local governments should PILOTs grow so large that they impair not-for-profits’ ability to create jobs and stimulate the economy, or encourage them to move elsewhere,” Moody’s said, adding: “In general, local governments are still far from that tipping point.”

“Efforts by local governments to bolster PILOTs appear to be shaping into a trend,” according to Moody’s. In addition to Providence and Boston, Scranton, Pa.; Worcester, Mass.; Framingham, Mass.; and Newton, Mass., have all sought larger voluntary payments recently.


How much more money will Mayor Taveras get out of JWU?

February 15th, 2012 at 12:15 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is set to announce later Wednesday a new agreement with Johnson & Wales University to increase the school’s voluntary contribution to the city budget. It would be the first deal the mayor has finalized with one of the large tax-exempts he’s targeting for $7.1 million.

One of the big questions will be, how is the agreement structured and how much more is JWU going to pay? All four private colleges in Providence – Brown, JWU, PC and RISD – already began making yearly payments to Providence under a 2003 deal struck with then-Mayor David Cicilline.

In JWU’s case, the 2003 deal calls for the school to pay Providence a total of $6.34 million from 2004 through 2023. This year’s payment is $308,890 and next year’s is slated to be $313,523. For comparison purposes, the other payments this year are $1.2 million from Brown; $264,262 from PC; and $175,784 from RISD.

The mayor is also expected to meet with Brown President Ruth Simmons on Wednesday to renew their talks.

Update: Still waiting for a more detailed description of the structure of the agreement, but here’s how the mayor’s office described what JWU will pay in a statement Wednesday:

The agreement at least triples JWU’s annual contributions to Providence, increasing the university’s annual payment from $308,890 this year under an existing 2003 memorandum of understanding to at least $958,000 each year with the potential for as much as $1.45 million annually.

In all, JWU will directly contribute an additional contribution of as much as $11.4 million to the City of Providence over the next 10 years, bringing the university’s total contribution to as much as $14.5 million over 10 years.

The agreement is structured with an upfront contribution from the university of as much as $5 million in accelerated payments to the city.

• Related: Taveras hammers retirees, tax-exempts in grim State of the City (Feb. 13)

City: ‘Not entirely clear’ how Prov. avoids bankruptcy, tax hike

February 11th, 2012 at 4:29 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

By Ted Nesi

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Taveras administration acknowledged Saturday that Providence has no clear plan for closing the $22.5 million shortfall in the city budget, amid warnings of bankruptcy and with less than five months left in the fiscal year.

“Since taking office the administration has worked to close the gap on a $110 million structural deficit that was identified,” Taveras spokesman David Ortiz told “Despite how far we’ve come, there is a $22.5 million shortfall remaining that is not within our ability to fix without help.”

“We are in conversations at the State House and with the City Council about the crisis that Providence is in, and at this point it’s not entirely clear how we get into the next fiscal year without facing the possibility of a supplemental tax increase or bankruptcy,” he said.

Brown University President Ruth Simmons, who’s been at loggerheads with Taveras since December over the school’s payments to the city, said in a statement Saturday there are “now productive and positive discussions with the city and state leadership to determine the exact nature of the University’s contributions.”

Read the rest of this story »

Chart: Employee pay is biggest chunk of $782M Brown budget

February 10th, 2012 at 12:38 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Brown University President Ruth Simmons recently told Bloomberg the $5 million additional annual payment to the city that Providence Mayor Angel Taveras wants would be “crippling for the university.”

No one disputes that $5 million is a lot of money. But it’s also less than 1% of the $781.6 million that Brown spent in the 2009-10 academic year, according to the school’s most recent income tax filing. That raises the question: How does Brown spend all that money annually?

The biggest share by far is employee compensation – salaries, benefits and executive pay – which accounted for a combined 46% of the school’s spending in 2009-10. Grants and assistance come in a distant second at 13.6%. Here’s a breakdown of Brown’s spending in 2009-10 based on its tax returns:

You can’t really see them at the bottom, but Brown spent $603,692 on promotions and advertising; $346,083 on meetings, conventions and conferences; $325,000 on accounting; $245,930 on fundraising; and $148,850 on lobbying. The Corporation is meeting this weekend and will likely approve Brown’s 2012-13 budget.

Update: Brown spokeswoman Marisa Quinn wrote in to put some context around those numbers:

It is no surprise that the largest portion of the university’s budget is salaries and benefits. The work of the University is performed by its people – the faculty who teach and perform research and the staff who support this mission working with students and faculty, and ensuring that the university operates well and efficiently. This includes research assistants, construction managers, police and security, student life deans, dining services, librarians, coaches, etc. Brown is the 6th-largest employer in Rhode Island, and with 3,800
employees, is a stable employer even in uncertain times.

Brown, Supreme Court hold off on Providence financial moves

February 9th, 2012 at 5:12 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Brown University’s 54-member board probably won’t vote this weekend on whether to increase its voluntary payments to the city of Providence because a formal proposal isn’t on the table yet.

“We are continuing discussions with the mayor at this time and do not expect action coming out of the Corporation because those discussions have not yet produced a proposal for the Corporation to consider,” Brown spokeswoman Marisa Quinn told, using the board’s formal title.

The Corporation, whose members include Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and Providence Equity Partners chief Jonathan Nelson, meets three times a year and usually approves the university’s budget in February. Talks between the school and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras resumed last week after deadlocking in December.

“We look forward to meeting with the mayor and the other nonprofits to discuss fair and constructive opportunities to strengthen Providence,” Quinn said.

Separately, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Supreme Court said the five justices would not issue an order or make any other announcement on Thursday about whether they’ll agree to an expedited review of Providence’s appeal of a lower-court decision blocking the city from moving retirees to Medicare.

• Related: Mayor Taveras hopeful Providence can avoid bankruptcy (Feb. 6)

1 in 5 Providence workers employed by tax-exempts like Brown

February 9th, 2012 at 6:00 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Is Providence biting the hands that feed its residents?

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and his aides certainly don’t see it that way. But the seven tax-exempt institutions they’re targeting for a bigger contribution to Providence’s budget employ one in five workers there, making each of them one of its main employers, city documents show.

The gang of seven are Brown University, Lifespan (Rhode Island and The Miriam hospitals), Care New England (Women & Infants and Butler hospitals), CharterCARE (Roger Williams Medical Center and St. Joseph Health Services), Providence College, Johnson & Wales University and the Rhode Island School of Design.

Those seven tax-exempts employed 20,837 workers in Providence in 2011, which was 19.5% of total city employment, according to R.I. Economic Development Corporation data city auditors prepared for bondholders. Brown is the city’s No. 1 employer with 5,162 workers, or 4.83% of total city employment.


Brown U. prof discusses ‘Romneymania’ craze sweeping US

February 4th, 2012 at 5:38 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Of course, she did so in The Onion:

From coast to coast, town to town, and in nearly every public meeting place and private residence across America, millions have been captivated, inspired, and in some cases moved to tears by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who now finds himself campaigning before a nation in the throes of full-scale Romneymania. …

“Simply put, when Mitt Romney speaks, he inspires people to be better,” said political scientist Deborah Klein of Brown University, adding that given his effusive charisma, people are likely to follow the Republican candidate anywhere. “Anytime he meets factory workers on the campaign trail or stands at the podium in a debate, his reputation as a highly relatable man of the people is indisputable.”

“It’s easy to see why Americans can’t get enough Mitt,” Klein added.

Take that, Wendy Schiller!

Chafee-as-peacemaker meets with Taveras, Brown U. brass

February 2nd, 2012 at 3:44 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Taveras, Chafee clap for Simmons last August

Governor Chafee is trying to broker peace between his capital city and his alma mater.

Chafee met Thursday afternoon with Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Brown University President Ruth Simmons and Brown Chancellor Thomas Tisch to seek a resolution to their financial dispute, Brown spokeswoman Marisa Quinn told

The governor graduated from Brown in 1975 and one of his children is a student there now. He convened the 1 p.m. meeting in his State House office because he “believes in collaboration and believes we all have to work together to solve our city’s and state’s problems,” Chafee spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger said.

“I’d characterize the meeting as going well,” she added.


Photo: ‘Professor’ Patrick Kennedy teaches class at Brown U.

January 31st, 2012 at 10:40 am by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

(photo: Pathikrit Bhattacharyya / Brown Daily Herald, used with permission)

Chart of the day: Brown U.’s Providence payments in context

January 16th, 2012 at 12:30 pm by under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site

Brown University and the Taveras administration are at loggerheads over how much the school should increase the annual payment in lieu of taxes it makes to Providence’s city budget.

The numbers at issue sound big – the city says the original deal that Brown backed out on was for $5 million a year, and the university is now offering $3 million. The lower amount would be “a substantial contribution and comparable to what any U.S. university contributes to its local community,” Brown President Ruth Simmons wrote in an email to the university community last week.

Still, in the context of Providence’s city budget ($614 million), Brown’s consolidated operating budget ($834 million) and Brown’s endowment ($2.5 billion), even $5 million is a drop in the bucket: