GoLocalProv’s 2015 Woman of the Year

Saturday, January 02, 2016


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GoLocal's Woman of the Year has had to address serious issues of sexual assault on campus, and a tenuous race relations climate that has permeated academia nationally.  She has set the wheels in motion to provide direct action on both, and now the Brown campus -- and community -- is expecting to see results. 

Christina Paxson is now in her fourth year at the helm of the Ivy League institution, making her the 19th President of the university.  And while she continues to focus on her academic expertise of childhood racial disparities, she is tasked with tackling head on some of the most difficult issues facing college campuses today.  And it is not an easy one.  

Issues of Inclusion

In November, Brown announced a $100 million "inclusivity" plan, stating it was developing a working draft of an action plan to "enhance diversity and inclusion on campus." 

"Faculty, students and staff may provide comments and suggestions through Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. Those responses will be carefully reviewed, and the final plan will be presented at the beginning of the spring semester," announced the University in November, extending the deadline for input.

Paxson had addressed the community in a letter outlining the goals of the plan. 

"Our collective goal is for all students, faculty and staff to fully own and take responsibility for the community’s plan to confront the very real issues of racism and lack of inclusion at Brown," said Paxson. "The draft plan built on a history of student and community activism in the struggle against racism, intolerance and discrimination, and the continuing contributions of students, faculty and staff over the coming month toward an even stronger final plan, will add to generations of efforts to make Brown better."

The extended deadline for input came after feedback from students that the plan was "not enough" -- as reported by the Daily Caller

"But now, protesters from a group calling itself Brown Together have rebelled, claiming the plan is too tame, that they’re fed up with the university’s failure to capitulate entirely. Brown Together launched what they called a “Day of Reclamation” Thursday, moving en masse to hijack Paxson’s office to read a statement denouncing the administration’s actions thus far."

Paxson will undoubtedly have to continue to address those who want to see more done - this is just the start of the process.  

Addressing Sexual Assault on Campus

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Brown issued its Sexual Assault Task Force final report in April of 2015, to address reporting guidelines for sexual assault on campus, and more. 

Earlier in the year, Brown had sanctioned two fraternities for sexual misconduct.  In a climate where 25% of Brown females reported "unwanted sexual touching" on campus, the problem could not be more urgent.  

“In sharing this report, I share also my belief that our campus is uniquely positioned to confront the issue of sexual and gender-based violence at the center of discussions at higher education institutions across the country,” Paxson said in her message to campus. “Even as various incidents have prompted deep consideration and questioning of ourselves as a community around awareness and response to sexual violence, we have the advantage of so many members of our campus actively galvanized around these issues.”

Challenges Ahead

The University is slated to be releasing its final plan for inclusivity and diversity on campus this coming spring, which will most likely resulting in more discussion, debate -- and detractors. 

Similarly, the University must review the results of the sexual assault task force report's action plan, and ensure that effective change has been implemented.  

Paxson is navigating a tenuous climate at Brown, and is proceeding perhaps too cautiously at times -- the university did not respond to GoLocal's request for Paxson's position on the Woodrow Wilson school at Princeton, which Paxson formerly headed and is under fire by a group of students there to remove his name from it. Similarly, when a student group issued a release that Paxson was on board with a Hilton Hotel boycott, her office refused to comment on whether Paxson did indeed condone the action -- or not.  

Brown's 19th President has taken big steps to address some major issues, but the proof will be in the community response -- and results -- in the coming year and years ahead. 


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