Paxson tentatively responds to ACURM giveaway, grant acceptance recommendations

President Christina Paxson P’19 has given an interim response to the University Resource Management Advisory Committee’s February recommendations, which she says seek to “change the University’s business ethics practices in response to a petition Brown Scholars for Climate Action”. at the April faculty meeting on Tuesday.

The SBCA proposals call on the University to set minimum standards for its gift and business policies to prevent Brown from doing business with organizations that perpetuate climate misinformation, The Herald previously reported. .

ACURM — an advisory committee that assesses the ethics of University investment and business practices consistent with its mission and values ​​— recommended in March that the University create a pathway to take action against organizations that deny the climate science, maintains its current gift acceptance policy and amends its business ethics policies to indicate its refusal to do business with organizations that knowingly undermine science.

Paxson said she tentatively expects the University to develop a process for accepting gifts and grants that better reflects the University’s mission and values, protects academic freedom, fosters trust within the Brown community. and does not politicize the acceptance of gifts and grants or use business practices as an advocacy tool.

This will be done through the creation of an interim due diligence review committee to be formed this semester, she said. This committee, which Paxson said could eventually consist of the provost, the executive vice president of finance and administration, and two faculty members from ACURM and the Research Advisory Board, respectively, “would conduct reviews as required…(and) make recommendations to (the President) and (the) Corporation.

Paxson also aims to establish a committee that will work over the summer to finalize plans for a review process.

On behalf of the Faculty Executive Committee, Professor of Applied Mathematics Govind Menon PhD’01 summarized the Faculty Commons held on March 18 to discuss the recommendations.

“While there is complete consensus on the need to prevent scientific misinformation, … there are fundamental values ​​at stake, in particular academic freedom and the ethics of science,” Menon said. “Pragmatic challenges include the need to distinguish between donation and grant policies and the need to develop fair processes that ensure high ethical standards for funding without compromising the smooth running of the University.”

Paxson presented her preliminary reactions to the recommendations that she plans to discuss with the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, although she does not require its approval for acceptance.

One of Paxson’s concerns with ACURM’s recommendations was its exclusion of faculty funding from restrictions under a proposed donation and grant acceptance policy – part of an ACURM effort. to protect academic freedom. “The line between what is and is not (research) faculty and what should or should not be protected by academic freedom is blurred,” she said. “Having one ethical standard for one thing and another for another within the University doesn’t make much sense to me. I think everything we do should apply to all donations and grants, whatever the purpose.

“Our mission is to advance knowledge and understanding. Thus, scientific misinformation – which is defined as knowingly spreading false information with the intent to deceive or mislead – is not consistent with our mission,” Paxson added.

Paxson suggested that “whenever possible, … we are not going to do business with organizations that directly support scientific misinformation defined in this way.” If implemented, a policy consistent with Paxson’s statement would go beyond ACURM’s recommendations by applying to all scientific misinformation beyond climate change denial, but would not apply to organizations. who support “opposing science or science policy, … (because) these concepts are very broad and they are not very well defined,” she said.

The president’s report, in which Paxson addresses faculty and administration at the meeting, also summarized recent recommendations from the Land Recognition Task Force, which include creating formal recognition of University Lands, a group responsible for writing “a real study on this subject. problem,” a planned campus memorial with the people of Narragansett and more educational opportunities for local tribal youth.

A formal response to these recommendations will be released by the President in the coming weeks. “It’s coming out soon because I wish I could have a ground acknowledgment that we can actually use at the start,” Paxson said.

Paxson also presented five faculty members with the President’s Award for Excellence in Faculty Governance: Kenny Breuer, Professor of Engineering; Harold Cook, professor of history; Tamar Katz, associate professor of English; Melvin Rogers, associate professor of political science; and Sharon Swartz, professor of biology and engineering.

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