February Student-Corporation Focus Group Summary
About 500 students complete pre-orientation programs a year
Current First Year Programs:
TWTP (Third World Transition Program): Workshops and discussions around the “isms”, marginalized social identities, and how these identities intersect (~200 students)
Catalyst: Support and mentorship program for underrepresented minorities in STEM
Mosaic+: Support and mentorship program for underrepresented minorities and students of color in Computer Science (~15 students)
Excellence@Brown: Five-Day writing intensive program aimed to transition students who want to improve their writing abilities for college courses (~100)
IMP (International Mentoring Program): Helps international students transition to life in the United States.
UCAAP (University Community Academic Advising Program): Three-day community service orientation program.
Current Sophomore Program (also for transfer and resumed undergraduate education students)
BOLT (Brown Outdoor Leadership Training): 4 day backpacking trip (~160 students)
Main Focus Group Takeaways:
What students said the benefits of orientation programs are:
Pre-orientation programs create cohorts of students that can support one another throughout Brown. Students build a stronger network of peers who both become their best friends throughout their time at Brown as well as members of their study groups
Pre-orientation programs create small, personal environments that bring students together around a shared interest. (Orientation is too big and impersonal to accomplish this.)
Particularly, students of color and students invested in social justice found it very valuable to establish connections to those communities.
Academic Support and Introduction to Resources
Programs introduce on-campus social and academic resources
Students build relationships with Deans, upperclassmen and others that are useful to navigating their academic experience
Students are provided additional time to get acclimated. Programs help students learn the physical campus, dining halls, classrooms, dorms, etc.
Academic Inquiry and Discovery
All pre-orientation programs have academic themes for students to explore and think in depth about providing a meaningful academic experience before classes begin
Why students may not participate:
Programs accept students on a first-come first-serve or application process, excluding many who want to participate.
Some students cannot come to campus early because they need to continue working in the summer often due to financial responsibilities
BOLT (Sophomore Backpacking trip) charges students to participate
Purely Academic Focuses
While many of our peer institutions have pre-orientation programs around outdoor activities, community service, or other activities, Brown currently does not.
Lack of Information
Parents greatly influence students choices to attend pre-orientation programs, so we must improve outreach for first-gen students and international students whose parents may not be familiar with pre-orientation programs or American university systems.
Excellence (writing intensive), Catalyst (for historically underrepresented groups in STEM), and TWTP (learning about social identities/resources on campus) seem to be built for same demographic (people of color, low-income, first-gen), so how can we ensure those programs can continue to serve the groups they are intended to while giving opportunities to other students?
What programs can be created for students who do not necessarily fit these intended demographics?
Sophomores, transfers, and RUE students are demographics that are largely left out of programming at Brown.
Current Barriers to Expansion:
Opt-in programs are inherently self-selecting despite the fact that they would be valuable to everyone.
Peer leadership is important within pre-orientation programs, and these programs are time-consuming and draining on student coordinators.
Obvious financial cost to expansion.
Proposed Next Steps:
Create small community-building themes/programs for everyone during regular orientation
Create new pre-orientation programs to match first-year demand
Create mandatory pre-orientation events/programs could illuminate areas other than the logistical, legal, administrative concerns of Orientation
Create ways for upperclassmen/alumni to welcome first-year, transfer, and RUE students during orientation to create broader communities (ex. similar to Campus Dance during Commencement)
Extend TWTP-type programming to athletes back on campus at the end of summer
Expand BOLT or provide additional options for sophomore pre-orientation programs. Sophomores in particular would benefit from expanding BOLT or having greater choice of sophomore pre-orientation programs.
The creation of the Title IX office and the appointment of the Title IX Program Officer (Amanda Walsh) have imposed changes on students, a greatly impactful one being the responsible employee designation (federally mandated). (Responsible Employee: A person employed by the university who is required to report any complaints of sexual assault or Title IX violations to the Title IX Office. At Brown, this includes students acting as Meiklejohns, Residential Peer Leaders, and Brown University Dining Services student supervisors)
Main Group Focus Takeaways:
Reactions to Responsible Employee Designation
Explanation of Responsible Employee Designation was unclear to students: there is confusion in what reporting entails, in which scenarios reporting is required → fear and confusion among first-years speaking to their peer advisors
Who will have access to Title IX database and how long will information stay on record?
It is important in the future to roll out these kind of designations step by step, rather than suddenly
The designation of responsible employee has also caused complications and limited employment options for low-income students and students of color. Students who depend on the MPC/ WPC/ RPL job as a crucial source of income, are now forced to choose between reporting on their peers, and not having a needed source of income.
Question raised by Corporation member: What is the university doing about repeat offenders?
Mistrust in University Remain
Fear/doubts about justice through adjudication process, especially for graduate and medical students, where respondents are often faculty members
Confusion in process despite current outreach efforts
Concerns about University’s dedication to supporting all students: sanctions to alleged perpetrators must be educational experience for them as well
Still a lack of accountability and admission of past mistakes by administration
Proposed Next Steps:
SAPE (Sexual Assault Prevention Education) runs trainings for most members of Greek Life focusing on the bystander intervention model. However, this program is being reimagined to take shape as Brown’s consent education program, and should continue to be updated.
Improve transparency in information on updated employee responsibilities and confidential support resources on campus
Offer greater resources in identity centers (Brown Center for Students of Color, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, and LGBTQ Center) specifically to support an expansion of confidential resources, which are not perceived as safe and accessible by all
Brown’s Current Confidential Resources: Sexual Harassment and Assault Resources & Education (SHARE) Advocates (2 SHARE advocates), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) (17 staff members), and the Chaplain’s Office (7 chaplains).
There is need for a confidential person of support in each of the main identity centers (Brown Center for Students of Color, Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, LGBTQ Center). So, for example, if a student of color feels uncomfortable reaching out to the SHARE advocates, the Title IX office, or CAPS - they could instead seek confidential support in the BCSC.
Improve first-year orientation program about consent/sexual assault
The school (and the student-led committee) is moving away from the previous model of an outside group coming in (Speak About It), and is instead developing methods in which students can be involved more actively in conversations about consent and respect.
Create paid positions of educators (in a similar vein as the Social Justice Peer Educators and Sexual Assault Peer Educators) to create and provide educational programming for faculty and staff.
This creates more job opportunities for students in need of them, in particular low income students of color who wish to work in this field, but feel uncomfortable reporting on friends and peers.
This also creates positions that can create much-needed programming for faculty and staff, without relying on unpaid student labor to educate our educators.
Background: Brown’s campus is inaccessible in terms of both physical and hidden disabilities. It is important for accessibility to be a central component of inclusion efforts on campus.
Main Group Takeaways:
Wilson Hall is need of drastic renovations, due to complete inaccessibility and high usage.
54% of students in a given semester have courses in Wilson Hall. Students who cannot access Wilson have difficulty during shopping period, because they need to file room change requests with SEAS to get a class moved before they decide to take the course.
Maddock Alumni Center recently received a ramp and other accessibility-related renovations, even though students use Wilson at a much higher frequency.
The scheduling office doesn’t even allow student groups to schedule public events in Wilson, because it is inaccessible.
One student was at the ER for an incident related to their invisible disability and being kicked out of a course by a professor despite providing a dean’s note and doctor’s note
Professors are sometimes not understanding of hidden disabilities and students’ needs
CAPS’ current 7-session limit and limited 9-5 M-F hours also make that space inaccessible for many students with disabilities who need that resource.
Technological accessibility: often when programs or website are upgraded at Brown, the accessibility components can be lost → Disability Accessibility Group is handling this issue
Prioritize accessibility in Brown’s culture of inclusion
Brown currently focuses on compliance (with ADA regulations, student demands, etc.)
Brown should not just try to do the bare minimum to make campus possible to navigate, but should be actively making campus welcoming and accessible to all students with disabilities.
Gender inclusive bathrooms are a serious issue of campus accessibility for some students
Students question why so often the burden falls on students with disabilities to vocalize these issues.
The DIAP included accessibility after the feedback period but did not make it a priority or list specific objectives.
A Corporation member asked about peer institutions that are doing well in this area - consensus was that Boston University is doing a great job.
Someone noted that often in residence halls, students with physical disabilities may be given rooms that are, on their own, accessible, but are not provided access other important spaces or resources in their building, such as their RPLs.
The Brown community needs more spaces, especially classroom spaces, to discuss issues of accessibility and start to shift our campus culture to be more inclusive. Only one course per year focuses on accessibility (Pathology to Power)
Proposed Next Steps:
Higher priority for campus building projects
Brown Bag series or other type of educational series for professors about how to understand hidden disabilities and treat students grappling with them with respect.
Make dean’s notes binding or cultivate more trust among faculty to honor them.
Fix uneven pavement in high-traffic or important areas - like right outside Health Services, where sidewalk is very difficult navigate.
Add a community space in SEAS or create a Center for students with disabilities, like other centers for marginalized students on campus (BCSC, SDWC, LGBTQ Center).
Offer more courses focused on disability studies
Create a Disability Studies program, or an interdisciplinary Center for Disabilities Studies, similar to Pembroke Center or CSREA type centers.
Increase presence for accessibility education (for all students, not just those with disabilities!) during orientation
Discuss these items with the Campus Access Advisory Committee
Improve Signage on buildings to indicate whether they are accessible or not, and how