Brown University was founded in 1764 by the Baptist church (and chiefly James Manning, its first president) as Rhode Island College in Warren, RI making it the third college in New England and the seventh in America. Due to it being the major higher education institution in RI at the time, the college was forced to move in 1770 at the insistance of other members of the colony. Providence was chosen as the permanent location and so, in that year, the University Hall was built.
The college was closed down 6 years later due to the outbreak of war, the British invasion of Newport, and the use of UHall as barracks by French troops in 1776 (setting a precedent). After the Revolutionary War ended, in 1782, the college resumed and The Corporation set to its business affairs.
- They sent a $4,400 bill to the new US Government for repairs and rental of U. Hall. Eventually years later, they were paid $2,779.13 for the expense.
- They commissioned a new seal to replace the old which had King George and Queen Charlotte on it for obvious reasons. The new seal contained a temple of knowledge with five columns and the seven liberal arts described in the fifth century – the Trivium (Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic) and the Quadrivium (Music, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Astronomy). When the name was changed from Rhode Island College, a new seal was again commissioned and is the one currently in use. It consists of a disc with the inscription "Sigillum Universitatis Brunensis" along the perimeter, a coat of arms (a shield with four open books), a crest (a rising sun in clouds with a red & white cord), and a motto ("In Deo Speramus" on a ribbon running under the shield).
- They attempted to get the King of France to fund them and failed, leaving the college in need of money. Thomas Jefferson, Ambassador to France, suggested that the matter be dropped.
By 1786, enrollment was up to approximately 60 and Commencement was a city holiday. Nicholas Brown Jr. graduated this year and, shortly thereafter, became a trustee of the University. Even today, the Commencement is a fairly major event in the city, with the mayor (and possibly the Governor) present and involved in the ceremonies.
Not for the first (and certainly not for the last) time, the University was running low on money so, in 1804 they offered to allow whomever donated $5,000 to rename the college. As might be guessed, a member of the Brown family (Nicholas Brown) provided the amount, renaming the college to "Brown University in Providence in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations" (Could they have added any more to the title?). Shortly thereafter, in 1811, a medical school was formed but was later disbanded (Oops). It would not return until 1963. By 1823 the University Hall was crowded enough that a second building, Hope College, was built with Nicholas Brown's funds. The building still stands (but I'm certain has been completely redone inside) and is now a dorm. It should be noted that this is where the cow incident occurred later.
The Dorr Rebellion of 1842 forced the University to close a second time when when state troops used the buildings as barracks. In less than 100 years, the University Hall has been occupied twice; this appears to be the start of a running joke as every few decades or so, *someone* occupies it.
In 1876, Brown founded its art department which it named the Rhode Island School of Design and ten years later, in 1886, began offering Ph.Ds. Around this time, enrollment exploded - in 1889, there were 276 undergraduates but by 1897, this had tripled to 641 (with approximately 15% women).
The Woman's College:
Like most higher education institutions formed in (or before) the 18th century, Brown was originally limited to men. It became gradually apparent that change was required.
- 1891: The Woman's College is formed, admitting women as degree candidates for the first time (of course they had separate classrooms and facilities though. Separate but Equal - at least the course content was).
- 1928: The Woman's College is renamed "Pembroke College" but women had a separate, adjacent campus. Brown was the first in at least the Ivy League to have a co-ed dorm though. At the time they did that, though, "co-ed dorm" meant one building physically divided by a wall running down the middle with separate entrances for men and women.
- 1971: Pembroke College was eliminated and women were fully integrated into the rest of the University. Currently slightly more than half of the students are female.
Brown's football team apparently did something right in 1915 as they competed in the Rose Bowl. Brown tends to be generally middle of the road in their athletic divisions. The Brown Band, incidentally, skates and performs during hockey games.
Progressing towards the modern era, the separation of Church and School was enforced in 1926 when the requirement that the president be Baptist was eliminated.
In the mid to late 1960s, students caused significant change on the campus.
- Students objected to the curfews for women and the restricted visiting policies.
- the New Curriculum was presented by students Ira Magaziner and Elliot Maxwell in 1969.
- Black students walked out to protest admissions policies and 150 students crashed board meetings to demand ROTC's removal also in 1969.
This wasn't the end of Brown's problems with students, though. In 1974, when Brown attempted to reduce financial aid and faculty, 40 minority students occupied University Hall.
Things eventually began looking up though. In 1984, Brown had the largest applicant pool in the Ivy League and, in 1987, entered the US News & World Report Top 10 list for the first time.
Most of the '90s saw Brown solidifying its strengths and working on its major weakness - its financial endowment (even still, it has the smallest of all the Ivies). In 2001, Brown appointed Ruth Simmons as President, first Black woman to be president of an Ivy League. One of her first actions has been to give Brown need-blind admissions.
Much of this information was found in Brown University: A Short History
Brown is a fairly unique and small institution which attracts an interesting variety of people. In my opinion, while the school bills itself as staunchly liberal
, in reality, it is less-so. I would say it stays decidedly left but considers everything past the very left and the moderate right to be 'wrong'.
- Brown is the only college with concentration/majors of Egyptology (in the Western Hemisphere) and History of Mathematics.
- Any class may be taken Pass/Fail (S/NC). It isn't recommended that classes for a concentration be taken this way.
- The top of the Sciences Library is the highest point in Providence.
- The SciLi was voted one of the best places to have sex by Playboy Magazine.
- People have played Tetris using the SciLi as an immense grid.
- Three Words: Annual Naked Party
- The CIT (Center for Information Technology) is a center of the universe - and also where the CS department is located.
- Tradition states that the large gates (Van Wickle Gates) on the top of the College Hill open twice a year - once to let the incoming class enter, and once to allow the graduating class to escape.
- The John D. Rockefeller Library was commonly known as "The Rock" until the Rockefellers complained. It was then changed to "The John", causing the family to drop their first complaint.
- Similarly, the main dining hall, the Sharpe Refectory, is called "The Ratty".
- The Department of Psychoceramics (the study of crackpots) doesn't have a building and its sole professor, Josiah Carberry, has never been seen on campus in the past 73 years. Any reports of his (and his family's) whereabouts are banned from the Providence Journal.
- The University recently added a new phone exchange (867) to the previously existing 863. Students were assigned 867 numbers and, foolishly, gave 867-5309 to two women.
- The local Store 24 closes at something like 2:47 AM.
- Brown is a member of the Ivy League.
- Footprints has reminded me that it is considered bad luck to tread on the seal (Men will not graduate, women will not marry). Unfortunately, the seal is engraved in stone stairs on the old Pembroke College side of the campus which are the direct way to a couple of large dorms. While some might not believe this, apparently Footprints stomped on it with malice and forethought. Later that night, he found out he had to return to Israel and did not, in fact, graduate from Brown. Beware!
- Footprints also reminded me of the primal scream tradition. I believe this occurs at the moment "Reading Period" ends and final exams begin.
- There was a Cow incident.
- In the 80s, women wrote in bathroom stalls names of men they claimed assaulted them.
- There was an odd case of sexual misconduct in 1996 where Adam Lack was considered to have raped a fellow student who, while drunk, followed him to his room and asked him to have sex with her.
- Then there was a confusing case in 2000 as to whether or not Ebony Thompson was a victim of harassment on the basis of her race or if the men accused were victims of assault by her.
- Most recently, was claims of "civil disobedience" by minority groups on campus when they attempted to interfere with the Brown Daily Herald after its publication of a David Horowitz ad regarding slavery reparations in 2001.
I attended Brown in the mid-90s as a Computer Science major and in retrospect was quite happy with it. The Freshman year, they try to provide some hand-holding by having Freshman dorms with a number of different "peer counselors". The dorms are actually fairly decent (my Freshman dorm had carpeting and internet access when it was still rare). Freshman also are required to have an advisor who is usually also a professor of one of your classes.
The dining hall was also adequate. True, it wasn't the greatest place I've ever eaten but for the nights when they had Cheesy Baked Scrod, there were also evenings for "Yummy Rice" and the occasional "Special Dinner" where they proved they could actually cook. There was also always pasta and snack bars (401/863-GATE would get you a pizza).
Academically, the ability to take any class Pass/Fail was helpful. Without the option, I probably wouldn't have taken a British Literature course, for example, since I can't write. There was a wide variety of courses and no "core curriculum" (for good or bad) - degree requirements are up to the department.
The CS department was exceptional and the best of the colleges I looked at, in my opinion. We had modern Sun hardware, OO theory forced into us about 2 years before Java, "humor TAs" (they're the ones who have to plan the in-class skits), and professors who truely cared about their students.
Socially, Brown is very diverse and manages to mix things up further by not permitting groups to generally live off-campus. All the fraternities are in dorms with other students (but get a lounge and other areas for themselves), while any special interest housing is also in regular dorms as well. I was not a fraternity member, incidentally, but eventually realized that not all fraternities are obnoxious. One fraternity I lived above was awful but the second one I lived above (ADPhi) in the same dorm was actually friendly to others (and co-ed). In hindsight, I probably would have joined them.
We also have interesting parties. There's the annual Naked Party, LGBTA dances (which everyone attends), and the immense Spring Weekend parties. The fact that the parties are truely open to everyone is remarkable and makes them a lot more enjoyable.
Graduation is also a cool event as it's also Alumni Weekend (itwas my 5th reunion this year). The Alumni take part in the proceedings as they are part of the graduating class' march. There's also a Campus Dance for all the night before.
Lastly, it's close enough to Boston that you can make the trip in to see other friends, but far enough away that your parents don't see you all the time (if they're in MA).
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