Brown University is an Ivy League university located in Providence, Rhode Island. Founded in 1764 as Rhode Island College, it is the third-oldest intitution of higher education in New England and the seventh-oldest in the United States. Brown was the first college in the nation to welcome students of all religious affiliations.
Brown distinguishes itself from its peer institutions through its "New Curriculum." Instituted in 1969, it allows students to more flexibly determine their own educational paths by eliminating distribution requirements and mandatory grading (allowing all courses to be taken on a "satisfactory/no credit" basis).
As one of the most prestigious universities in the world, admissions to Brown is extremely competitive. At 14.6%, the College has the sixth lowest undergraduate acceptance rate in the United States, after Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, and Stanford (the ranking is for doctoral universities, as categorized by the Carnegie Foundation and U.S. News & World Report). Students come from all 50 states, as well as 65 countries. Brown's financial aid program awards approximately $30 million each year in the form of scholarships, jobs, and loans. Over 50% of students receive some form of financial aid.
Brown is notable for, among other things, having the only undergraduate Egyptology department in the Western Hemisphere and the only undergraduate History of Mathematics department in the world. Brown was also one of the first institutions to emphasize media studies, with its department in Modern Culture and Media, where students study film, film criticism, and critical theory.
Brown's campus is located on College Hill, across the Providence River from downtown Providence. The College Hill neighborhood is home to an extensive collection of historic colonial architecture. Adjacent to University and at the base of College Hill is the campus of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). The two institutions share social, academic, and community resources. They offer joint courses and students at each institution may cross-register in courses offered by the other institution.
Since 2001, Brown's current and 18th president is Ruth J. Simmons, the first African American president, and second female president, of an Ivy League institution, as well as the first permanent female president of Brown.
The school colors are seal brown, cardinal red, and white. Brown's sports teams are called the Bears. The use of a bear as the University's mascot dates back to 1904. People associated with the University are known as Brunonians.
The founding of Brown
In 1763, James Manning, a Baptist minister, was sent to Rhode Island by the Philadelphia Association of Baptist Churches in order to found a College. At the same time, local Congregationalists, led by James Stiles , were working toward a similar end. On March 3, 1764, a charter was filed to create Rhode Island College in Warren, Rhode Island, reflecting the work of both Stiles and Manning. The charter had more than 60 signatories, including John and Nicholas Brown of the Brown family, who would give the College its present day name. James Manning, the minister sent to Rhode Island by the Baptists, was sworn in as the College's first president in 1765.
Rhode Island College moved to its present location on College Hill, in the East Side of Providence, in 1770 and construction of the first building, The College Edifice, began. This building was renamed University Hall in 1823. The Brown family -- Nicholas, John, Joseph and Moses -- were instrumental in the move to Providence, funding and organizing much of the construction of the new buildings. The family's connection with the college was strong: Joseph Brown became a professor of Physics at the University and John Brown served as treasurer from 1775 to 1796. In 1804, a year after John Brown's death, the University was renamed in honor of John's nephew, Nicholas Brown, Jr. , who was a member of the class of 1786 and contributed $5,000 (which, adjusted for inflation, is approximately $58,000 in 2003, though it was 1,000 times the roughly $5 tuition) toward an endowed professorship. In 1904, the John Carter Brown Library was opened as an independent historical and cultural research center based around the libraries of John Carter and John Nicholas Brown .
The Brown family was involved in various business ventures in Rhode Island, allegedly including slavery, which has led to some discussion of the role of slavery in Brown's legacy in recent years. The Brown family itself was divided on the issue. John Brown had relentlessly defended slavery, while Moses Brown and Nicholas Brown Jr. were fervent abolitionists. In recognition of this history, the University established the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice in 2003 ().
Brown began to admit women when it established a Women's College in 1891, which was later named Pembroke College. Brown merged with Pembroke in 1971 and became coeducational.
The New Curriculum
Brown adopted the New Curriculum in 1969, marking a major change in the University's institutional history. The curriculum was the result of a paper written by Ira Magaziner and Elliot Maxwell , "Draft of a Working Paper for Education at Brown University." The paper came out of a year-long Group Independent Studies Project (GISP) involving 80 students and 15 professors. The group was inspired by student-initiated experimental schools , especially San Francisco State College, and sought ways to improve education for students at Brown. The philosophy they formed was based on the principle that "the individual who is being educated is the center of the educational process." In 1850, Brown President Francis Wayland wrote: "The various courses should be so arranged that, insofar as practicable, every student might study what he chose, all that he chose, and nothing but what he chose."
The paper made a number of suggestions for improving education at Brown, including a new kind of interdisciplinary freshman course that would introduce new modes of inquiry and bring faculty from different fields together. Their goal was to transform the survey course, which traditionally sought to cover a large amount of basic material, into specialized courses that would introduce the important modes of inquiry used in different disciplines.
The New Curriculum that came out of the working paper was significantly different from the paper itself. Its key features were
- Modes of Thought courses aimed at first-year students
- Interdisciplinary University courses
- Students could elect to take any course Satisfactory/No Credit
- Distribution requirements were dropped
- The University simplified grades to ABC/No Credit, eliminating pluses, minuses and D's. Furthermore, "No Credit" would not appear on external transcripts.
Except for the Modes of Thought courses, a key component of the reforms which have been discontinued, these elements of the New Curriculum are still in place.
The University is currently in the process of broadening and expanding its curricular offerings as part of the "Plan for Academic Enrichment." The number of faculty has been greatly expanded. Seminars aimed at freshmen have begun to be offered widely by many departments.
Brown offers 70 concentrations (majors) and around 2,000 courses each year. The most popular concentration is Biology, followed by History and International Relations. Undergraduates can also design an independent concentration if the existing standard programs do not befit their interests.
The following is a list of concentrations:
The Graduate School
The Graduate School offers more than fifty different graduate programs.
Brown Medical School
The University's medical program started in 1811. In 1984, Brown endorsed an eight-year medical program called the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME). The majority of openings for the first-year medical school class are reserved for PLME students. Each year, approximately 60 students matriculate into the PLME out of an applicant pool of about 1,600, making it among the most selective undergraduate programs in the country. Brown offers a joint program with Dartmouth Medical School called the Brown-Dartmouth Program. Approximately 15 students at Dartmouth Medical School enroll in this program annually. They spend the first two basic medical science years at Dartmouth and the next two years in clinical education at Brown, where they receive their M.D. degree.
Presidents of Brown University
||Rhode Island College established
||Renamed to Brown University; Medical School founded
||Ezekiel Gilman Robinson
||Graduate study instituted
Elisha Benjamin Andrews
||Women's College founded
||William H.P. Faunce
||Women's College renamed to Pembroke College
||Clarence A. Barbour
||Last of long line of Baptist minister Presidents
Henry M. Wriston
||Barnaby C. Keeney
||Ray L. Heffner
||Donald F. Hornig
||Pembroke merged with Brown
Howard R. Swearer
E. Gordon Gee
Ruth J. Simmons
The atmosphere at Brown
Some consider Brown to be the "happiest Ivy." The curriculum encourages students to attempt classes in fields in which they have little previous experience and discourages competition. Brown was recently named "the most fashionable school in the Ivy League" by the fashion trade journal Women's Wear Daily on the basis that students on campus seem to have the strongest sense of personal style. Brown, like most Ivies, leans liberal. It has long had the reputation of being the "hippest" and "friendliest" of the Ivies. Brown University is also well-known for the sense of what conservatives call "political correctness" that pervades the campus.
Greek life does not dominate the social scene at Brown, as only about 9% of the students are in fraternities or sororities. There are seven fraternities, two sororities, and two co-ed societies.
Brown is a member of the Division I Ivy League athletic conference. It sponsors 37 varsity intercollegiate teams. Its athletics program has been featured in the College Sports Honor Roll as one of the top 20 athletic programs in the country according to U.S. News & World Report.  Brown also features several competitive intercollegiate club sports, including its nationally ranked sailing and ultimate frisbee teams.
There are approximately 240 registered student organizations on campus with diverse interests. Student Activities Night, during the orientation program, is an opportunity for first-years to become acquainted with the wide range of clubs.
Secret societies have existed at Brown since the 18th century. One of these was the Philermenian Society (founded as the Misokosmian Society in 1794). In reaction to the Federalist Philermenians, a Democratic-Republican society called the United Brothers Society was formed in 1806, and in 1824 a third, the Franklin Society, was formally recognized by the university president. All of these societies had libraries and meeting rooms on the top floor of Hope College, and few written documents were preserved in order to protect against inter-society espionage. By the mid-19th century, these societies diminished and eventually dissolved on account of the growth in the number of Greek letter fraternities. Only the Franklin Society survived, evolving into the Society of the Pacifica House (Societas Domi Pacificae) after the Civil War. Pacifica House remains the only secret society at Brown today.
Though the early history of Brown's traditions as a men's school includes a number of unusual hazing traditions, the University's present-day traditions tend to be non-violent while maintaining the spirit of zaniness (Poulson 2004).
One of Brown's most notable traditions is keeping alive the spirit and accomplishments of Josiah Carberry, the fictional Professor of Psychoceramics (the equally fictional study of cracked pots), who was born on a University Hall billboard. He is the namesake of "Josiah's", a University-run snackbar. "Josiah" is also the name of the University's electronic library catalog. Every Friday the 13th is "Josiah Carberry Day" and students throw pennies into cracked pots on campus.
Starting in 1960, Brown replaced a traditional Junior Dance with a Spring Weekend concert on the college's main green, which has, in the past, brought in acts such as Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Bo Diddley, Peter, Paul and Mary, James Brown, Janis Joplin, Ike and Tina Turner, Blue Öyster Cult, Bruce Springsteen, U2, R.E.M., Afrika Bambaata, Elvis Costello, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, George Clinton, The Fugees, Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, Busta Rhymes, and G. Love & Special Sauce. Recent acts include They Might Be Giants, Ben Harper, The Get Up Kids, The Roots, The Wallflowers, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, and Jurassic 5.
The Spring Weekend 2005 lineup includes Ben Folds, Howie Day, The Shins, and Talib Kweli.
At the end of each semester, on the last day of "reading period", when students study for exams, naked students walk into the Rockefeller and Science Libraries and hand out donuts to their peers.
Every fall, the Brown University Co-Op's (BACH) throw an invitation-only "naked party" where all guests remove their clothes upon entry. The party is known for good times, but not for lewdness. The hosts aim to create a comfortable setting where people of all body types can celebrate the naked human body.
The Chug 'N Run
One evening during each year's Spring Weekend, athletic/alcoholic Brown students gather down at the India Point Park walking path, lugging countless 30-packs of inexpensive light beer. The entrants in the Chug 'N Run chug a beer, run a mile, chug a beer, run a mile, chug a beer, run a mile, then chug one last victory beer. Not everybody makes it to beer #4, and much comic beer explusion occurs along the way. Less adventurous students can walk the course alongside the runners as part of the "Sip&Stroll". This annual tradition, started by Brown women athletes, involves a surprisingly high number of gung-ho female students.
- Students rub the nose of the bust of John Hay for good luck on exams.
- Seniors sleep in the Sciences Library some time before graduation.
- Students have sex on the 13th floor of the Sciences Library.
- Students avoid the Brown seal on the steps leading to the Pembroke green for a variety of reasons
- Female students avoid the seal to ward off pregnancy, although avoiding the Sciences Library would seem to be more effective.
- Previously, Pembroke students avoided the seal to ensure that they would get married.
- Previously, male Brown students avoided the seal to ensure they would graduate in four years.
- Students can pass through the Van Wickle Gates only twice- once upon entering the University during Convocation, and once again during Commencement (superstition has it that students who pass through the gates for a second time before graduation do not graduate). Undergraduate members of the Brown Band who must pass through the gates during the Commencement ceremonies walk through it backwards.
Alma Mater, we Hail thee with loyal devotion
And bring to thine altar our off'ring of praise;
Our hearts swell within us with joyful emotion,
As the name of Old Brown in loud chorus we raise.
The happiest moments of youth's fleeting hours
We've passed 'neath the shade of these time-honored walls;
And sorrows as transient as April's brief showers
Have clouded our life in Brunonia's halls.
Ever True To Brown
We are ever true to Brown,
For we love our college dear,
And wherever we may go,
We are ready with a cheer!
And the people always say,
(What do they say?)
That you can't outshine
Brown men, (or women!)
With their RAH! RAH! RAH!
And their KI! YI! YI!
And their B R O W . . . N!
Ever True To Brown (Drinking)
We are ever true to Brown,
For we love our college dear,
And wherever we may go,
We are ready with a beer!
And the people always say,
(What do they say?)
That you can't outdrink
Brown men (or women!)
With a Scotch and Rye
And a Whiskey Dry
And B O U R . . B O N!
Notable alumni and faculty
- See List of Brown University people.
Several projects of note involving hypertext and other forms of electronic text have been developed at Brown, including:
- Howell, Ricardo (2001, July). "Slavery, the Brown Family of Providence and Brown University." Brown University News Service. Retrieved April 27, 2004 from http://www.brown.edu/Administration/News_Bureau/Info/Slavery.html.
- Perkins, Sara (2004, April 19). "Fashion Journal likes what Brown is wearing." The Brown Daily Herald. Retrieved June 29, 2004 from http://www.browndailyherald.com/stories.asp?storyID=2869.
- Poulson, Dan (2001, March 1). "Investigating the death of campus traditions." The Brown Daily Herald. Retrieved June 29, 2004 from http://www.browndailyherald.com/post/stories.asp?ID=84.
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04