Reflections on “Mission Drift?”

Last week, The Herald ran a four-part “Mission Drift?” series surveying the major changes of President Ruth Simmons’ tenure and the noticeable lack of philosophical discussion surrounding those changes. For Herald articles, the four series stories feature an unusually broad scope and unusually pointed analysis, and they’ve garnered a lot of feedback.

Most of the feedback has been positive. Some has been neutral. Some students have noted their surprise at what they consider the opinionated nature of the pieces. The degree of analysis and the strength of the conclusions certainly represent a departure from The Herald’s usual style, which tends toward straight reporting. The departure is intentional. The editors felt that condensing the last decade of University history in a useful and meaningful way required a significant amount of analysis and explanation, rather than just the presentation of bare facts. We hope our analysis has been helpful, and we consider it fairly conservative. We welcome alternate interpretations.  Continue Reading


Today in the Herald: Has the University drifted from its mission?

Hilary Rosenthal / Herald

Today, The Herald publishes the first in a four-part series we’ve been referring to as “mission drift” around the office. Working at a daily newspaper, we see the changes of President Ruth Simmons’ tenure unfold bit by bit. It’s easy to cover a single decision, whether it’s enforcement of prerequisites on Banner, the introduction of an online MBA program or the creation of a School of Engineering. It’s harder to place those decisions in a broader context and evaluate them as a whole, but that’s what this series seeks to do.

Taken together, the changes wrought during Simmons’ tenure constitute a fundamental shift in what Brown is and does. For decades, the University enjoyed a comfortable niche within the world of higher education. It focused on the liberal arts and undergraduate academics, content with a more modest research agenda, and the New Curriculum’s bold educational philosophy attracted bright, independent-minded students. Simmons did not see this model as sustainable. Continue Reading