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Open Panel: Consider the gap year

Today, May 1st, marks the deadline when admitted students must decide whether or not they will matriculate at Brown. On this occasion, BlogDailyHerald has assembled a sampling of students and recent alumni who chose to take a “gap year,” or a year off in between high school and higher education. These Brunonians have offered their candid insights on why they opted to devise their own sixteen-month-long itinerary, rather than transitioning conventionally from high school to college. Whether Brown chooses to defer your acceptance or you are considering deferring your acceptance to Brown, this open panel can serve as a resource as you figure out what you will do over your gap year or if a gap year would be right for you.
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Name: Andrew Linder

Graduation Year/Concentration: 2017, Slavic Studies

How did you spend your gap year?: The short answer is that I spent 9 months living in Kazan, Russia taking intensive daily language courses. The long answer is that I went with a National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y) scholarship, which is a program fully funded by the U.S. Department of State. I was with 14 other American students in Kazan. I lived with a host family who spoke no English but had two amazing pugs.

Why did you take a gap year?: I knew that I at least wanted to entertain the idea of a gap year because it sounded like a unique experience and something that I might benefit from. I applied to NSLI-Y at the same time as I was applying to schools. I was accepted to the program and to college in the same week and I had to make my decisions (about school and whether or not I would take a gap year) pretty quickly. I was nervous about taking a full year off but when I weighed the pros and cons I quickly realized that there were actually no cons. The stretch from first grade through high school is 12 years, which is a really long time. For most people this stretch then turns into 16 years and maybe even more with graduate school. Taking a break from the same schedule of schooling every year was intriguing and seemed pretty refreshing.

Why would you recommend a gap year to incoming students: There is absolutely no question in my mind that taking a gap year was a great choice. A year between high school and college, regardless of what you do with it, is a really awesome time to reflect on a lot of things. As tacky as it sounds, I learned so much about myself on my gap year. When I came back from my year off, I felt like I was recharged.  I was excited to get back into the classroom and meet new people.

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A recap of the State of Brown address

Last night, the third annual State of Brown address was co-hosted by UCS and President Christina Paxson, P’19. The event began with UCS President Maahika Srinivasan ’15 delivering a summary of projects undertaken by UCS this year. Paxson followed with a speech on her own major concerns for the university, noting that she could not give “a comprehensive list of everything that happened this year — it’s a lot, you know that — and the issues we’ve been dealing with aren’t just at Brown, they’re everywhere.” Much of the Q&A section of the event focused on the topics that have been of great concern to the student body and administration this year, including mental health resources, changing the university’s sexual assault and harassment policies, and diversity issues. 

What does UCS do?

Srinivasan began by noting that many students might wonder the above from time to time and she appreciated having State of Brown to clarify their role.

A major goal for UCS this year was to increase support for student advocacy, allowing student activists to either voice concerns to the administration through UCS or push for conversations where they could express themselves directly. To this end, they worked with the Student Labor Alliance regarding the protests for rights of university mailroom workers earlier this year, and they worked with students from the Imagine Rape 0 protests on communicating with the administration.

This year UCS has launched several important online initiatives; wtf*brown (beloved here at Blog) allows students to post and vote on suggestions for the university, and more recently their Textbook Exchange has created an online platform to buy and sell used textbooks, tagged by the class they are for.

UCS has also worked with ResLife to abolish the suite fee for all students; while this year the fee was decreased, they hope to see it gone in the coming years.

The future of Brown academics

President Paxson noted that State of Brown allowed her to answer the question “Where is Brown going?” for the student body, half of which had not matriculated when her Strategic Plan was released two years ago. To that end, she started with a briefing on some of the points of progress on said plan. Her desire is to move Brown’s open curriculum into the 21st century, using technology to embrace the unique cross-departmental education initiatives that Brown offers. An Engaged Scholars Program piloted this year in which students to engage with five departments, and integrate off-campus work into their education. Paxson also expressed desire to “blast away” large lecture classes, envisioning a Brown which uses technology to ensure that the university only offers small, intimate courses.

Diversity in Brown faculty

Paxson stated that the lack of diversity in our faculty posed a major problem for the university. Currently, only about 8.5% of Brown faculty is of unrepresented minorities, which Paxson acknowledged “just doesn’t reflect our student population.” Paxson stated she wanted to double this number in the next ten years; although 16% still sounds low, “it’s going to take a lot of work to do it.” The university has also started a diversity post-doc program, and will be making an effort to focus more on doctoral education in the next few years.

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Does money talk in the Brown admissions office?

A Gawker exposé published Tuesday quoted leaked emails with offers of preferential admissions treatment from Brown administrators, including President Christina Paxson, for the children of potential donors. The story has drawn rapid response from both administrators, who claim the messages were cherry-picked and taken out of context, and student protesters from the #MoneyTalksAtBrown movement, who argue that they further validate the group’s concerns about undue financial influence on university policy.

Brown firmly stated that all admissions decisions are based on merit alone. Last night at the State of Brown, President Christina Paxson denounced the validity of the Gawker article for selectively quoting emails.

“The real purpose of that letter is to let people set their expectations about the level of influence they can have,” she said.

Cass Cliatt, the Vice President of Communications, added, “It’s tempting to seek connections where none exist. At no time is there communication between advancement and admissions.”

In so many words, the university firmly denies that financial donations have ever had any clout in the admissions office–except “maybe 100 years ago,” according to Cliatt.

Cliatt also took the opportunity to address what she called “discrepancies” in the article. The differences arose, Cliatt claims, because the article does not include all the correspondence that is accessible on WikiLeaks. The first problem was that the framing of the emails made it seem as though the donation and the early decision admittance were around the same time, she said. According to Cliatt, the discussion regarding the scholarship fund started in April 2012, and the concluding payment was made in February 2014, 10 months before the student’s Early Decision notification.

Cliatt also addressed an email in the Gawker article that was originally sent from Paxson to the Brown Corporation in September of 2014. According to Cliatt, the part that reads, “Also, please tell us if you learn of a prospective applicant who may need ‘special handling’ for campus visits or communications,” does not imply that the University gives special treatment to visitors of high status.

Instead, it is given to about 800 students per year who are from “any family we think could benefit from additional attention for their tour and/or meeting with a faculty, and the category includes a variety of reasons for this ‘handling': having served in volunteer or leadership positions at Brown, being a family member of an alum, having made extraordinary contributions to Brown, being a celebrity or dignitary, or any reason that might disrupt a public tour,” Cliatt wrote in an email.

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Brown, meet the Underground Coffee Shop

The Underground, that space directly under the Blue Room whose name you might have forgotten, has a storied history. Evidence of its past as a key player in Brown social life is on display today. Take the bar on the room’s wall: do you think that was just for show? Nope. Back in the Wild West days of legal drinking for all those 18 years of age and older, there was a genuine bar down there. Indeed, the Underground might be worthy of its own Ra Ra Brunonia post. It has been the host of everything from Funk Nites to IFF screenplay reads, with a few desperate last-minute study breaks in between.

On Monday, however, the Underground will take on a new role. Just in time to revive Brunonia from a crippling post-Spring Weekend group hangover, a group of students will be launching a coffee shop that has been months in the making. Katie Murphy ’16, Yousef Hilmy ’16, and Viktor Gavrielov ’15 have been working with SAO, the Blue Room, and even President Paxson to radically reimagine the space.

The grand opening is on Monday at 9 a.m., and they’ll be serving until 2 p.m. Though Opening Day will only be 5 hours long, Hilmy promises they will eventually be open for “long hours.” If you can’t make it to the Underground before the early closing, don’t fret, because there will be an opening party from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. that night. You can find more information about the Underground Coffee Shop on their (freakishly popular) Facebook page here.

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An inside look into sophomore dorms

The housing lottery is, besides SPG and Spring Weekend, the most infamous event at Brown. And the housing lottery is the most terrifying for the poor, bewildered freshman. Not to worry–we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find a 360-degree view of one room in each sophomore dorm (Not pictured: Grad Center D and a few rooms on Vartan Gregorian Quad). To make the housing lottery feel a little less like warfare and a little more like online shopping!

Barbour
Barbour is a bit far from the center of campus, but is in close proximity to East Side Mini Mart, Louis, Bagel Gourmet, and Wickenden Street. Basically if you like brunch, Barbour is the place for you. While it’s bunker-esque facade (and interior, actually) lacks charm, it’s a great place for those of you hoping for a suite with a private kitchen and bathroom. However, do be warned that not all Barbour rooms are suites with the aforementioned amenities.

Caswell


Caswell is one of the older dorms, but it doesn’t show. The dorm is centrally located on Ruth Simmons quad, mere minutes away from the Ratty, the Main Green, and the SciLi. The rooms are fairly spacious and the windows are large, meaning there is a lot of natural light. The one downside to living in Caswell is that there is no elevator, making moving in a hassle.

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Art School(ed): Tech union strike tomorrow, some RISD classes held off-site

Tomorrow, the Rhode Island School of Design technicians will go on strike after months of contract negotiations with the school’s administration.

The RISD technicians serve as an invaluable resource for the school: these men and women teach courses and maintain the studios and shops throughout campus. As they go on strike, most of the facilities on campus will be deemed unsafe and consequently shut down, including kilns, wood shops, metal shops, glass blowing furnaces, darkrooms, and cages where students check out various equipment like tripods, cameras and recording devices.

The RISD Technician Union has outlined its contractual requests on their website. In short, the techs would like a restoration of retirement contributions (which were cut significantly in 2009 due to the economic recession), annual wage increases similar to those of RISD faculty members, and external tuition remission (a reimbursement of employees’ children’s higher education tuition costs if their child attends a school other than RISD). Additionally, the techs object to a raise in their healthcare premiums. To read the union’s request in full, click here.

In an e-mail to the school’s student body, RISD’s chief operating officer Jean Eddy and interim provost Pradeep Sharma wrote:

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