Visiting Latinx student reports assault by DPS officer; Paxson and Latinx community respond

Around 12:30 a.m. Saturday morning outside Machado House, a senior delegate for this weekend’s Latinx Ivy League Conference was reportedly verbally harassed by two Department of Public Safety officers and then physically assaulted by one of the officers. Geovanni Cuevas, the student in question, was visiting from Dartmouth University and was staying in Machado House with a friend.

As a result of Cuevas’ experience, the Latinx Conference attendees cancelled planned events and discussions, and instead arranged an open meeting with President Christina Paxson P’19 and Mark Porter, Chief of Police for the Department of Public Safety. Following this meeting, both Russell Carey and President Paxson sent emails to the Brown community last night acknowledging the incident. Today, the Latinx Council convened again to discuss Paxson’s written plan for the University’s repsonse.

The meeting Saturday afternoon began at 1 p.m, with Paxson, Porter and Latinx delegates and supporters gathered in a crowded classroom in Salomon. Delegates formally presented Paxson with a list of demands to create a safe campus for students of color.

Paxson began by stating, “This will mainly be a time for listening, at least on my part.” Cuevas then gave the room his account of the incident outside Machado, explaining that he was “outside of the Machado party when a drunk student, stumbled outside.” Cuevas explained that the student “was confronted with flashlights and inappropriate touching” by the two DPS officers securing the event, “to which I had a very visceral response and said, ‘Hey, that’s inappropriate, you shouldn’t touch him like that.'”

The two officers then approached Cuevas and “proceeded to tell me that I was trespassing, despite the fact that I was a guest, hosted in that very house. As the situation escalated, I saw that my friends were uncomfortable, so I removed myself, but they told me I couldn’t come back to the house where I was being hosted. Obviously, I said that’s not going to happen, I’m sleeping here.”

When Cuevas went back in to the party through the back door, and went downstairs to find his host, he recalls that he “caught the attention of the security guard who was there.”  “Before I could even utter a sentence, I was grabbed, thrown up against the wall, thrown to the floor, told I was resisting when I wasn’t, scrapped on my face, told I was going to get pepper-sprayed,” he explained. “I was handcuffed and taken outside Machado, and detained there, until Brown students could come and verify my identity.”

Delegates of the Latinx Ivy League Conference then explained that the goal of their conference is “to empower the Latino students who have overcome cultural and structural challenges to attend Ivy League institutions.” Every year, around 80 students from these universities congregate to discuss “difficult topics that include race, gender, and socioeconomic factors effecting the Latino community in the United States.” However, the delegates had suspended the discussion of this year’s theme, Unity through Generations: the Past, Present and Future of Latino Leadership, to instead draft a list of demands for President Paxson.

“One of our delegates suffered violence at the hands of law enforcement hired by Brown. This incident recalls a longer history of institutionalized violence against communities of color,” said one Latinx delegate. The demands for President Paxson included:

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Students organize Blackout at Brown and teach-in in solidarity with Mizzou

A few hundred students, dressed mostly in black, stood by the Van Wickle Gates at noon today to take a photo to show solidarity and support for Black students at the University of Missouri. Attendees remained huddled, some under umbrellas, to listen as several Black students, one by one, took to a megaphone to share their stories. They spoke about the institutional racism they had personally experienced, about the University’s refusal to value their existence and acknowledge their identities, and called for institutional changes to prevent future traumas and actualize equality on campus.


Many students spoke about their own experiences with racism in the classroom. A first-year spoke about being in an MCM class in which the professor, after quoting a text, repeatedly used the n-word to refer to Black bodies. “It happened five times before I had to walk out,” he said. After tweeting about the incident, the student has met several times with school administrators, and said his professor sent out an email acknowledging her use of language. “But it wasn’t an apology. It was an excuse.”

Another student expressed frustration with having to continually meet with administrators about the perpetuation of institutional racism by faculty members. “I’m here because I’m tired,” they said. “I haven’t done schoolwork in months, but I’m meeting with administrators.” Others elaborated on the discomfort that many Black students feel in classrooms with professors that have made racially charged comments or have criticized the work of activists on campus. “Ken Miller, David Josephson, Ariella Azoulay, Glenn Loury — these people aren’t being punished, but we are.”



In reference to the email sent by President Christina Paxson P’19 and Richard Locke, one student asked, “Why did they all of the sudden send out that e-mail after Mizzou and Yale?” The letter, titled “Promoting a Diverse, Inclusive Academic Community,” was sent this Tuesday to the community. “Are they scared [of losing their jobs]?” the student continued. “They should be. I’m very tired of institutional racism. If it doesn’t stop, if free speech isn’t removed from this discussion, she should be afraid.” Another student added, “I just want to say that our humanity is not up for debate.” One speaker pointed out that it took a year for the University to put a “Do not touch” sign in front of the only slavery memorial on campus, although “white children played on it the day after it was put up.”

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AAU sexual assault student survey results released


Last year, under the guidance of the Sexual Assault Task Force (SATF), Brown agreed to participate in a sexual assault student survey organized by the Association of American Universities (AAU). Across the country, 27 Universities participated in this survey. Today, the results of the AAU survey were released.  President Christina Paxson P’19 sent out a campus-wide email this morning to announce the release of both the general and Brown specific survey results. In her email, Paxson writes that these results will be used to assess the current climate of sexual assault at Brown and create data-driven initiatives that seek to make Brown a “safe and inclusive campus.”

The survey’s results show high rates of assault among survey participants. The survey found that 25% of Brown undergraduate women and 6.8% of undergraduate men who participated in the survey experienced “either unwanted sexual touching or attempted or completed penetration due to physical force or incapacitation.” Among senior participants, these numbers jump to 33% of Brown women and 8% of Brown men.

In Paxson’s email, she notes that rates of sexual assault reported by those who identify as TGQN (trans, genderqueer, questioning, or nonconforming) “were similar to those for undergraduate women.”

Perhaps most noteworthy is that 60.5% of students who had reported sexual assault by force on their survey, did not approach the University about the incident. Further, “an estimated 70.5% of those who did not report they had been victimized thought the incident was not serious enough to report, and 47.9% thought that a report would not be taken seriously.”

Paxson’s email mentions two opportunities to continue these important discussions:

  • This Wednesday, September 23rd, UCS will be holding an Open Forum on Title IX at Brown from  7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Metcalf Auditorium.
  • The survey results will be presented at the next Brown University Community Council (BUCC) meeting on Tuesday, September 29, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the Kasper Multipurpose Room in Faunce.

Paxson closes her email by encouraging all students to be actively aware of the high prevalence of sexual assault on our campus and to be committed to “cultivat[ing] a culture at Brown in which sexual assault, harassment, domestic violence and stalking are not tolerated.”

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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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Paxson’s latest email gives insight on GHB case


In her most recent “Letter to the Brown Community,” President Christina Paxson reflected on the three-pronged student conduct issue that has dominated campus this semester: the case involving the fraternity Phi Kappa Psi, the individual student charged with use of the date rape drug GHB, and the sexual assault charge, all of which occurred on one night last fall.

Paxson detailed some of the difficulties facing the University and particularly cited her frustration in keeping confidentiality when there is so much misinformation circulating in the media. Apparently, the administration is unable to set the record straight while maintaining mandatory privacy measures for the parties involves.

In a marked change in tone, President Paxson fired back at those who suggested that corporation money played a role in the GHB case:

“Recent suggestions of a ‘thumb on the scale’ of justice because one student, whose name has been circulated on campus although not in the press, is the son of a trustee are completely false. There is no evidence whatsoever that anyone improperly influenced the investigation or adjudication process. I would not allow that to occur. The members of Brown’s governing body are aware of this and know that it would not be tolerated. Our administrators also understand it, and firewalls are in place to protect the integrity of the system.”

President Paxson went on to say that the University is making the necessary changes for the drug testing in these instances to be more reliable in the future. Brown will also continue to work towards fair processes, and a safer campus. The Sexual Assault Task Force is still hard at work, and students should expect a survey sometime after spring break on “campus climate and their experiences with sexual assault, harassment, and gender-based violence.” In addition, Brown will soon have a “new Title IX program officer [that] will oversee sexual assault cases as well as enhanced training and education programs for students, faculty, and staff, with the primary goal of preventing sexual assault.”

The email ends with an assurance that the administration is dedicated to this cause:

“We clearly have work to do and it will take a great deal of caring, wisdom, and willingness to get it right. I ask for your support in doing so.”

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Not quite viral: President Paxson’s online office hours

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Yesterday, The Brown Undergraduate Council of Students set up their own version of a Reddit-style AMA for President Christina Paxson. From 2:30-3:30pm they opened up a comment thread on their Facebook page and invited students to ask the president questions which she could respond to in real time.

There were 33 questions asked. Here are some things we learned:

Classes of ’16 and ’17 will not see a renovated Ratty.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 4.14.11 PMStill, the new Ratty may not feel all that new.

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Paxson will go anywhere with Margeurite.

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