A flock of turkeys

By PHOENIX STAFF  |  November 26, 2013

Brown University prez Christina Paxson


You would think divestment from coal companies would be an easy choice for Brown University given a) the school’s liberal proclivity, b) its marquee position in a teensy coastal state facing dire consequences from climate change, and c) the fact that the majority of the students, many faculty members, and the school’s Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies (ACCRIP) all support the choice.

But you would be wrong.

This fall when the Brown University Corporation — the bicameral body governing the school, made up of a Board of Fellows and a Board of Trustees — assembled for one of their thrice-yearly meetings, they didn’t merely pass on divesting from coal. They declined to even vote on the issue.

The next week, Brown prez Christina Paxson issued a meandering handwringing note supporting the non-decision that conveniently omitted the fact that Brown was following the same turkey-shit trail of its Ivy sibling, Harvard, which chose not to divest earlier this fall.

Making matters worse was the fact that, just days after the non-divestment announcement, Brown Trustee and megabillionaire Steven A. Cohen’s Manhattan firm, SAC Capital Advisors, pleaded guilty to insider trading violations that the US Attorney in New York City described as a “substantial, pervasive and on a scale without precedent in the history of hedge funds.” The behavior was bad enough for Cohen’s firm to cough up $1.2 billion in penalties but, again, the Brown Corporation couldn’t be bothered.

Asked for comment by the Brown Daily Herald, the school issued no amendment to a statement issued back in the spring when concerns about the banker’s connections to the school arose: “Steve Cohen is a valued and involved trustee of Brown, and the University has been strengthened by his engagement. . . There has been no pressure on (Cohen) — or the Corporation — for him to leave his seat.”

Meanwhile, we at Phoenix HQ have voted unanimously to swap the Brown mascot from “bears” to “turkeys” until members of the Corporation stop acting like the worst kind of aloof, self-interested, corporate asshats.

Providence College provost Hugh F. Lena


Providence College made a nice call this year when they invited an openly gay speaker to campus to speak about same-sex marriage. But, then three days in advance of the event, Provost Hugh Lena announced its cancellation, citing a document called “Catholics in Political Life” that said, in part, “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles,” as one of his reasons for doing do.

Or was it cancelled? In the wake of the uproar this news caused, PC released a convoluted “Message from the Provost” announcing that the event was, in fact, re-scheduled (albeit with a same-sex marriage opponent added to the speaking bill) and that, “In hindsight, we should have announced that the September 26 event was merely being postponed, not cancelled, until we could be sure that it went forward in the format in which it was originally proposed.” Didja follow that?

We didn’t, which is why we so enjoyed PC Faculty President Fred Drogula’s lengthy public letter enumerating the school administrators’ gaffes (“4. There are blatant errors of fact in the official College statement on our webpage, which seem a violation of the College motto Veritas,” one part read.)

In response to PC’s birdbrained handling of the situation, Wayne State University Philosophy Prof. John Corvino, the original guest speaker, took to his blog to write, “In two decades of public speaking, at over 200 college campuses, I have never felt quite so bounced around.

“The truth is that it’s difficult not to feel as if the Providence College administration regards me as a sort of virus, which might infect students if not blocked by some administration-approved surgical mask,” he continued. “And if I feel that way, I can only imagine how young gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender Providence College students must feel. It is for them that I remain most concerned.”

This guy speaks truth to turkeys.

May we suggest that, to commemorate this blunder, PC add a few feathers to their school seal, which displays a torch described as “always indicative of learning” and a flame that “towers over the surrounding symbols and typifies leadership among men”?

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