Brown University

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Brown University
Brown Coat of Arms.png
City: Providence, Rhode Island
Type: Private
Sports: baseball, basketball, crew, cross country, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, skiing, soccer, softball, squash, swim/dive, tennis, track/field, volleyball[1]
Colors: brown, red, white
Mascot: Brown Bears
Degrees: Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral[2]
Endowment: $2.5 billion[3]

Brown University is an American university located in Providence, Rhode Island. It is one of the most liberal members of the Ivy League, with pervasive pass-fail grading and the unlimited ability to drop a class without penalty at almost any time during the course. The school featured a student prostitution ring in the 1980s[4][5] and a Title IX lawsuit in the 1990s. Brown is one of the most liberal of the Ivy League schools, but more libertarian than also-Leftist Yale University is.

Brown was founded in 1764, making it the 7th oldest university in the United States. The University motto is In Deo Speramus, which means "In God We Hope" or "In God is our Hope." The current President of Brown is Christina Paxson;[6] it has 628 full-time faculty members and 7,595 students.


Brown was founded by Ezra Stiles, a Congregationalist minister, and James Manning, a Baptist minister; it was originally known as Rhode Island College. It charter was granted on March 3, 1764; among the sixty-odd signatories were the wealthy brothers John and Nicholas Brown, and the College was located in Warren, Rhode Island. The charter specified that "into this liberal and catholic institution shall never be admitted any religious tests, but on the contrary, all the members hereof shall forever enjoy full, free, absolute, and uninterrupted liberty of conscience", and as such was considered liberal and nonsectarian. Brown and Penn both have claims to be considered the first nonsectarian institution of higher learning in the United States.

The College moved to Providence in 1770, and in 1804 was renamed Brown University in honor of Nicholas Brown, a nephew of John Brown, who had given a bequest of $5,000. The Brown family, as was typical at the time, participated in the slave trade. According to a Brown University report, "slavery was... an institution that permeated every aspect of social and economic life in Rhode Island, the Americas, and indeed the Atlantic World. There is no question that many of the assets that underwrote the University’s creation and growth derived, directly and indirectly, from slavery and the slave trade.... By the standards of Rhode Island’s mercantile elite, the Browns were not major slave traders, but they were not strangers to the business either."[7]

The 1836-7 Brown catalog lists the names of the entire student body: 43 freshman, 60 sophomores, 45 juniors, and 41 seniors. Candidates for admission were required, among other things, to

bring satisfactory evidence of unexceptionable moral character, and be thoroughly acquainted with the Grammar of the Latin and Greek languages, be able to construe and parse... the Historical Books of the New Testament, or three Books of Xenophon's Cyropædia, and translate English into Latin correctly.[8]

Brown did not admit women until 1891, when a women's college named Pembroke College was founded. Brown became coeducational in 1971 when the undergraduate school merged with Pembroke College.

Brown had "compulsory chapel"—a requirement that students attend Sunday services—from its founding until 1872.[9] After 1872 services were, of course, still conducted and students encouraged to attend them. At some point, services again became mandatory (although not strictly enforced) until the requirement was finally abolished in 1959. A 1904 book of student verse includes a lament by one C. S. Mitchell entitled "Chapel Bell" which parodied Poe's The Bells:

Hark! the bell—brazen bell
What a world of agony its clanging notes foretell
To the slumbrous sleepy student
As he bids his rest farewell...[10]

Brown University accepts applications for admission from homeschooled children.[11]


Brown University has been a pioneer in the development of hypertext. This technology was championed by Andries van Dam, who founded Brown's computer science department and chaired it from 1975 to 1989.[12] The first hypertext editing system, HES, was developed at Brown in 1967 by Ted Nelson (coiner of the word hypertext) working under van Dam's direction.,[13] short summary by George P. Landow, professor of English and Art History. Brown's Iris Intermedia project was important and influential; several significant bodies of hypertext developed in that system have since been ported to the Web, notably,[14] an encyclopedic collection of information and source texts about the Victorian era.

The New Curriculum

Brown prides itself on its "New Curriculum," first established in 1969, which allows students to take virtually any course they want, with no general distribution requirements. Any course can be taken pass/fail.[15] However, the current undergraduate curriculum is currently under review, with recommendations set to be made in the spring of 2008.[16]


In 2005, Brown University's Queer Alliance, a pro-homosexual lifestyle group, threw a raucous party called SexPowerGod in a university building. Although many students were intoxicated, alcohol was not and has historically not been served at SexPowerGod. The event was covered by disguised reporters for The O'Reilly Factor, causing bad publicity for the university. The Queer Alliance was placed on probation for a year and all student groups were hence prohibited from throwing parties in Sayles Hall.[17]

In 2018, Brown University censored a study on transgender youth because it did not approve of the study's results, worrying that its findings might "invalidate the perspectives" of transgender people.[18]

Notable Brunonians

Notes and references

  2. College Search - Brown University - At a Glance (English). College Board. Retrieved on May 28, 2010.
  3. 2011 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. Retrieved on November 20, 2012.
  6. President.
  7. Slavery and Justice Report, Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice; "many of the assets," p. 13. "not strangers to the business," p. 15
  8. The Catalogue of Brown University, 1836-7
  9. Chapel, from Encyclopedia Brunoniana.
  10. Boone, Ilsley (1904), College Hill Verse: Being Selections from Student Publications of Brown University, 1894-1904, p. 4
  11. Christian Examiner, Sept. 2007, Vol 25, No 9, Pg. 12
  12. Andries van Dam's home page
  13. Hypertext at Brown
  14. The Victorian Web
  18. Mikelionis, Lukas (August 30, 2018). Brown U. censors 'gender dysphoria' study, worried that findings might 'invalidate the perspectives' of transgender community. Fox News. Retrieved September 19, 2018.

External links