Page 1

Daily

the Brown

vol. cxlvi, no. 71

Herald

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Since 1891

UCS elects eight to new posts

Tax filings show 2009 salaries for top officials

By Katrina Phillips Senior Staff Writer

The walls of the Petteruti Lounge echoed with the deliberations of Undergraduate Council of Students members late into last night and this morning as they determined the path of this year’s council in their first general body meeting of the semester. UCS President Ralanda Nelson ’12 led the group in electing eight new internal positions and appointing three representatives in a recordlong meeting that had passed the five-hour mark as of press time and showed no signs of ending. Among the positions elected were council secretary, five new University Finance Board at-large representatives, the appointments

By Mark Raymond Senior Staff Writer

ruptcy filing,” he said. “We’re listening to what they have to say about various cost-cutting proposals,” Flanders said. For example, instead of outsourcing rescue services, the fire department could

President Ruth Simmons received $656,683 in total compensation during the 2009 calendar year, down from $884,771 in 2008. Compensation figures for top officials in 2009, including salaries, bonuses, benefits and deferred compensation, are listed on the Internal Revenue Service’s Form 990, which all nonprofits must file each year. The 2009 form reflects some of the effects of the 2008 economic downturn for the first time, including Simmons’ salary reduction. After the financial downturn in 2008, Simmons voluntarily requested a pay cut. But because there is a lag period between the tax filings and the year the report is made available to the public, the cut has not been reflected until this year’s report. “During the crash, many of us voluntarily took salary cuts,” said Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration. Aside from the significant decrease in Simmons’ compensation, the most recent tax filing largely mirrors the previous year’s. Though compensation is reported for the 2009 calendar year, the Form 990 contains financial information for the 2010

continued on page 3

continued on page 3

Rachel Kaplan / Herald

Last night’s Undergraduate Council of Students meeting broke the group’s record for latest end time.

chair and a communications chair. The competitions ranged in intensity from Bonnie Kim’s ’12 unopposed bid for Ivy Council policy chair to the 10-candidate battle to fill the five open UFB spots.

Newly elected UFB representatives Spencer Jaffe ’14, David Chanin ’12, Abeba Cherinet ’15, Oye Odewunmi ’14 and Stephanie Hennings ’15 promised great reforms to UFB. Chanin, who has served on the board the past two

years, said he wants to see online budgets fully launched in the coming year. Though Alex Quoyeser ’15 was unopposed in his run for appointcontinued on page 4

New institute Central Falls struggles through bankruptcy By Elizabeth carr of the things we’d like to do in the convinced the teachers union, the merges study, S S W bankruptcy plan,” said Robert Flan- fire department and the police deders Jr. ’71, the city’s appointed re- partment that it would be better to practice of Since filing for bankruptcy Aug. 1, ceiver. Flanders, a former assistant try “to negotiate a resolution rather Central Falls has been engaged in adjunct professor of public policy, than going through a long, drawnbrain science an arduous negotiation process as was appointed in February to help out litigation contesting the bankenior taff

It has no building yet, but with a $15 million endowment and hundreds of soon-to-be affiliated researchers, the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute promises to make its presence felt in the world of medical research. The institute does not have a mission statement, but it seeks to “build a strong clinical institute around the neurosciences that has a strong academic and research base,” according to John Robson, the newly hired administrative director for the institute. He was hired jointly by the University and Rhode Island Hospital, and his paycheck is split between the two institutions. Development of the new institute began just over a year ago with a $15 million grant from the Frederick Henry Prince 1932 Trust, which was the largest grant Rhode Island Hospital has ever received, according to a hospital press release. Though the grant was given to Rhode Island Hospital, it “stipulates that Brown is to be involved in the overall planning and strat-

inside

continued on page 4

news....................2-4 editorial.............6 Opinions..............7 CITY & State...........8

city & state

city employees fight to protect the benefits included in their current contracts. “We’re making progress towards reaching an agreement about some

handle the city’s impending bankruptcy. The city’s determination to avoid defaulting on its loans has put its employees’ pensions and benefits in jeopardy. When it filed for bankruptcy in August, the city feared employees would sue, Flanders said. The city

High profile, high prestige: U. courts celebrity profs By Shefali Luthra Senior Staff Writer

One comes from an American political dynasty. One won the Pulitzer Prize — twice. Another is the most translated African author of all time. And as of this spring, all of them will teach at Brown.

FEATURE The three — former congressman Patrick Kennedy, journalist David Rohde ’90 and author Chinua Achebe — are part of the University’s recent string of highprofile appointments. But John Donoghue, who is the director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science, where Kennedy is a visit-

Post-

ing fellow, said he does not like to use the term “famous professor” to describe Kennedy. The phrase conjures up images of movie stars and musicians — celebrities whose connection to academics is tenuous at best, he said. Indeed, hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean, who was named a visiting fellow to the University last year, did not teach or interact much with students, said Corey Walker, associate professor of Africana studies and chair of the department. Jean’s impact on campus might be best remembered by his surprise appearance at last year’s Spring Weekend. “It was a one-year appointment for him to spend time here

Alex Bell / Herald

continued on page 2

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy is one of several high-profile figures who have added Brown to their resumes.

Face the music

Says good-bye (twice), goes to Canada

Post-, inside

Carter ’12: Criticism of BCA is justified Opinions, 7

weather

By Kat Thornton Senior Staff Writer

riter

t o d ay

tomorrow

74 / 65

72 / 65


2 Campus News

Famous profs bring ‘unique perspectives’

calendar Today

SEPTEMBER 22

4 P.m.

ToMORROW

SEPTEMBER 23

6 p.m. “Getting to Success,”

MCM Cinémathèque 16mm films ,

Salomon Center, Room 001

MCM, Room 101

7:30 p.m.

8 p.m.

“No, you’re not crazy. It IS sexism,”

Organ Concert by James Higdon,

Salomon 202

Sayles Hall

menu SHARPE REFECTORY

VERNEy-WOOLLEY DINING HALL LUNCH

Grilled Ham and Swiss Sandwich, Vegan Tofu Ravioli, Cupcake Extravaganza

Hot Turkey Sandwich with Gravy, Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

DINNER Roast Turkey with Gravy, Chinese Beef and Peppers, Cheese and Corn Strata, Raspberry Satin Fudge Cake

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pot Roast Giardiniera, Manicotti with Meatless Sauce, Raspberry Satin Fudge Cake

Sudoku

continued from page 1 at Brown to learn from Brown,” Walker said. “But he was not a member of the faculty. He was never a member of the faculty.” But in general, Walker said, famous professors bring distinction and “intellectual excitement” to the University. “Students’ levels of curiosity are piqued,” he said.

sors. For example, Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, was formerly a member of Yale’s faculty, and writer Joyce Carol Oates works on the faculty at Princeton. ‘The catch-22’

Though real-world knowledge can be valuable, Rohde said professional work could also distract a famous professor from teaching. “That’s the catch-22,” he said. “You’re away from campus, so you’re bringing a certain expertise, but when you’re there one day a week, it could be difficult for students to fit seeing me into their schedules.” Rohde will have to travel abroad to research his column during the semester. Though he said he hopes to spend as much time with students as he can — he

holds office hours and is a “visible” presence in the department, his schedule sometimes makes it difficult for him to interact with students. Achebe was not available for comment because he is preparing for a campus speaking event. A famous ‘presence’

Jessica Bendit ’12 shopped an Africana studies class in spring 2010 because Achebe was listed as the instructor. But she soon Teachers, not ‘teachers’ found out the class was being Donoghue, a renowned neuco-taught. Achebe attended two roscientist in his own right, emclasses the whole semester and phasized that big-name professors participated in a symposium the are hired for their experience, not students attended, she said. Most glamour. “We’re bringing in peoclasses, though, were led by Miple with different perspectives,” chael Thelwell, a University of he said. “Not even different — it’s Massachusetts Amherst professor. unique perspectives.” These apThough Achebe was not availpointments, he said, add richness able to students during the class, to campus life, bringing in viewhis “presence was felt,” Bendit points that “are said. Listening to not ordinarily him and having on campus.” him in classes was Kennedy, for an “incredible instance, is not honor,” and she a neuroscientist said his involveby training. His ment allowed national initiaher to connect tive, One Mind uniquely with the for Research, class material. w h i ch f i g ht s Sergei Khrushs t re s s - re l ate d chev, senior felbrain disorders, low in internabrought him to tional studies Sergei Khrushchev the University. and son of former senior fellow in international studies Kennedy will Soviet Premier co-teach an upNikita Khrushper-level seminar chev, said teachfor undergraduing is any faculty ate and gradumember’s most ate students on effectively using plans to hold office hours and be important obligation, regardless resources to research cures for accessible by phone and email — of fame. diseases. he knows it may not always be “We belong to the past — soonDonoghue said Kennedy brings easy to do so. er or later, we will go and you will “many years of experience,” — “I think being there all the time come,” he said. “The quality of the from his work in Congress, knowl- makes it easier for students to in- knowledge we will present you edge of health care and family teract with you,” he said. with is most important, so to me history of brain disorders. He Donoghue also acknowledged I’m putting my students in the first also hopes to involve Kennedy in that students may not have as place and all other activity outside campus life so that “many people much access to big-name profes- Brown just second or third.” can benefit” from his presence. sors — Kennedy, like Rohde, will Khrushchev, who teaches the Rohde, who will teach ENGL continue with his own work and undergraduate seminar INTL 1160E: “Advanced Journalism: In- initiatives while at Brown. 1800R: “Post-Soviet States From vestigative and Online Reporting” “I don’t know if it’s a drawback, the Past into the Future,” said his this spring, said a famous profes- but it’s a limitation that you don’t experiences in Soviet Russia might sor can add expertise and enhance have as much access as you’d like make him a more effective teacher. a student’s learning experience. to have,” Donoghue said. “I came from that environment, A former New York Times corAchebe, a professor of Afri- from that culture,” he said. “So I respondent and author of a book cana studies and the author of can tell students how it looked like detailing his several months of many novels including “Things from the inside.” captivity in Afghanistan, Rohde Fall Apart,” joined the faculty two Khrushchev’s class is targeted is now a foreign affairs columnist years ago. He co-teaches a litera- primarily for seniors, though he at Reuters. ture course and speaks in various said underclassmen are also welBrown is not the only Univer- colloquia and panels, Walker said. come to take it. sity to hire well-known profesThough Walker said Achebe Donoghue said most students he had spoken to were interested in Kennedy’s course because of the Brown its subject matter — not because they wanted to “rub shoulders” www.browndailyherald.com with a big name. 195 Angell St., Providence, R.I. Gillian Horwitz ’14 said she found Kennedy’s class interesting Ben Schreckinger, President Matthew Burrows, Treasurer because it might introduce her Sydney Ember, Vice President Isha Gulati, Secretary to a new perspective on science. The Brown Daily Herald (USPS 067.740) is an independent newspaper serving the Brown University community daily since 1891. It is published Monday through FriIn general, she said, students are day during the academic year, excluding vacations, once during Commencement, once drawn to courses by a combinaduring Orientation and once in July by The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. Single copy free tion of the subject matter and the for each member of the community. professor’s name. POSTMASTER please send corrections to P.O. Box 2538, Providence, RI 02906. Periodicals postage paid at Providence, R.I. If a famous professor taught the Subscription prices: $280 one year daily, $140 one semester daily. “worst class ever,” Horwitz said, Copyright 2011 by The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. All rights reserved. the person’s name alone wouldn’t editorial Business be enough to draw her in. At the (401) 351-3372 (401) 351-3260 end of the day, you still want a herald@browndailyherald.com gm@browndailyherald.com professor who “excites you.”

“The quality of the knowledge we will present you with is most important, so to me I’m putting my students in the first place and all other activity outside Brown just second or third.”

Across To bear ACROSS 1 Like Ken Jennings 6 Rock outcropping 10 Earth force, informally 14 Errand runnger 15 Record, as “Glee” 16 Shetland 17 Rich dessert 18 Staple character in many crime dramas 20 “Jersey Shore” nickname 22 Controversies with Richard Nixon and Tiger Woods, to name two 23 State with a panhandle:Abbr. 25 Directional suffix 26 Put down 27 Gear for shaping dough 32 N.Y.C.’s Park or Madison 33 Make, as a salary 34 Take it easy 38 Musical with “Seasons of Love” 40 Stop 43 Hay unit 44 Sweeper 46 Kitty cries 48 Labrynth lord of film 49 Website known as “The Star Wars Wiki” 53 Coatroom hook 56 “...boy ___ girl?” 57 Capital of R.I. 58 Get the demon out of 61 Stackhouse of “True Blood”

lookie lookie

65 Skip school 67 Canine woe 68 Tidbit in Toledo 69 The Golden Arches, e.g. 70 Happening 71 Yoked team 72 Canadian brand of gas 73 Not the sharpest tool in the shed 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

by zoe Wheeler ‘12

10 Essay in the Times, say 11 Dieter’s phrase 12 ___ Gay (W.W.II plane) 13 Disney’s Esmeralda, for one 19 ___ Beauty 21 Of an intestine 24 Field unit DOWN 27 Starchy food Some NCOs 28 Not in a Show too much, relationship say anymore Big haircut 29 Wine: Prefix Filled in again, 30 A friend, in as a test France Shatner31 Yank’s foe obsessed fan, 35 Org. in “The say Closer” Basketball and “Lethal position: Abbr. Weapon” Streams of agua 36 Jai ___ Long-legged 37 Warrior shorebird Princess of TV Fun park car 39 Wrecker’s job 41 Ooze

42 Pitchers 45 Borrow, slangily 47 Parodied 50 Baltimore baseballer 51 Buzzing instruments 52 Act like a Pokemon, say 53 ___-Bismol 54 Going brand? 55 Snap 59 “Green Lantern” star Reynolds 60 Heart lines: abbr. 62 Up for it 63 Somerhalder and Harding 64 Italy’s Villa d’___ Solutions and archive online at acrosstobear. wordpress.com Email: brownpuzzles @gmail.com

Daily

Herald


Campus News 3

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bankrupt city negotiates with workers CIO Frost was highest paid in 2009 continued from page 1

continued from page 1 fiscal year, which began July 1, 2009. A portion of the funds in the endowment in fiscal year 2010 were rearranged to meet new regulations adopted by the state. “There is a federal law that says how endowment funds are supposed to be managed and accounted for,” Huidekoper said. “Some states adopted one set of rules while others adopted another.” Rhode Island adopted new regulations for managing endowments on June 30, 2009. The state used to follow guidelines called the Uniform Management of Institutional Funds Act and now follows the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act. Huidekoper said the move to UPMIFA by the state will not adversely affect the University’s ability to manage its assets. “It helped with our ratings and gave us more flexibility with our assets,” she said. In 2008, the IRS began recording compensation figures for the calendar year, rather than the fiscal year, making comparisons with earlier years difficult. Both the 2008 and

2009 tax filings reflect this change. Huidekoper said the University managed to withstand the economic crisis better than many of its peers, largely due to risk assessments conducted just months before the crisis began to take hold. “We had already done a lot of the analysis,” she said. Former provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98 earned $512,771 in total compensation in 2009, up slightly from $508,496 in 2008. Huidekoper earned $425,681 in total compensation, down from $436,024, largely due to a decrease in her deferred compensation. The highest paid employee in 2009 was Cynthia Frost, vice president and chief investment officer. She earned $1,011,351 in total compensation, up from $899,121 in 2008. Other top earners in 2009 included more members of the financial office, including Kenneth Shimberg, managing director for private equity, who earned $773,059 in total compensation, down from $834,554 in 2008. David Schofield, managing director for marketing securities, earned $635,067, and Andrew Wert, managing director for marketable securities, earned $640,027.

10 highest-paid University employees (2009) Cynthia Frost Vice President and Chief Investment Officer

$1,011,351

Kenneth Shimberg Managing Director of Private Equity

$773,059

Ruth Simmons President

$656,683

Andrew Wert Managing Director of Marketable Securities

$640,027

David Schofield Managing Director of Marketable Securities

$635,067

Michael Speidel Managing Director of Real Assets

$619,822

Edward Wing Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences

$594,113

Eli Adashi Professor of Biology, Former Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences

$514,737

David Kertzer Provost

$512,771

Rajiv Vohra Dean of the Faculty

$489,995

continue to provide these services but cut overtime pay. Public Safety Strategies Group, located in Massachusetts, released a report Sept. 6 that recommends the city consider consolidating fire services with stations in nearby towns and contracting out its emergency medical service calls. The city is “trying to preserve jobs and not go to outsourcing … because that’s the best way to save money,” Flanders said. Functions currently in danger of being outsourced include janitorial and sanitation services. “The challenge is to try to come up with a plan that’s workable despite the fact that we’re not going to be able to provide the same level of benefits and other financial inducements that were provided in the past,” Flanders said. “There’s going to be more costsharing and the benefits are going to be curtailed.” The report also recommended that the fire department standardize shifts to prevent unnecessary overtime and cut the positions of the three battalion chiefs — which cost the city a total of $200,000 dollars a year — in favor of one public safety administrator. Central Falls Police Chief Joseph Moran III issued a nine-page rebuttal in response to the report. In it, he expressed his concern that the report “did not include interviews, review of job descriptions or surveys.” He added that the report did not cite ride-alongs with police officers or any visits to the police department as evidence for its claims. “Normally when you do a study, you try to find out about a place before you rip it apart,” Moran told The Herald. This week, Flanders and his team are filing a five-year plan for balancing the city’s budget, which includes budget cuts and general restructuring. Flanders recently obtained an extension to continue negotiations through the end of October before a judge hears the unions’ case that bankruptcy law does not give the district the right to renege on its employees’ contracts. “The next month-and-a-half is going to be the critical period for dealing with all of this,” he said. Though the negotiations with teachers are still in preliminary stages, James Parisi, field represen-

tative in Central Falls for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, said he hopes the negotiations will fit within the timeline. “It would be important for the teachers to have an understanding of what their contract is,” he said. The city’s initial focus was “trying to agree on an interim plan that would allow the teachers to work and things to proceed as normally as possible while we try to work out a longer-term arrangement,” Flanders said. At the end of August, he replaced the school’s negotiation team with his own group: his Chief of Staff Gayle Corrigan, David Abbott, deputy commissioner and general counsel for the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and Joseph Whelan, a Providence lawyer who focuses on labor law and collective-bargaining negotiations. “Both sides are talking — there are a lot of issues that are still outstanding but the fact that they’re still at the table negotiating is a very positive thing,” said Frank Flynn, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. “You hope to get something that’s fair for teachers, fair and good to the students and fair for taxpayers.”

“There are a lot of language issues surrounding job transfer and reassignment and teacher evaluation” in contract negotiations, Flynn said. Teachers who have retired or resigned have not been replaced, he added. “The teachers are looking to preserve their rights. They’re looking to get a fair benefits package agreed to, and we are hoping to use the bargaining process to get programs that would help students,” Parisi, the teachers’ union representative, said. “We would love to see comprehensive review of curriculum.” The teachers would also like to see programs like music, sexual education and gifted and talented classes added or extended. The Central Falls school district, which receives its funding from the state, lost a lot of money in the implementation of the new funding formula, Flynn said. “Basically, it’s a state-run school entity,” he said of the district. “We have followed the budget problems of the Central Falls municipality, but have always understood our budget comes from the state government, not the local government,” Parisi said. “The General Assembly has significantly reduced municipal funding in the last few years.”

Got tips? herald@browndailyherald.com


4 Campus News UCS meeting runs until morning continued from page 1 ments chair, Nelson emphasized the importance of this position and that of the Corporation liaison position in the coming year. Both students will be responsible for providing student feedback in the search for a new University president for what one candidate deemed “the post-Simmons era.” Sam Gilman ’15 was elected the new communications chair over two upperclassmen, since

the council felt his fresh ideas outweighed his inexperience. “My job is to really convey your messages,” he said. Though Nelson tried to convince the group that class year does not determine passion or skill, the majority of the deliberation for Corporation liaison dwelled on the candidates’ class years and the trade-off between a senior’s experience and a firstyear’s greater personal stake in the Corporation’s decisions.

“Once you’re a Brown student, you’re always a Brown student,” said one UCS member, adding that even an alum would have interest in the selection of a new University president. The council largely seemed to agree, finally electing Jennifer Bloom ’12, a deputy managing editor of BlogDailyHerald, after one of the night’s longest deliberations. Alex Friedland ’15 was elected alumni liaison after reminding the council that UCS alums were responsible for the adoption of the Open Curriculum and “really contributed to everything we’re experiencing now.” The position of the UCS/UFB liaison went to Daniel Pipkin ’14, who served on the Student Activities Committee last year and professed an interest in focusing on the activities endowment. Gregory Chatzinoff ’15 was named the parliamentarian pro tempore in an unopposed contest. Gaurav Nakhare ’15 won the webmaster position, also unopposed, in the final election, giving a speech that began after midnight with, “Good morning, everyone.” An unusually large number of the evening’s candidates were recent transfers. “This is a phenomenon,” Anthony White ’13, a UCS member, told The Herald, remarking that transfer students typically do not participate in UCS. The meeting was interspersed with frequent stretch and dance breaks during vote tallying. Nelson began the meeting with stern admonitions to her fellow board members to maintain professional composure, but she eventually joined in the fun, singing popular songs with the crowd during breaks.

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, September 22, 2011

News in brief Morse ’11 wins mayoral primary by one vote Four months after Commencement, Alex Morse ’11 still has a ways to go before landing a job. But Tuesday, he brought himself one step closer by winning the preliminary election for mayor of Holyoke, Mass., his hometown. He finished ahead of incumbent mayor Elaine Pluta by just one vote. He and Pluta will both be on the ballot for the general election. The other two candidates in Tuesday’s election will not be on the ballot. Morse will face off with Pluta, who is 67, in the general election Nov. 8. If elected, Morse would become the city’s first openly gay mayor and the youngest in its history. “My age is an incredible asset,” Morse told a Massachusetts television station. “I’m the only candidate raised in the digital age,” he said. “I haven’t been around for 20 years. I’m not tied to special interests — my special interest is the people of the city of Holyoke.” With 22 percent voter turnout in Holyoke, Morse received 2,023 votes, and Pluta received 2,022. Both finished significantly ahead of the other two candidates, who garnered 806 and 310 votes respectively. Morse, who was an urban studies concentrator and the first college graduate in his family, announced his candidacy in January after hiring a campaign manager last year and moving to start a grassroots campaign. Morse’s involvement in public life stretches back several years. He has served as a director for several local commissions and currently holds positions on the Friends of the Holyoke Public Library, the Holyoke Community Land Trust and the Latino Scholarship Association. Morse also founded the first LGBT nonprofit organization in Holyoke. While at Brown, Morse spent three years working at City Hall, where he was mentored by David Cicilline ’83, the first openly gay mayor of a state capital and now a U.S. congressman from Rhode Island. As mayor, Morse would focus on improving public safety, spurring economic development and promoting education by focusing on dropout prevention, according to his campaign website. He also hopes to improve the city by creating an arts district, revitalizing major city streets and engaging citizens in government affairs, according to the site. “I’m hoping to change the conversation in Holyoke politics,” Morse told The Herald in January. “It’s really a tale of two cities ­— there is the city of people who get opportunities, go to college and get decent jobs, and then there’s the city where there is poverty and people don’t get educated,” he said. “I want to bridge that gap, make it a place where everyone has equal opportunities.”

— Sahil Luthra

Institute aims for joint brainstorming continued from page 1 egy,” said Ed Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences and a professor of medicine. “We all plan together,” he said. The institute will be managed through Rhode Island Hospital by a steering board and two directors. Robson reports to Rees Cosgrove, the institute’s clinical director. Cosgrove is presently chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Alpert Medical School and chief of neurosurgery at Rhode Island Hospital and the Miriam Hospital. He will continue to hold all three titles. Previously, Robson was the vice president of operations for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. At the institute, he controlled a $3 billion budget for embryonic stem cell research. He will also be the associate director of the Brown Institute for Brain Science. Both Robson and Cosgrove worked at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University at separate times prior to coming to the University, according to Rob-

son. He said this institute consolidated neuroscience research and a neurological hospital in the same place. Robson added that he and Cosgrove hope to create something similar here in Providence. “We believe that when you have everyone together like that, all in the same place, you get interactions between researchers at all different levels that you don’t get when people are across town from each other,” Robson said. Cosgrove said that while collaboration already exists between scientists conducting basic research at the University and those pursuing clinical applications at Rhode Island Hospital, they are “not rubbing shoulder to shoulder in the same place,” which would be “the best way to encourage collaboration.” The two directors and the steering committee are now working to finalize a budget and an administrative structure. They then hope to identify a few key programs in the University’s brain science departments in which they can focus on creating clinical collaboration and joint research projects.

Undergraduates can expect to have a role in this new institute. Wing said there are already several undergraduates in labs in the Jewelry District and the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute will follow suit. “They are welcome and there will be opportunities in each of those departments, as well as in the labs on campus,” he said. “That’s one of the good things about being an undergrad at Brown. It’s pretty open.” He said undergraduates should ask their professors about these opportunities, especially when summer becomes closer. “Having the chance to work hands-on will be a very different experience for undergrads,” said Clara Kliman-Silver ’13, a cognitive neuroscience concentrator who has worked in University labs since her freshman year. “Something like this, in a hospital environment, will be good,” she added. “Working in a University lab gives you an expectation of real-world research, but working in a hospital would be a good new experience.”


Higher Ed 5

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spat at UVA after proPenn undergrads not told of professor’s death until first day Palestine message erased By Daily Princetonian Staff The Daily Princetonian, Princeton U. via UWIRE

Undergraduates waiting for the first seminar of “Citizenship and Democratic Development” at Penn last week received some unexpected news as they waited for class to begin: Their professor, Henry Teune, had passed away five months previously, and the University had forgotten to cancel the class, according to the email

students received in the middle of the uncanceled class. “PSCI 291-301 is canceled. We are so sorry for this last minute cancellation. With Dr. Henry Teune’s passing, this course should have been canceled over the summer and was an oversight,” the brief email, sent by Penn during the class, read in its entirety. Teune, a political science professor at Penn, passed away on April 12. He was 75. After joining the univer-

sity’s political science department in 1961, he had also served as chair of the department from 1975 to 1979 as well as vice dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 1967 to 1969. Teune’s research interests included democracy, technology and comparative urban studies. Despite the oversight and delay in announcing the tragic news, Penn plans to hold a memorial service for the professor sometime this fall, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

New method could prove existence of dark matter By James Chang The Daily Princetonian, Princeton U. via UWIRE

One of cosmology’s greatest unsolved mysteries is the nature of dark matter, a mysterious and invisible substance that dominates over 20 percent of the universe’s observable mass. But recent findings by Princeton’s Shravan Hanasoge, a post-doctoral student in the geosciences department, and New York University’s Michael Kesden about primordial black holes — theoretical remnants of the Big Bang and one of a handful of potential sources for dark matter — may give scientists a new way to unlock the secrets of the elusive substance. Hanasoge and Kesden have uncovered a new method for detecting collisions between stars and primordial black holes, which may provide concrete, observable proof of the existence of dark matter. Primordial black holes are several magnitudes smaller than the more widely known stellar black holes. The scientists found that because of the diminished mass, a primordial black hole does not swallow up a star in a collision as would a stellar black hole. Instead, the gravity of a primordial black hole squeezes the star and causes vibrations on the star’s surface as it snaps back into place after the black hole has passed through — and the ability to detect these vibrations could lead astronomers to finally observe a black hole. “The hope is that the vibrations caused … are unique,” Hanasoge said. “If you were able to conclusively see a primordial black hole, this

would have profound consequences in our understanding of early universe cosmology and dark matter.” But the discovery, according to Kesden, is still only a “preliminary” step in actually identifying a primordial black hole. A primordial black hole passing through a star such as the sun is a very rare event — one that happens once every 10 million years, Kesden said. Given such a low frequency of occurrence, Kesden admitted that the team’s ideas may not be entirely practical and that they now need to determine whether their simulations can be applied to stars other than the sun. “Since other stars are so much farther away (than the sun) and we cannot see them with as much detail, we need to do calculations that can handle these larger scales,” Kesden said. He noted that the staggering number of stars in the galaxy means it is likely that every so often a black hole could be seen passing through a star if a sufficiently large sample of stars was observed. “However, having said that much, it is as hard as it is impressive to do it,” Hanasoge said of their endeavor. To make their models, Hanasoge and Kesden simulated and diagrammed the waves and oscillations that might be created between a primordial black hole and the sun, the masses of a primordial black hole and the likely path of the object through the sun. Meanwhile, NASA’s Tim Sandstrom used the Pleiades supercomputer at the NASA Ames Research Center in California to provide video simulations of their calculations. Hanasoge and Kesden said they

hope to find information about other stars from existing NASA telescopes that are examining extrasolar planets, but that big questions remain about the feasibility of scale up the sample size. “The bottom line is, no one knows what dark matter is and so everything should be considered,” physics professor Frans Pretorius said, adding that future research on the subject will depend on whether the scientific community finds a different source for dark matter. The report was published in the September issue of Physical Review Letters.

By Emily Stephen Cavalier Daily, U. Virginia via UWIRE

The Students for Peace and Justice of Palestine filed a Bias Incident Report and notified the Minority Rights Coalition at the University of Virginia yesterday after the organization painted Beta Bridge, a bridge on campus often used as a message board, to support Palestine’s United Nation’s bid for statehood, only to find that the message had been desecrated the following morning. The students finished painting “Palestine deserves a state” on the bridge by 12 a.m. Sept. 15. By 8 a.m., a white block had been painted over the word “Palestine” and the word “deserves” had been struck through, SPJP Outreach Chair Sara Almousa said. “I’ve been getting a lot of concerns from the community,” said Virginia senior Omer Abdulhamid, an SPJP member who first saw the painted-over message. “A lot of people are very hurt by this.” Almousa reported the incident through the “Just Report It” feature on the University website, which allows students to submit Bias Incident Reports. “It’s not that they had written slander on it, but they specifically targeted (our message) and tried to make sure it was ruined,” Almousa said. SPJP members met with As-

sociate Dean of Students Aaron Laushway Tuesday. “We’ll have a conversation with the students and support them and listen to their concerns,” Laushway said. Allen Groves, associate vice president and dean of students, explained that after students file a report, the Office of the Dean of Students meets with those students and investigates the incident based on available evidence before developing “an appropriate response.” “At times the appropriate resolution is to encourage a community response to the offending speech, consistent with the First Amendment,” he said. Groves said interpreting this incident is challenging because it is unclear whether the changes to the message sent a political statement or were bias-motivated. He added that someone could potentially say his action was a political statement made in response to another political statement. Groves added the best response to situations like these is more speech. “Anytime things like this happen, it’s very upsetting to the students involved,” he said. “We don’t see a lot of this at UVA, but occasionally acts do occur targeting different groups and different viewpoints. We want a community where everyone respects each other even if they disagree.”

comics Cabernet Voltaire | Abe Pressman

Fraternity of Evil | Eshan Mitra, Brendan Hainline and Hector Ramirez


6 Editorial Editorial

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, September 22, 2011

Editorial comic

by

A n d r e w A n ta r

Tolls could be necessary for R.I. transportation funding Rhode Island’s transportation funding dilemma is old news. In 2008, the Providence Journal mentioned the city’s consideration of “drastic measures” such as imposing tolls on major highways to raise money to address the state’s worsening transportation budget deficit. The potential tolls were some of the options being entertained by then-Governor Donald Carcieri’s ’65 Blue Ribbon Panel for Transportation Funding. In December 2008, the panel produced its report. They faulted an over-reliance on federal funding — $220 million in federal aid — and high debt service payments — $96 million a year — among the factors contributing to Rhode Island’s “unsustainable” funding system, and they provided alternative funding scenarios. These scenarios included measures like increasing vehicle registration fees and certain taxes, introducing vehicle mileage fees and, yes, tolling. Discussion of a toll on Interstate 95 reemerged in June of this year, when Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis made a request to the Federal Highway Administration for permission to toll the Interstate. The funds would be used to maintain existing transportation structures. His request has been decisively unpopular among Rhode Islanders, with three-quarters of those polled opposing the idea. The request was met with cries of indignation from taxpayers who feel they have already paid for the roads and blame mismanagement for the current situation. This indignation is not without justification, as Rick Reed and Gary Sasse recently demonstrated in an opinion piece in the Providence Journal. It’s clear that the additional financial strain of the toll will be great for some of the drivers who rely on the interstate for their daily commutes. It’s not ideal, but it looks like the toll might be necessary medicine for a struggling Rhode Island transportation system. A study released last October reported that Rhode Island will face a $4.5 billion transportation deficit by 2020. At the same time, the need for maintenance and improvements to existing roadways and bridges is greater than ever, with road conditions linked to everything from higher-than-average rural traffic fatality rates to an estimated $1,300 in expenses per Providence driver. Improved access to education, services and jobs, increased environmental sustainability and greater appeal to businesses are just some of the crucial advantages of a well-functioning transportation system. While it may not have the emotional tug of other initiatives, improving Rhode Island’s transportation is essential for the long-term development of the state and could even increase returns to other improvement projects. It’s estimated that a toll of $3 for cars crossing into Rhode Island from Connecticut on Interstate 95 could yield about $50 million annually for Rhode Island transportation. Tolls have an element of “fairness,” because they use money from those enjoying the advantages of roads to fund their maintenance. Improved safety and road conditions will have positive effects on drivers’ wallets, and the toll could reduce over-reliance on federal funds. We are confident that research and debate will continue around this important issue, and we hope for the emergence of easier-to-swallow solutions for improving Rhode Island transportation. In the meantime, if coupled with a strong emphasis on accountability to taxpayers, we think this toll is worth considering — a medicine worth swallowing, so to speak — as one part of a new funding model for transportation. Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.

t h e b r ow n da i ly h e r a l d Editors-in-Chief

Managing Editors

Senior Editors

Sydney Ember Ben Schreckinger

Brigitta Greene Anne Speyer

Dan Alexander Nicole Friedman Julien Ouellet

editorial Kristina Fazzalaro Rebecca Ballhaus Claire Peracchio Talia Kagan Amy Rasmussen Tony Bakshi Alex Bell Ethan McCoy Ashley McDonnell Sam Rubinroit Anita Mathews Sam Carter Hunter Fast

Arts & Culture Editor City & State Editor City & State Editor Features Editor Assistant Features Editor News Editor News Editor Sports Editor Sports Editor Assistant Sports Editor Editorial Page Editor Opinions Editor Opinions Editor

Graphics & Photos Abe Pressman Graphics Editor Emily Gilbert Photo Editor Rachel Kaplan Photo Editor Glenn Lutzky Photo Editor Jesse Schwimmer Sports Photo Editor Production Dan Towne Anna Migliaccio Katie Wilson Leor Shtull-Leber Neal Poole

Copy Desk Chief Design Editor Design Editor Assistant Design Editor Web Producer

Business General Managers Matthew Burrows Isha Gulati

Office Manager Shawn Reilly

Directors Aditi Bhatia Danielle Marshak Margot Grinberg Lisa Berlin

Sales Finance Alumni Relations Special Projects

Managers Hao Tran National Sales Alec Kacew University Department Sales Siena deLisser University Student Group Sales Valery Scholem Recruiter Sales Jared Davis Sales and Communications Lauren Bosso Business Operations Emily Zheng Business Analytics Nikita Khadloya Alumni Engagement Rajiv Iyengar Special Projects Arjun Vaidya Special Projects Webber Xu Special Projects Post- magazine Editor-in-Chief Sam Knowles Editor-in-Chief Amelia Stanton BLOG DAILY HERALD David Winer Editor-in-Chief Matt Klimerman Managing Editor

quote of the day

“Normally when you do a study, you try to find out about a place before you rip it apart.” — Joseph Moran III, Central Falls police chief See Central Falls on page 1.

Find us online

browndailyherald.com thebdh.org twitter.com/the_herald facebook.com/browndailyherald blogdailyherald.com C O R R E C T I O N S P olicy The Brown Daily Herald is committed to providing the Brown University community with the most accurate information possible. Corrections may be submitted up to seven calendar days after publication. C ommentary P O L I C Y The editorial is the majority opinion of the editorial page board of The Brown Daily Herald. The editorial viewpoint does not necessarily reflect the views of The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. Columns, letters and comics reflect the opinions of their authors only. L etters to the E ditor P olicy Send letters to letters@browndailyherald.com. Include a telephone number with all letters. The Herald reserves the right to edit all letters for length and clarity and cannot assure the publication of any letter. Please limit letters to 250 words. Under special circumstances writers may request anonymity, but no letter will be printed if the author’s identity is unknown to the editors. Announcements of events will not be printed. advertising P olicy The Brown Daily Herald, Inc. reserves the right to accept or decline any advertisement at its discretion.


Opinions 7

The Brown Daily Herald Thursday, September 22, 2011

Up on the stage By Sam Carter Opinions Editor

The Brown Concert Agency faces a lot of criticism. Spring at Brown is marked not only by warmer weather and more lounging on the Main Green but also by the noticeable increase in complaints directed at this one student-run organization. Some students are unhappy with the selection of musical acts for the Spring Weekend concerts. Others vent their frustration with a ticket-purchasing process that frequently presents problems. It often seems as if the BCA can only do wrong in the eyes of many students. But it should be evident that they do provide valuable services, such as promoting the music of Brown students through its Speakeasy Sessions and dealing with the many logistics involved in putting on the Spring Weekend concerts. Last week, the BCA announced the lineup for its Fall Concert, which will take place this Saturday. While some students might not approve of BCA’s selection of Starkey and Real Estate, they have little reason to complain since admission to the concert is free. It will cost them nothing to go check out the performers on Lincoln Field — or in the Rhode Island School of Design Auditorium in the case of rain — and see if these two acts put on a good

live show, excite the crowd and convince the skeptical ear. It’s difficult to complain about free live music, especially on a Saturday night. But what students can disapprove of is the way in which the BCA decided on which acts it would bring for its Fall Concert. It started out reasonably well. Over the summer, they, in collaboration with BlogDailyHerald, put out an online poll in which students could vote for their

many of us are religiously checking BlogDailyHerald. The BCA even said at the time of the poll that they had already secured one act. But the problem is they gave no indication of who it might be. Why would that be important? For the simple reason that I, along with the other 615 voters, might have voted differently had I known that the already booked act was Starkey, a dubstep artist.

It’s a comment that’s been made before, but it’s one worth making again: A little more transparency wouldn’t hurt the BCA.

preferred act from a list of nine that were “available and affordable.” So far so good. Only 616 students voted in the poll, which means that roughly only one in 10 undergraduates expressed an opinion. The student body therefore has very little room to complain about any selection because there were so few voters. Of course, it must be pointed out that the poll was conducted during the first week of August, which is hardly a time when

Maybe the terms of Starkey’s contract prevented any announcement. But that would not preclude the BCA from saying in its poll announcement that the already booked act was from the dubstep genre — an action that would have been sufficient for voters in the poll to make a more informed decision. To put it briefly, you don’t pair a wine with the meal when you have no idea what you’re eating. Another problem arose when Gillian

Brassil ’12, BCA’s booking chair, said in a Sept. 21 Herald article that the acts that finished above Starkey, who finished seventh, were “either already booked or unable to make it to the concert.” While there was a disclaimer stating that booking the poll’s winner was in no way guaranteed, there was also no indication that the seventh out of nine options would be chosen. Granted, Curren$y broke his ankle, but the claim in the original BlogDailyHerald poll post that the acts were “available” seems a little too strong. It’s a comment that’s been made before, but it’s one worth making again: A little more transparency wouldn’t hurt the BCA. Other student groups with comparable influence on the Brown community are more open. And while polls are good, without a full slate of information it’s hard to be an informed voter in them. Even looking at the BCA’s website, there’s no “About” section — only calendar, gallery and contact sections. There’s no doubt that transparency can be taken to an extreme. And with the many details involved in putting on concerts, it would be unfair for us to expect complete transparency from the BCA. But I think it would be fair to ask for a little more. Sam Carter ’12 is a philosophy and Hispanic studies concentrator who voted for Atlas Sound. He can be reached at samuel_carter@brown.edu.

The problem with Thayer on a Friday night By Camille Spencer-Salmon Opinions Columnist Thayer on a Friday night. You’re on your way to an adventure — you hope — or maybe just burrito-bound. You’re out with your friends and maybe a bit more dolled up than usual. There’s an odd mix of leering bikers, the occasional homeless person and your fellow students out searching for a little excitement. And then it happens — the inevitable yell from a half-rolled down car window. The repeated up-and-down look from the group of guys loitering outside CVS. Yeah, you think. I wore a short skirt. I consider it a celebration of the still lovely weather and the fact that I do not yet have cellulite. “Nice legs, baby,” they shout. I wonder if you’ll still like them after they’ve kicked you in the face. Not all of my fellow students mind — some see it as inevitable — but the fact is that most men are physically stronger than women. Being harassed on a crowded street on a college campus is unlikely to result in violence, but it can be a scary experience nonetheless. And it happens everywhere — one informal survey by a graduate student at the George Washington University found that 98 percent of women have been harassed on the street. Why is it that, in a developed country where women supposedly have the same rights as men, our bodies are still consid-

ered fair game for public scrutiny — to the point where it’s considered normal to be harassed on the street when you’re just trying to get from point A to point B? And yet we usually just roll our eyes and walk on, heels clicking, because that’s the price you pay, right? Not everyone thinks so. Ihollaback.org is a site where people post pictures of their harassers online. The ‘about’ section purports, “We believe that everyone has a right to feel safe

lar basis, many of which feature women’s bodies as objects used to sell everything from fancy casinos to sandwiches to power tools. In movies, women get to look pretty and moon over men as they fight crime, save the world, have hilarious adventures and pursue their dreams. The media does not reflect an equal culture, yet more women than ever are going to college and prioritizing careers over having families. Ours is a society full

Why is it that, in a first world country where women supposedly have the same rights as men, our bodies are still considered fair game for public scrutiny — to the point where it’s considered normal to be harassed on the street when you’re just trying to get from point A to point B?

and confident without being objectified. Sexual harassment is a gateway crime that creates a cultural environment that makes gender-based violence okay.” The fact is that sexism and violence against women are real, but they are woven more subtly into the threads of modern culture than they were even 20 years ago. We sing along to popular songs with lyrics like “bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks.” We’re flooded with ads on a regu-

of contradictions where “feminism,” as a term and as a movement, is hard to define. At Brown, we have the FemSex workshop as a safe space to discuss female sexuality, but plenty of us — from both genders — still toss the word “slut” around in casual conversation to describe our peers. Feminists are not fighting for the right to vote or get divorced or have access to contraception anymore — not in America, at least — we’re fighting for the right to just

be.

Some might say, “If you dress a certain way, you’re asking for it.” “Rape culture” is the term used to describe beliefs like this — beliefs that encourage sexual aggression and violence against women. Of course, very few people are actually condoning rape. It’s much less overt than that — it’s creating a society in which we blame the victims of such crimes for ‘inviting’ themselves to be raped. For dressing a certain way. For being too sexy. Is every catcall a precursor to sexual violence? Of course not. Sometimes it is just something to roll your eyes at. For some, it is just a sign that they look good. But it is often much darker than that, because it means that we are teaching young men that boys will be boys — unable to control themselves in the presence of someone they think is attractive. And we’re teaching young women that they should be afraid, because that’s just how the world works. I don’t have a decent solution for catcalling or harassment or sexual violence, but I do propose that we all think more critically about the everyday details of our lives. Watch for your own double standards. Are you blaming someone for acting within his or her most basic rights of self-expression? The next time you’re out on a weekend night, pay attention to the part you’re playing as you walk down that crowded street. Camille Spencer-Salmon ’14 is a neuroscience concentrator from Miami, Florida. She can be reached at camille_spencer-salmon@brown.edu


Daily Herald City & State the Brown

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vending accounts may go online Local biotech startup raises $10 million By Liz Kelley Contributing Writer

The hassle of abandoning wet clothing to refill a vending stripe in one of the University’s oft-broken Card Value Center machines may become a thing of the past next semester. A system under review, which would make the vending

By Nicole Grabel Contributing Writer

campus news stripes on Brown ID cards obsolete, would be “a revision and update of the current system — moving the vending infrastructure from offline to online,” said Scott Thacher, director of information technology in the Office of the Vice President of Campus Life and Student Services. Brown’s current vending stripe system — which can be used to pay for copies, laundry and vending machine purchases — depends on old magnetic stripe writers, Thacher said. Currently, students must add money to the stripe from declining balance accounts or with cash through the CVC machines located around campus, which then send the new amount to the stripes. In the proposed system, students would be able to allocate money online for services that used to require the vending stripe, without the need to write new amounts to their cards. “This is an opportunity to improve student services on campus,” said Richard Bova, senior associate dean of residential and dining services. The change would create “a seamless system,” he said. The new system — which would not require students to get new ID cards — needs approval from the University’s IT Project Review Committee next month before being implemented, which could be as early as January.

Emily Gilbert / Herald

Becca Gevertz ‘14 loads money on her card using a CVC machine. The University is evaluating a proposal that would make these machines obsolete.

Thacher said the first services to be integrated would likely be printing and copying because they are of academic interest to both students and teachers. “It will be a one-card system

and aims to create an ease of use across the board,” Bova said. “It is a transformative project in direct response to students’ questions, concerns and comments that will also benefit staff.”

NABsys, a Providence biotechnology company with Brown connections whose research could be used to treat cancer, recently raised $10 million in venture capital. Located in the Jewelry District, the company sits in a biotechnology research and life sciences hub that political leaders say is key to the state’s long-term economic vitality. The funding will fuel the continued growth of the company, which focuses on DNA sequencing and analysis. “The company has been doubling in size every year for the past two years,” said Barrett Bready ’99 MD’03 , president and CEO of NABsys and adjunct assistant professor of physiology. The company was started in 2005. A significant portion of the $10 million will go toward hiring, said Eli Upfal, consultant to NABsys and a Brown professor of computer science. The company needs the “best people in chemistry, biology, cheap design and algorithms,” he said, adding that attracting highquality talent requires a considerable amount of money. The funding will also be used to purchase new machinery and software, Upfal said. But the money will not just facilitate further company development — it also serves as a testament to how much NABsys has grown already, he said. “Every round of funding shows that outside researchers and investors have more and more confidence in the direction of the company,” he added. While none of the money will go to Brown directly, the University has had ties to the company since its inception. The company was

started with technology licensed from Brown and its original founder was Brown physics professor Sean Ling, now no longer involved in managing the company. Many Brown professors ­— including Nobel laureate and physics professor Leon Cooper and Franco Preparata, professor of computer science — serve as advisers to NABsys. John Oliver, the company’s vice president of research and development, is a former assistant professor of chemistry. The funding will ultimately benefit the University, Upfal said. The company hires many Brown graduates, and its growth would mean more demand for Brown’s biomedical research, he added. The timing of the funding coincides with the creation of a sevenmember commission to oversee the development of land in the Jewelry District made available by the relocation of route I-195. Bready has been nominated by Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 to serve on the commission and was confirmed by the state Senate Corporations Committee Tuesday. He faces a full Senate vote on his confirmation today. Upfal said development of the district will make it a more attractive location for NABsys’ continued expansion. Though Bready declined to comment on specific plans for the district until he is officially confirmed, he said he sees great potential for the technological rebirth of the district and Providence as a whole. In the past, he said, “Providence was arguably the wealthiest place of its size in the entire world,” the “technology leader of the day.” As the biotechnology industry continues to expand, he said he sees an opportunity for Providence to excel once again.

Hearing examines municipal pensions By MORGAN JOHNSON Senior Staff Writer

Rhode Island House and Senate finance committees met yesterday for the second of three joint hearings on fixing the state’s escalating pension problems. Sen. Daniel Daponte, D-East Providence and Pawtucket, and chair of the Senate committee on finance, announced that the General Assembly may hold more joint hearings on pensions, in addition to the two that have already occurred. The problem — which the General Assembly will likely convene a special session to address — is the growing gaps between the funds that the state and its municipalities have set aside to fund their pension plans and the amounts promised to public employees. The discrepancies between promised and available funds threaten both government solvency and the retirement security of thousands of

workers. The hearing yesterday focused entirely on municipal pension plans, which are more challenging to reform than the state-run pension plan, according to State Auditor General Dennis Hoyle and General Assembly fiscal advisers Peter Marino and Sharon Ferland, who led the hearing. One critical challenge to reform is the sheer number of unique plans that exist in the state. Municipal pension plans are divided into two basic categories. The state-run pension system includes 110 municipal pension plans covering public employees in the state’s cities and towns, in addition to the pension plan for state employees. While the state administers this group of municipal pension plans, known as the Municipal Employees Retirement System, local governments are responsible for ensuring their plans stay funded.

But the outlook is most dire for the 36 municipal plans not included in the state system. In 2010, these plans were 40.3 percent funded overall. Two-thirds of these municipal plans — including those of Cranston, Pawtucket, Providence and Warwick, the state’s largest cities ­— are considered “at risk” by the state’s auditor general. These “at risk” plans are further divided into four categories of severity, from “I” indicating bankruptcy to “IV” indicating that local governments are making contributions representing less than 80 percent of the amount required to maintain the plans at an adequate funding level. With an $828 million unfunded pension liability, Providence has been designated a “III” in this system. “Not all of the news is necessarily bad,” Marino said, pointing to four local examples of plans that are nearly fully funded. As with state pensions, Marino

said it is very unlikely that growing investment returns would allow municipalities to grow out of their pension liabilities. He added that bond rating agencies’ negative growth outlooks for Rhode Island municipalities will probably increase the municipalities’ borrowing costs. Reforming pension plans administered by the state will be far easier than reforming independent municipal plans, Marino said. The state can withhold funding for plans in the state-run system if municipalities fail to meet 100 percent of their annual required contribution. Local governments currently cannot be penalized for failing to meet their required contribution and instead are only required to send documentation to the state. “It’s sort of a paper chase,” Hoyle said. He added that forecasting needs to be updated to reflect current figures, such as increased longevity, which has

an adverse effect on unfunded liabilities. Rep. Frank Ciccone, D-Providence and North Providence, pointed to the profitable business financial advisers have made of the state’s pension problems. He said the $156 million paid to financial advisers could be “creating a problem.” Several members of the committee recommended reducing the number of plans and pension consultants as a way to rein in unfunded liabilities. “There’s tremendous opportunity for consolidation,” Hoyle said. Absorbing local plans into the state system is also an enticing option, he said, though the 100 percent required contribution mandated in this system will make transferring pension plans from local to state control difficult for more financially troubled local plans. “The distance seems insurmountable in (the) near-term,” Hoyle said.

Thursday, September 22, 2011  

The September 22, 2011 issue of the Brown Daily Herald

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you