The student in the video asks: “What are you doing to fix it? Not conversation—what are the actions you are taking?”

While Paxson did not have an answer to this question, she promised the students who had gathered in the hall that she would follow up with a response in an email on Sunday night, according to the Brown Daily Herald.

It took until Monday afternoon, but President Paxson did email the entire Brown community to inform them that a working ”action plan” to increase diversity, previously scheduled for release at the end of November, would instead be made available to the community on Nov. 20 in order to gather their feedback. 

“By releasing a working document early, we can gather the community input we need to establish a set of concrete, achievable actions that will make Brown more fully diverse and inclusive,” the email read. 

Releasing an “action plan” that solicits what essentially amounts to more “conversation” is a far cry from enacting the immediate changes students demanded, but it is not nothing. It is an institutional response to student activists’ methods. This kind of impetus is necessary to drive the system forward. 

In 2014, five months after the Ray Kelly protest, the committee Paxson formed in response presented a set of recommendations to the president aimed at addressing inequality on campus. Among them were to restructure the Office of Institutional Diversity and increase its funding, to change minority faculty hiring policies, and to create a Diversity Action Plan.

Paxson has at least partially acted on all of these. The Office of Institutional Diversity was moved into the President’s office in the fall of 2014, and hiring minority faculty at Brown through “cluster hiring” is part of the President’s strategic plan, released in Sep. 2015.  The Diversity Action Plan that came out of the Kelly committee’s recommendations is the working document that will be released on Nov. 20 in response to the demands raised by students in the meeting on Saturday. 

Before labelling student activists at Brown and elsewhere as unnecessarily aggressive or immature, critics would do well to step back and consider them in context—as providing necessary tension in a system that is predicated on the balance of tradition and the needs of its ever-changing student body. In essence, all of the institutional “action” for diversity at Brown has come in response to bouts of kicking and shouting.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.