Allen has been named to the newly created position of associate provost and director of institutional diversity. She arrived in July from Smith College, where she held a similar job.
BAM What does diversity mean?
Allen I conceive of diversity very broadly. It includes all the categories we generally think about: race, ethnicity, sex, sexuality, religion, disability status. We also need diversity of theoretical perspectives. The best learning occurs when you’re exposed to as many viewpoints as possible.
BAM Isn’t this definition broader than the one most people expect ?
Allen Sometimes the person in the diversity job gets pegged as having a narrow conception. That’s really not me. All voices need to heard.
BAM How important are numbers?
Allen I never talk about diversity solely from a numbers point of view, but in terms of achieving a climate that will help people think more deeply and critically about issues of difference. Numbers are important, but not as important as the quality of the interactions that people have. What’s important is to learn how to listen, to form counter opinions, to be civil when your beliefs are challenged. I value diversity in its relationship to academic excellence.
BAM How diverse is Brown?
Allen Brown does well in achieving racial and ethnic diversity in the undergraduate student body, but less well in the faculty and graduate school. Students have e-mailed me with concerns about the diversity of theoretical perspectives here. We want to shape the vision and understanding of diversity based on the community’s beliefs. It’s not about me imposing my own views.
—Interview by Emily Gold Boutilier