Brown is the seventh-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and the sixth-oldest among the Ivies. The founding of what would become Brown University was initiated by the Baptists of the Philadelphia Association in 1756. In 1762 Rhode Island was selected as the site of the school because the colony had already been settled by Baptists, though at the time it was the only college in the colonies that welcomed students of all religious persuasions. A donation of $5000 entitled Nicholas Brown to rename the college in 1804.
In 1850, Brown President Francis Wayland sought to promote a new academic philosophy for the school such that, “insofar as practicable, every student might study what he chose, all that he chose, and nothing but what he chose.” This philosophy was not implemented until 1969, when the school adopted the New Curriculum. The New Curriculum gave undergrads with more academic freedom by allowing them to take any course on a Satisfactory/No Credit basis, doing away with basic distribution requirements, and providing interdisciplinary course offerings. In 1971 Pembroke College, the university's affiliated women’s college, merged with Brown.
Brown University is the largest landowner in the city of Providence. Brown’s main campus atop College Hill lies across the river from downtown Providence. The Van Wickle Gates demarcate the school’s official entrance, and adjacent to the main campus are the Pembroke Campus and the East Campus.
The locations in which large concentrations of Brown students can be found tends to be dependent on the weather. In the summer, the Main Green is unarguably the most popular spot. There you’ll find girls sunbathing in bikinis, couples making out, and groups of people smoking up, playing Frisbee, having lunch, studying, or all of the above. The Blue Room in Faunce House is the cafeteria right next to the green. Its beautiful terrace faces the green and contains tables and seating, and it has wide stairs descending to the green which in the spring resemble the tiered seats of an amphitheater. Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., it's almost impossible to find an empty spot on the terrace or the stairs. The Blue Room’s amazing focaccia and coffee are partially responsible for the crowds.
Moving indoors, the Gate, on the Pembroke side of campus, is a very popular eatery and hangout. Open until 2 a.m., the Gate is crowded with revelers on weekend nights, but it's a quiet study place during weekdays. They have great panini and accept meal credits, so most students come here when they’re sick of the dining halls. Jo's serves a similar function, but, unlike the Gate, it is only open at night. Most undergrads come to the Gate to sate late-night hunger with Philly cheese steaks, spicy chicken, onion wings, or pizza bites. Jo's recently became even more popular when it added an amazing fresh salad bar.
Last but not least is the Grad Center Bar (GCB), tucked away in Grad Center on Charlesfield Street. The GCB is a chill spot for students 21 and over to visit with friends when they don’t feel like "going out out" to Fish Co or Viva. Visiting the GCB is a great way to get out of one’s dorm and chat over a pitcher or two (or three) of beer. Drinks are pretty cheap, the ambiance is low-key and relaxing, and most people play a few rounds of darts or pool over drinks.
Brown is located in Providence, the capital of Rhode Island and a city of about 175,000. One of the first US cities to industrialize, Providence was once nicknamed the "Beehive of Industry." In the 1970's, that moniker was replaced by "Renaissance City" owing to revitalization efforts that included the opening of the city's rivers, creation of parks, renovation of the downtown area and development of the arts scene. With Providence at their doorstep, students frequently take advantage of their urban surroundings. In addition, Boston is about an hour north by car.
Certainly one of the most popular hangouts off campus is Fish Co, which is at its most active on Wednesday nights, when it can get so crowded that it can seem impossible to breathe. Most athletes, as well as those who are into the frat scene, throng to Fish Co every Wednesday night for an evening of debauchery.
Liquid Lounge and Spats are frequented by the same crowd on Friday and Saturday nights. Conveniently located on Thayer Street, both locations serve good food and fairly inexpensive drinks. If you're willing to walk down and back up the hill, Wickenden Pub down on Wickenden Street is also pretty chill and worth checking out when Thayer gets boring.
On the same infamous Thayer Street are Starbucks, Tealuxe, and Blue State, all of which are great spaces in which to meet friends, study, or just warm up during the chilly winter months. Most students find that they can’t get serious work done on Thayer Street, though; their friends will often walk by, see them inside, and stop in for a ‘quick’ chat. They’ll eventually leave having read three pages of Shakespeare after hours of ‘work’ and 15 dollars of coffee. Blue State is relatively less crowded and has free wireless internet access, as well as stronger espresso. However, some aren’t happy with the selection or volume level of the music played by the hipster baristas.
Since 1950, Brown students have enjoyed Spring Week, which features athletic competitions, dances, and concerts. Wesley Royce ’08 reports that the highlight of the festivities is “the concert, which is always held on Sunday afternoon and is the best way to finish the week of revelry.” Past performers have included Bob Dylan (twice), Wilco, Vampire Weekend, Elvis Costello, U2, and Bruce Springsteen.
Brown's Science's Library, known on campus as the "SciLi," is the highest point in the city of Providence. With its fourteen floors and position atop College Hill, the SciLi is a great place to get a panoramic view of town. However, to Brown students, the SciLi is famous for far more mischievous reasons. As Amanda Machado ’10 reports, “students also take advantage of the seclusion the fourteen stories provide to carry out the other SciLi tradition: having sex on the thirteenth floor. Whether it's a frisky random hook-up on a slow weekend night or a means of spicing up your sex life with a long-term partner, students have embraced their adventurous side and made the stacks useful for more than simply shelving books. The naughty idea is so popular that Playboy magazine named the SciLi one of the best places to have sex in the country.”
The Van Wickle Gates at the front of campus are open twice a year, at the beginning of the academic year and on commencement day. Superstitious students believe that those who pass through the gates a second time before commencement will not end up graduating.
Chris Berman (1977) is an ESPN host and anchor.
John W. Heisman (1891) is the namesake of the Heisman Trophy.
Charles Evans Hughes (1881) was the governor of New York and the 11th Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.
John Krasinski (2001) plays Jim in NBC's The Office and has also starred in the films License to Wed and Leatherheads.
Laura Linney (1986) has acted in films such as Kinsey, Mystic River, Love Actually, The Squid and the Whale, and The Savages.
Horace Mann (1891) was an education reformer who greatly influenced the creation of the American public school system.
Craig Mello (1982) won the Nobel Prize in 2006 for the discovery of RNA interference.
John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1896) was the son of oil tycoon and philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller.
Ted Turner (attended) is a media mogul and the founder of CNN.
The Brown Bears compete in the Ivy League with other academic powerhouses, so Brown is not the kind of football school where the undergraduates paint their faces on game day to impress (or embarrass) themselves in front of an ESPN camera crew. While football is always popular around Parents Weekend, Brown athletic events are not consistently well-attended. BrowNation, a student-created fan group, now promotes attendance at games by offering incentives such as university-branded apparel to students who come to multiple athletic events each year.
While sports are by no means a religion on campus, Brown has 37 NCAA teams, which ranks them third among Division I institutions for sports offered. Additionally, in 2002 the College Sports Honor Roll ranked Brown as one of the nation’s top twenty athletic programs. While Brown may lack the school spirit of larger universities, it is not lacking in athletic students and facilities. Plus, casual athletes enjoy eight club sports and nine intramural sports.
Brown University served as an encampment site for French soldiers during the Revolutionary War. The College Edifice, which is now called University Hall, was turned into a military hospital.
Women’s Wear Daily named Brown “the most fashionable school in the Ivy League.”
The writers of The Simpsons, many of whom are Harvard alums, have been known to take jabs at their Ivy League rival. In one episode, when Lisa gets a B-plus on a school assignment, she exclaims, “Oh no! Now I’ll have to go to Brown!” When Lisa’s application is rejected from Harvard, the admissions officer remarks, “We will however, pass it on to Brown.”
Brown offers a variety of housing options which students can take advantage throughout their undergraduate years.
There are three main options for freshmen: Keeney, Perkins, and Pembroke. Hands-down, Keeney is the best freshman dorm. Its location is perfect, just a block from the Main Green and the Ratty (dining hall). Keeney is split into six houses; while most of the rooms are doubles, with a smattering of quads and triples interspersed throughout the houses, “Junior Row” in one of the houses has singles. Keeney has a study room on the top floor and a kitchen/lounge in each house, and also houses one of the campus’ satellite gyms. Perkins is another freshman option – possibly owing to the fact that it’s farther from the center of campus, it supposedly has the highest marriage rate of any dorm on campus. Pembroke Campus has three sets of dorms, which are mostly for freshman, but also include a lot of singles that are popular with upperclassmen. There is another satellite gym in Chapin, which is the same building as the V-Dub, another main dining hall.
The housing options for upperclassmen vary dramatically and improve throughout one’s Brown career. For sophomores there are a few choices: Grad Center, Caswell, and Barbour. Caswell contains double rooms and houses only sophomores; because it’s located near the Main Green, it’s very popular and goes quickly in the lottery. Grad Center consists of five towers offering suite-style arrangements, with four to five single rooms sharing a common bathroom. Students have the option of forming co-ed groups within their suite. There is a sophomore-only tower in Grad Center, but otherwise it is usually quickly filled by juniors. A third satellite gym, called the Bear’s Lair, is found in Grad Center, as is the GCB, an on-campus bar. Barbour has a variety of rooming situations, including suites of different sizes, and is typically filled by juniors as well, though some sophomores usually luck out.
The remaining main dorms on campus are Hegeman, New Dorm, and the Young O apartments. Hegeman contains only three-person suites, complete with a common room but no in-suite bathroom. Located next to Caswell, it is across the street from the Ratty and right off the Main Green so it is quite popular for juniors. New Dorm is split into two houses, A and B, each of which have four-person suites, again sharing a common room but without an in-suite bathroom. New Dorm is obviously new, so it is quite nice and popular with juniors and seniors. The Young O apartments are located next to Perkins, so they are farther from the center of campus but are very popular among seniors looking for apartment-style living without moving off campus. Each apartment houses four people who share a kitchen, common room, and bathroom.