The Brown Spectator began publication in the spring of 1986, and announced in its first issue, “As an opinion journal, we shall make it our concern to devote our attention to issues of both national and campus concern, addressing issues others have ignored, while generating rational discussion where others have been silent.... Should some of the expressed viewpoints prove hateful to the Brown community’s majority opinion, we are reminded of the majority’s fallibility and the academic virtue of ideas held in contention. If some arguments, under intense scrutiny and debate, prove truthful, we are all the more fortunate.” Karen Engel ’87 and Jennifer Poli ’87 were the first editors of the conservative journal, brought about by the College Republicans organization. The first issue of Spectator hailed itself on the cover as “An Alternative Journal,” and the second issue adopted “The Right Alternative.” Another conservative journal, Common Sense, begun several years previously, had lasted for only two issues. In the new journal, “Common Sense” was the title of a feature containing opinions of the staff and political cartoons.
The title, Brown Spectator, was also used in 1984 by a two-page offering of student writing on brightly colored paper, which was the product of a Group Independent Study Project.