University Statements

Mission Statement

Brandeis University is a community of scholars and students united by their commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and its transmission from generation to generation. As a research university, Brandeis is dedicated to the advancement of the humanities, arts and social, natural and physical sciences. As a liberal arts college, Brandeis affirms the importance of a broad and critical education in enriching the lives of students and preparing them for full participation in a changing society, capable of promoting their own welfare, yet remaining deeply concerned about the welfare of others.

In a world of challenging social and technological transformation, Brandeis remains a center of open inquiry and teaching, cherishing its independence from any doctrine or government. It strives to reflect the heterogeneity of the United States and of the world community whose ideas and concerns it shares. In the belief that the most important learning derives from the personal encounter and joint work of teacher and student, Brandeis encourages undergraduates and postgraduates to participate with distinguished faculty in research, scholarship and artistic activities.

Brandeis was founded in 1948 as a nonsectarian university under the sponsorship of the American Jewish community to embody its highest ethical and cultural values and to express its gratitude to the United States through the traditional Jewish commitment to education. By being a nonsectarian university that welcomes students, teachers and staff of every nationality, religion and political orientation, Brandeis renews the American heritage of cultural diversity, equal access to opportunity and freedom of expression.

The university that carries the name of the justice who stood for the rights of individuals must be distinguished by academic excellence, by truth pursued wherever it may lead and by awareness of the power and responsibilities that come with knowledge.

As adopted at the meeting of the Board of Trustees, Dec. 6, 1984.

Accreditation Statement

Brandeis University is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE) of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

(NEASC) a voluntary membership organization of public and independent schools, and colleges and is recognized as an accrediting agency by the U.S. Department of Education.

Accreditation is based on "Standards for Accreditation," established by CIHE, which encompass all academic and administrative dimensions of the institution. A decision on re-accreditation is preceded by a comprehensive institutional self-study and a multi-day site visit by a team appointed by CIHE. Re-accreditation is required every 10 years. Institutions must also submit an interim report, providing a current overview, five years after its most recent re-accreditation. An annual report must also be submitted, providing current data as well as information on new developments relevant to accreditation. Additional information about accreditation, including documentation of Brandeis University's most recent re-accreditation as well as its subsequent fifth-year interim report, can be found on the Brandeis website at www.brandeis.edu/neasc. For additional inquiries about accreditation, contact the Office of the Provost at Brandeis University, Mailstop 134, 415 South St, Waltham, MA 02453-2728, or by email at provost@brandeis.edu. Information is also available on the website of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges at http://cihe.neasc.org Individuals may also contact the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education at 3 Burlington Woods Drive, Suite 100, Burlington, MA 01803-4514; by phone at 781-425-7785; or by email at cihe@neasc.org.

Diversity Statement

Established in 1948 as a model of ethnic and religious pluralism, Brandeis University:

  • considers social justice central to its mission as a nonsectarian university founded by members of the American Jewish community;
  • aims to engage members of our community as active citizens in a multicultural world;
  • seeks to build an academic community whose members have diverse cultures, backgrounds, and life experiences;
  • believes that diverse backgrounds and ideas are crucial to academic excellence;
  • recognizes the need to analyze and address the ways in which social, cultural, and economic inequalities affect power and privilege in the larger society and at Brandeis itself;
  • honors freedom of expression and civility of discourse as fundamental educational cornerstones;
  • seeks to safeguard the safety, dignity, and well-being of all its members;
  • endeavors to foster a just and inclusive campus culture that embraces the diversity of the larger society

Academic Coursework and Religious Observance

Brandeis University is committed to supporting the religious practices of all of our students. Historically, Brandeis University has recognized the religious calendars of Judaism and Christianity. Other traditions, for example, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, while not explicitly recognized on the University calendar, are recognized as significant to our students and deserving of accommodation. It is the policy of the University that instructors strive to support students' observance of their traditions by allowing absence from classes for such purposes, and by endeavoring to ensure that examinations, written reports, oral reports, or other mandatory class assignments are not scheduled for, or due on, holy days; and that instructors provide ample opportunities for students to make up work missed on such occasions, without penalty.

The following is a list of guidelines developed by the Committee for the Support of Teaching, with the input of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (Chaplaincy) and the Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, regarding academic coursework and religious observances:

1. In constructing the academic calendar, religious holy days will not be the sole factor in determining days on which classes will be held or suspended. In the academic calendar there are some religious holidays that are traditionally indicated as days or partial days when the university is closed (such as Rosh Hashanah, Good Friday); however, there are many other days of religious importance to members of the community (for example, Eid, Lunar New Year, or Rohatsu) when the university is not closed. Muslim and Jewish holidays begin at sundown of the previous evening and end at nightfall of the day listed. Therefore, a student may have a legitimate reason for missing a class, whether or not the holiday is formally recognized in the University calendar.

2. Students are expected to review each course syllabus at the beginning of each term, and to inform instructors within the first two weeks of class if there are any potential conflicts due to religious observance. It is the student’s responsibility to inform the instructor of these conflicts within the first two weeks of the semester. Students who miss class will be required to complete any work that is missed, and they may be required to submit additional assignments to make up for the missed class time.

3. Should a student need to miss class for religious reasons, the absence should be excused. Classes missed for travel plans are not considered excused absences. Only the dates of the holidays themselves are considered excused absences.

4. Students must be informed of any exams or due dates that fall on a date immediately after a religious holiday at least two weeks prior to such dates.

5. If classes will be missed, students must consult with their instructors and agree upon a plan to make up for any excused absences. Such plans should be in writing and available to both parties.

6. If an instructor believes that a student’s request cannot be accommodated, the student must be notified prior to the date in question in writing or by email. Any disagreement over expectations for class attendance and/or coursework should be brought to the Department Chair or Program Chair.

7. If an instructor has questions about the nature of a particular holiday or would like a list of major holidays, they should consult either the Office of the Religious and Spiritual Life (Chaplaincy) (https://www.brandeis.edu/spiritual-life/multifaith-chaplaincy/index.html) Office of Academic Services (https://www.brandeis.edu/acserv/index.html) , or the Office of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (https://www.brandeis.edu/diversity).

University Learning Goals

Brandeis Education: Learning in Service of Justice

A Brandeis education combines core skills, knowledge and social justice. Brandeis recognizes that learning occurs in and outside the classroom and designs its programs to enable students to meet these learning goals. Inspired by our namesake, Justice Louis Brandeis, the University seeks to produce graduates who have a desire to inquire and learn throughout their lives and who will endeavor to advance justice in the world.

Core Skills

Master communication skills.
Specifically, graduates should be able to express clearly facts, ideas, opinions and beliefs in a variety of written and oral formats.

Master quantitative skills.
Specifically, graduates should be able to:

  1. collect, interpret and effectively utilize numerical data and quantitative information;
  2. use mathematical and other abstract models to express and understand causal relationships.

Exhibit strong critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking allows for the clarification of ideas and the development of new ideas that are useful and worthy of further elaboration.

Specifically, our graduates should be able to:

  1. analyze, interpret and synthesize information and ideas from diverse sources, including different types of texts (e.g., oral, written, visual and performance-based);
  2. evaluate the relevance and validity of information, empirical evidence and theoretical arguments;
  3. solve challenging problems and arrive at reasoned conclusions.

Knowledge

Demonstrate ability to engage in research and scholarship.
Specifically, our graduates should:

  1. possess a substantial core of knowledge in their chosen field(s);
  2. understand the resources and methods of their chosen field(s);
  3. use knowledge to raise and explore new questions, theories and problems.

Demonstrate intellectual flexibility.
Specifically, our graduates should be able to:

  1. modify their conclusions based on new information;
  2. modify their approach to a problem based on the requirements of a particular situation;
  3. apply different analytic lenses to understand complex issues.

Demonstrate intellectual creativity. Specifically, our graduates should:

  1. integrate knowledge from the domain of ideas and the domain of experience;
  2. generate original ideas and insights appropriate to a given context.

Social Justice

Participate as informed citizens in a global society.
Specifically, our graduates should:

  1. engage in self-reflection, inquiry and learning throughout their lives;
  2. act as socially and ethically responsible members of their communities and the world.

Demonstrate understanding of diverse societies.
Specifically, our graduates should:

  1. exhibit knowledge of and respect for cultural traditions other than their own;
  2. understand the interdependence of people around the world.

Engage in service throughout their lives.
Specifically, our graduates should:

  1. follow the example of Justice Brandeis by contributing to the creation of a just society;
  2. exemplify the value of altruism by volunteering and acting as advocates.


Note: Some of the language and concepts here were influenced by the six Principles of Undergraduate Learning developed by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and materials from the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College.

Principles of Free Speech and Free Expression

1. Maximizing Free Speech in a Diverse Community

All members of Brandeis should be able to put forth ideas for consideration, engagement, and criticism by others, as such exchanges are core to the mission of institutions of higher learning. We explicitly connect free speech concerns with our desire for a diverse, inclusive community. Free expression, including the arts, implies the free exchange of ideas — talking and listening. We endorse as a principle for action Louis Brandeis’ remark: “If there be a time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” The university has a responsibility to encourage the airing of the widest range of political and scholarly opinions and to prevent attempts to shut down conversations, no matter what their topic.

2. Developing Skills to Engage in Difficult Conversations

The Brandeis community rightly prides itself on debating difficult issues vigorously. To introduce prior restraint by attempting to define realms of prohibited speech would be for the administration to produce a chilling effect upon speech and exchange of views on campus. Reaching our fullest potential in this regard will entail an ongoing educational process, a curriculum that exposes students and the entire community to various viewpoints, and a long institutional memory about how free expression operates and has operated at Brandeis. All this will require the intellectual courage to risk discomfort for the sake of greater understanding.

3. Sharing Responsibility

All members of the Brandeis community bear the moral responsibility for their actions and the impact those actions have on the community. Open-minded disagreement can be a marker of respect, the sort of response for which we strive. We should embrace civility, but in the larger sense: an issue can be engaged with emotion, and even a raised voice, if the humanity of all involved is respected. We should work toward a campus life that promotes the expression of a diverse set of intellectual, political, cultural, and social outlooks. The university’s commitment to freedom of expression is an essential part of the ethical and intellectual imperative to strive for diversity and inclusion on campus. The university must find ways to engage the whole community about each person’s responsibility to foster a just and inclusive campus culture so that all can participate fully in the intellectual and social life of the university.

4. Rejecting Physical Violence

Peaceful protest is fully appropriate to an environment of vigorous discussion and debate, but physical violence of any kind or the prevention of speech is unacceptable. Once violence is normalized as an ingredient of free expression, it sets the pattern, ending rather than supporting free expression.

5. Distinguishing between Invited Speakers and University Honorees

Brandeis should provide space for campus organizations of all sorts, including invitations to outside speakers: such openness does not constitute a university endorsement of the organizations or the speakers. However, there are certain circumstances, especially the granting of honorary degrees, in which an invitation issued by the university does constitute an endorsement of some major aspect of their life or work. A protest against the university for making a disfavored choice for a prestigious honor is not, in itself, an attack on free speech.

6. Institutional Restrictions

The freedom to debate and discuss ideas does not mean that individuals may say whatever they wish, wherever they wish, or however they wish. In narrowly-defined circumstances, the university may restrict expression, as for example, that violates the law, that falsely defames a specific individual, that constitutes a genuine threat or harassment, that unjustifiably invades substantial privacy or confidentiality interests, or that is otherwise directly incompatible with the functioning of the university.

With these principles now adopted, the university will undertake a review of all related policies to ensure they are consistent with and support these principles.

Brandeis is far from alone among colleges and universities in recognizing the need to review the protection and promotion of free expression on our campus. At its most recent meeting in April, the presidents of the 62 leading research universities in North America that make up the Association of American Universities endorsed a statement on free speech. To quote from its opening sentences, which underscore the importance of free expression in higher education:

“The free and open exchange of ideas and information is fundamental to the educational mission of AAU universities. The robust discussions and debates that occur at research universities have been central to the advancement of democracy, the creation of new knowledge, the fostering of educational excellence, and the promotion of social progress.”

The principles adopted by the Brandeis Board of Trustees are consistent with the AAU statement and are critical to fulfilling our mission as a leading institution of higher education.