Our Bold Spirit

Ronald D. Liebowitz
Mike Lovett
Ronald D. Liebowitz

The spring semester started like any other, and then our lives, like all of yours, were upended by COVID-19.

As the outbreak grew into a global pandemic, we moved quickly to protect the health and safety of everyone in our campus community. We sought guidance from public health officials and Boston-area health-care leaders. We formed an emergency response task force to manage the crisis to the extent of what we knew, and plan the institution’s transition to a virtual world of teaching, learning, and work. We moved more than 2,400 students from our residence halls and relocated the approximately 300 students, mostly international students, who could not return home across the residence halls, to enable social distancing. Our students, faculty, and staff faced the stark, unprecedented challenges with an esprit de corps that should make Brandeisians everywhere proud.

This crisis, which is still drawing much of our administrative attention, has underscored the unique strength of our community’s character. From the overwhelming support given by alumni, friends, faculty, and staff to our Student Emergency Grant Fund; to the commitment of our faculty scientists, social policy experts, and economists to understanding the novel coronavirus and its impact on society; to the generosity of several Brandeis parents in China, who donated tens of thousands of masks to Boston-area hospitals, Brandeisians around the world have embodied our university’s ethos — of using one’s gifts to help repair the world, acting on a deep commitment to justice, and working collaboratively to generate new knowledge and help solve problems.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on members of our community. Some have been infected with the virus; others have lost family members to it. We keep these individuals and families in our thoughts.

As I write this letter, we don’t fully know what the coming academic year will look like. While we remain focused on the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff, and prepare for the academic year’s demands, we know we cannot lose sight of our longer-term goals. My leadership team and our Board of Trustees continue to work on elements of the Framework for the Future — our vision for building a stronger Brandeis. Although our timeline has changed, we are committed to implementing the Framework’s initiatives, which will help us build upon the university’s strengths and grow as an institution.

Despite the current challenges, I am confident about Brandeis’ future, because of what I know about its past. The university was founded as a bold experiment in higher education in 1948, when the world was still reeling from war, the scourge of genocide, and prejudice. That bold spirit, fortified by community, and dedicated to collaboration and innovation, serves as our inspiration as we look to the future. Whatever the changes today’s pandemic brings to our campus, Brandeis will continue to strive to excel in research and teaching, and to imbue in our graduates the spirit and drive to help humankind.

I often conclude my letter by asking you to engage in the life of the university. Now more than ever, Brandeis needs your wisdom, counsel, support, and involvement. With your help, Brandeis will continue to thrive — and make a difference in the world.

Best regards,

Ronald D. Liebowitz