Office of the President

Update on Diversity and Inclusion Efforts

Nov. 18, 2016

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

The recent presidential campaign was marked by the rhetoric of racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and jingoism. Such rhetoric and the acts it has inspired are the antithesis of Brandeis’ values. While we embrace diversity of thought and difference of opinion, we will always be committed to inclusion and equity. An educated populace is one of the core strengths of a strong democracy, and, to fulfill our educational mission, our University must be a place that promotes the safety of all community members.

The changes we collectively made over the past 12 months reflect values that are central to Brandeis. Almost a year has passed since #FordHall2015, which accelerated and catalyzed a process of self-reflection and growth. We are embracing debate and discussion; we are working for change; and we recognize that no matter how much we accomplish, there is more work to be done. The passion and dedication of the students who participated in and continue to advance these efforts was critical and must not be forgotten.

Below is another in our series of updates on progress made in the area of diversity and inclusion. We are grateful to the work of the faculty, staff, and students who devote themselves to making Brandeis a better place and a more inclusive community. We stand committed to diversity, transparency, accountability, and safety, and will continue to update the community about our progress.

For more information and previous updates, please see


Ron Liebowitz, President

Lisa M. Lynch, Provost

Andrew Flagel, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment

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Appoint a chief diversity officer/vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Mark Brimhall-Vargas has been named the University’s first CDO, and will begin his new role in January. Most recently, Mark was CDO and associate provost at Tufts, with primary responsibility for the implementation of that university’s 2013 President’s Diversity Report. Previously, he served for 17 years in various diversity-management positions, including deputy CDO, at the University of Maryland, College Park. Since 2000, he has held teaching positions at a variety of colleges and universities, taught courses in multicultural education, published numerous articles and book chapters, and presented at professional conferences across the country. Data gathered by the diversity survey will be released once Mark arrives on campus.

Provide diversity training for faculty and staff.

Faculty and staff were offered a series of three trainings this fall, including “Building an Inclusive Classroom,” “Inclusive Learning Spaces,” and “The Science of Diversity and Implicit Bias.” More than 120 faculty members and 200 staff members registered for at least one of these trainings, with many participants attending more than one.

Faculty chairs in the School of Arts and Sciences were given two videos that showed Brandeis students describing negative classroom interactions related to diversity, and that also included suggestions for creating a more inclusive classroom as well as sample questions for discussion. Chairs were asked to show the videos at department meetings and use them as a basis for discussion regarding the improvement of diversity and inclusion in classrooms.

More than 80 staff members are participating in staff reading groups organized around the topic of diversity. The core text is “Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do,” by Claude Steele.

Finally, with the sponsorship of the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, six faculty members in the sciences attended the 2016 Transforming Undergraduate STEM Education: Implications for 21st-Century Society conference, which focused on ways to improve teaching in STEM disciplines. Research has shown that, although these new teaching strategies benefit all students, there is a disproportionate benefit for first-generation students, low-income students and students of color within STEM disciplines.

Increase the recruitment and retention of under-represented faculty and staff of color.

Within the School of Arts and Sciences, searches have been approved for a tenure-line position in African-Anglophone literature, and for Kay Fellows in the areas of Asian-American Pacific Islander studies, and race and medicine.

Also in Arts and Sciences (the school where the majority of tenure and tenure-track hires occur), each search committee now includes a diversity representative. In recent years, Brandeis hiring committees have included diversity representatives; this year, the representatives have all been trained to understand the issue of implicit bias.

Last year, the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences sponsored the participation of four junior faculty members in the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity mentoring program. This year, we will again send a minimum of three faculty to the program.

Increasing the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students of color.

Following on the increased diversity of our fall entering class, the Students Exploring and Embracing Diversity (SEED) program took place in October. Sixty-nine students attended from 25 states, the largest attendance in our history. Fifty-three percent of the participants were first-generation students.
As we continue to grow our outreach to diverse schools and community-based organizations, in early November Admissions hosted an event for 20 high-school college counselors and representatives from community-based organizations, to share information about the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program.

Enhance excellence in teaching and learning.

The Task Force on General Education Requirements met throughout the fall. Discussions have included the possibility of framing new requirements that address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The Office of the Provost and the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences continue to organize and fund diversity, equity, and inclusion programming on campus. Most recently, Natasha Warikoo, of Harvard University, presented “The Diversity Bargain: Dilemmas of Race, Admissions, and Meritocracy at Elite Universities,” and Tony Jack, also of Harvard, presented “Moving from Access to Inclusion: Lessons From First-Generation College Students.”

Through staffing and programming, create inclusive communities that provide professional development and support for a more diverse community.

The Heller School for Social Policy has created the position of associate dean for diversity and inclusion, and the search to fill the position is underway.

This month, Atticus Ranck joined Brandeis as the new coordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Center. Atticus previously worked at SunServe Social Service Agency, in Wilton Manors, Florida, where he served as director of transgender services. Ranck brings extensive experience in supporting, educating, and advocating on behalf of the transgender community.

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Diversity, Excellence, and Inclusion Scholarship (DEIS) program was launched. Through the generosity of a new donor, the size of the cohort will increase next year and, for the first time, will include students in the sciences.

As part of a new core training curriculum implemented for Community Advisors in August 2016, new sessions on understanding the impact of social identity and diversity as well as community building with diverse populations were offered to all staff members.

Department of Community Living staff members participated in training sessions on social identity and diversity in August.

Community Advisors have offered nearly 60 multicultural-focused residence hall programs since the beginning of the school year as part of the Scales of Programming model.

The Department of Community Living this month piloted a new community outreach initiative called “My Home, My Community,” in which students were encouraged to celebrate various aspects of their identity; nearly 100 community members participated.

The Rape Crisis Center has posted “Get Help Now” signs in English, Spanish, Mandarin, French, Arabic, and Portuguese. In addition, the center is conducting student focus groups to improve programming and services for international students, students of color, and LGBTQ students

An upcoming program with the Black and Pink Project (an organization that looks at the prison industrial complex from the intersectional lens of race, sexual orientation, and gender identities) is scheduled for Monday, November 28, at 7 p.m. in the ICC Conference Room.

The Brandeis Counseling Center sponsored SWAWN — Spoken Words and Wellness Noise, which uses rap lyrics and the spoken word to understand ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

In addition to new hires this summer, the Counseling Center staff has engaged in a comprehensive multicultural training program to further improve cross-cultural mental-health competence.

The Office of Study Abroad is hosting a program on being black and studying abroad.

Brandeis developed a Waltham/Brandeis Freedom Team, which includes the Waltham mayor and chief of police.

The Hiatt Career Center hosted a variety of programs, including personal, professional, and leadership development for Intercultural Center student staff and leaders; “Navigating Gender and Race at Work,” coordinated by Hiatt’s Caroline O’Shea, in partnership with the Dialogues; and multiple “Negotiating Your First Job Salary” programs in collaboration with the Wage Project.

The Community Prejudice Response (CPR) task force — a group of staff, faculty, and students formed in 2006 to address issues of discrimination affecting the Brandeis community — is actively engaged in the support of students. If anyone experiences or witnesses acts of prejudice, the CPR asks for emails to be sent to The task force proactively nurtures an inclusive campus culture and is responsive (when necessary) to any acts of bias or prejudice.

Please visit for previous updates on the University’s Implementation Plan for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.