Update on the Framework and the Accessibility Forum

Jan. 28, 2019

Dear Brandeisians, 

Welcome back to campus. I hope that you’re enjoying settling into your new classes and routines.

I write to update you on the task forces and working groups charged with advancing “A Framework for Our Future,” which I outlined in my October 29 address to the university, and to share some reflections on last week’s Accessibility Forum.

But let me begin with an important request. I know you receive many communications every day, but I urge you to make the university’s messages about the Framework a priority. A new vision for Brandeis will be possible only if all of us participate in charting our future — together.

Since my October speech, we have formed three task forces to pursue recommendations on how Brandeis can build on our enviable strengths and address some of our enduring challenges. More than 90 faculty, students, staff, and administrators are working diligently and engaging the Brandeis community to enhance the strength of our university.

The first of these groups, the Task Force on the Student Living/Learning Experience at Brandeis, is chaired by Kim Godsoe, associate provost for academic affairs, and Sara Shostak, associate professor of sociology and Health: Science, Society, and Policy. You can learn more about this task force, as well as its five working groups, here. Currently, the task force is exploring the advantages and disadvantages of a residential house system and how this system might be complemented by a decentralized advising model, with the overarching goal of offering students a greater sense of home and belonging on campus.

The Task Force on Supporting Research, Creativity, and Collaborative Innovation is chaired by Professor Constance Horgan, director of the Institute for Behavioral Health at the Heller School, and Sacha Nelson, the Gyula and Katica Tauber Professor of Life Science. You may read more about this task force here. It is now meeting with constituencies engaged in research across the university.

I chair the third group, the Task Force on Honoring Our Founding Values; its vice chairs are Jon Levisohn, the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Associate Professor of Jewish Educational Thought, and Chad Williams, the Samuel J. and Augusta Spector Professor of History, and African and African American Studies. More information about this task force and its two working groups may be found here. The Working Group on Equal Opportunity, Social Impact, and Community Engagement met recently to discuss effective solutions to long-standing challenges, and the Working Group on Jewish Scholarship, Leadership, and Service met with members of the Brandeis Seminar on Contemporary Jewish Life to discuss the university’s current and future Jewish identity.

Though the work of these groups is crucial, it hardly takes place in a vacuum. Beyond the 90-plus individuals officially involved in the process, all the task forces and working groups stay in constant consultation and dialogue with the broader Brandeis community.

A fourth task force, which will begin its work later this spring, will consider broad issues of campus infrastructure. One major area it will address is accessibility. In anticipation of its work, each of the other three task forces will consider questions of accessibility as they address issues related to student life, scholarly and creative endeavors, and institutional values.

The task forces’ exploration of accessibility will certainly be informed by the January 22 campus-wide Accessibility Forum, organized by a group of student leaders and administrators. It highlighted important steps Brandeis must take to make our campus a supportive and inclusive place for all community members. I have requested that all members of my senior leadership team examine ways they can begin immediately to address the issues raised at this forum. In the coming months, additional forums — supported by Kim Godsoe and Mark Brimhall-Vargas, chief diversity officer and vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion — will be organized with student leaders. These forums will develop specific recommendations related to services for students, faculty, and staff with disabilities, both physical and nonphysical. Look for an email from Kim and Mark later in the semester, which will provide updates on this process.

The Framework website includes several places that invite you to submit your thoughts and ideas to the task forces, as well as to the Steering Committee of the overarching Framework process. I encourage you to engage with us through these online forms. Over the coming months, each of the task forces will also hold open meetings, where you can learn more about its work and participate in discussions.

By attending these meetings and engaging with the task forces, you all have the chance to leave a lasting mark on the future of our young university. I hope you will get involved.