October Board of Trustees Meeting Report
Oct. 15, 2021
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
I am writing to report on the recent Board of Trustees meetings which were held virtually October 4-5 and led by the new Chair of the Board, Lisa Kranc ’75.
It is with great pleasure that I share that Stephen Berger ’59 has rejoined the Board. Berger previously served as the chair of the Board’s finance committee during his first term as a Trustee from 1994 to 2003, and the Board is delighted to now welcome him back.
In the main plenary session of the meetings, I offered an update on the success of Brandeis’ pandemic-related policies, which include the University’s mandatory vaccination and testing requirements. Roughly 97% of the on-campus population is fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Throughout the semester thus far, there has been a remarkably low positivity rate on campus, especially when compared to the positivity rate across Massachusetts and the average rate across other institutions of higher education in the state. It is my hope that with the continued cooperation of the community with our shared health and safety protocols, we will be able to maintain our success in limiting the spread of COVID-19 on campus. I included in the report, too, the great challenges many of our students, faculty, and staff have faced during the pandemic, and how we are trying our best to keep up with the demand for mental health support and provide other means of helping the community.
I also reported on the status of our progress toward developing the University’s Anti-Racism Plans. As David Fryson, interim chief diversity officer and vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion and I detailed at the beginning of the semester, we have pursued — and recently concluded — the feedback portion of the process, and we are continuing with review and revision. Now, departments university-wide are working to revise their plans, which we look forward to sharing with the community later this fall.
Later in the meeting, the Board voted unanimously to advance and deepen Brandeis' commitment to sustainability. These policies build upon the success of our previous commitments and distinguish Brandeis as a leader when it comes to combatting climate change.
Finally, I am pleased to share that following faculty were promoted to the rank of professor with tenure with the approval of the Board:
- Sara Shostak in the Department of Sociology and the Health: Science, Society, and Policy Program
- Suzanne Paradis in the Department of Biology
Their achievement is a testament to the impact of their teaching and scholarship, and the Board and I offer our warmest congratulations to them both.
Highlights from the Board Committees
In the Academy Committee meeting, members were updated on enrollment of the undergraduate student body by Jen Walker, dean of admissions and financial aid. Also, the committee was provided an update on enrollment trends for our graduate and professional school programs.
Provost Carol Fierke led a conversation on the profile of our faculty. She reviewed the age distribution, recent hiring numbers, compensation trends, and trends in BIPOC faculty recruitment. The committee also heard from Carol Osler, chair of the Brandeis Faculty Senate, and Professor Joel Christensen, the most recent chair of the Brandeis Faculty Senate, about a number of recommendations that came out of faculty focus groups that were held over the summer.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
David Fryson, interim chief diversity officer (CDO) and vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion was introduced to members at the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee meeting, and Provost Carol Fierke described the state of the search for a permanent CDO. A search committee has been established, and listening sessions with faculty, staff, and students have begun to help the committee receive input and feedback on the position.
The group also received an update on the progress of the campus Anti-Racism Plans, and reviewed data on this year’s first-year students — the Class of 2025.
Institutional Advancement Committee
The Institutional Advancement (IA) Committee received an overview of the FY21 year-end results, FY22 goals, and fundraising progress to date. Notably, though early in the fiscal year, fundraising results in the first quarter (July 1 through September 30) are well ahead of last year’s totals.
The IA Committee also reviewed the Alumni Relations Strategic Plan for FY22, which will include planning for a first ever volunteer leadership convocation, preparing for an analysis on the impact of Alumni Weekend, and ensuring that Alumni Relations programming and clubs approach all their activities with a DEI lens.
Members of the Committee also heard an update on planning for a campaign, including the Campaign Working Group’s efforts this fiscal year and activities for the coming months. These will include reviews of an analysis of the University’s prospect base, the findings of a campaign feasibility assessment, and fundraising plans associated with university priorities.
In the Resources Committee meeting, members reviewed the FY21 financial results and an update on the FY22 financial forecast. As in previous years, the operating results reflected a slim but positive margin and the forecast for a balanced budget remains for the current year. The University’s food services contract with Sodexo runs through June 2022, so members were also offered an update on the associated RFP process. Information Technology Services also reported on the successful on-time, on-budget Workday student implementation, as well as the status of the Salesforce implementation, in support of the University's fundraising efforts.
Additionally, the committee received a report from Human Resources, which included information about return-to-campus trainings and various support services being offered to help employees transition back to on-campus work, as well as an update on key initiatives such as the creation of an Employee Benefits Advisory Council and Performance Management Committee.
Risk Management and Audit Committee
The Risk Management and Audit Committee received an update on the clean audit opinion of the University’s external auditor, RSM US, on Brandeis’ financial statements.
The committee also heard from the University’s internal auditor, the Boston Consortium (TBC), which presented recommendations to expand the scope of eligibility for employee background checks and confidentiality agreements. TBC also conducted a review of certain Human Resources business functions which included new hires, terminations, and job changes.
The Department of Public Safety also provided an update on campus engagement and the Reimagining Public Safety Initiative.
Student Life Committee
Members of the Student Life Committee heard from Director of Brandeis Athletics, Lauren Haynie, who gave an overview of the programs and resources for varsity athletes, club and intramural sports participants, and the general student population. The committee discussed strategies for developing greater community engagement with Brandeis Athletics, better supporting the specific needs of student athletes, and encouraging students to utilize athletic and wellness programs.
The committee also heard from Shelby Harris, Assistant Vice President for Student Engagement and Campus Life. She discussed a range of goals for enhancing the advising of student club leaders, facilitating university-wide programming, and generating vibrant campus life through building new traditions, alumni engagement, and high-impact in-person programming.
Nominating and Governance Committee
The Nominating and Governance Committee reviewed Board member compliance with the fiduciary training program that is required of trustees under the new Massachusetts law. They also engaged in discussion of plans for the November Board retreat at which Board governance and operations will be the focus.
Throughout the meetings, members of the Board participated in a variety of thought-provoking and productive sessions and discussions. I remain grateful for their engagement, and I look forward to their continued partnership in our shared work of advancing the mission of our university. As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out.