April 2022 Board of Trustees Meeting Report
April 26, 2022
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
With the end of the semester rapidly approaching, I hope that you all are able to find time to rest and enjoy the warmer weather amid this busy season. Today, I am writing to report on actions taken by the Board of Trustees during its recent virtual meeting, held April 11-12.
I am delighted to share that the Board elected Lisa Kranc ’75 to a three-year term to continue serving as chair of the Board. Kranc is the first woman to serve as chair, a role she has held as interim chair since May 2021. The Board was also pleased to welcome new member and Brandeis alumnus, Dan Rueven ’09, to their ranks. Rueven is distinguished not only by his deep engagement to his alma mater but also his expertise in the fields of environmental sustainability and green investment.
During the meetings, the Board considered the FY23 budget, which included a proposal to leverage the university’s debt capacity to address Brandeis’ core needs and priorities, notably the construction of Science Phase 2A. The Board approved the budget and up to $150 million in tax-exempt debt to fund Science 2A and other critical capital projects. This vote marks a formative step toward realizing Brandeis’ vision for investing in the physical infrastructure that supports the quality of the university’s interdisciplinary research in the sciences. Planning and preparations for the building are underway, with a targeted date for the groundbreaking occurring early to mid-2024.
In an executive session, the Board heard a presentation from Provost Carol Fierke, Executive Vice President Stew Uretsky, and myself on a number of initiatives being undertaken to define, measure, and pursue the most critical priorities for the long-term success of Brandeis. Following this presentation and discussion, I offered the Board an update on the progress of the series of conversations on contemporizing Brandeis’ Jewish identity and founding values that I have conducted with multiple groups across the university community this semester, a topic I first introduced to and discussed with the Board in October 2021. I also spoke about some of the ways by which the university is strengthening its commitment to these values, including Brandeis’ Initiative on Antisemitism, which will launch with a concert at Slosberg Recital Hall by acclaimed pianist Boris Berman on May 7.
Later in the meeting, I offered an update on plans to strengthen the university’s relationship with the Waltham community and shared some details for our plans to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Brandeis’ founding over the 2023-2024 academic year. The celebration, still in its planning stages, will include a variety of communications, events, activities, seminars, and installations that will engage all members of the Brandeis community, including alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents and friends, and members of the Waltham community.
The Board also considered and approved bylaw amendments regarding continued faculty and student representation and participation on the Board. Together with the bylaw amendments adopted last January that I reported on earlier, these amendments reflect the best practices recommended following our governance review led by outside experts last semester. A major goal of that review was to enhance communications between stakeholders and maximize effectiveness of Board decision-making.
Finally, I am pleased to share that the Board took the following actions to grant tenure and promotions to these outstanding members of our faculty:
- Charles Golden was promoted to the rank of professor with tenure in the department of anthropology.
- Alice Hsiaw was promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure in the International Business School.
- Alexander Kaye, the Karl, Harry, and Helen Stoll Chair in Israel Studies, was promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure in the department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.
- Jean-Paul L’Huillier was promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure in the department of economics.
- Siri Suh was promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure in the department of sociology.
- Benjamin R. Shiller was promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure in the department of economics.
- Brian Swingle was promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure in the department of physics.
- Ilana Szobel, the Joseph H. and Belle R. Braun Chair in Modern Hebrew Literature, was promoted to the rank of professor with tenure in the department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies.
Please join me in congratulating Professors Golden, Hsiaw, Kaye, L’Huillier, Suh, Shiller, Swingle, and Szobel.
Highlights from the Board Committees
In the Academy Committee meeting, members of the committee heard a presentation from School of Arts and Sciences Dean Dorothy Hodgson on the anti-racist plans, programming, and infrastructure that have been implemented to support faculty of color through recruitment, retention, and efforts to increase feelings of inclusion and belonging.
The Committee also voted to discontinue the one-year master’s program in musicology. Feedback from the Board of Trustees on the activities and operations of the Academy Committee was also discussed by the committee.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee was introduced to the recently appointed Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion LeManuel “Lee” Bitsóí, who shared his background and vision for leading DEI efforts at the university. VP Bitsóí also discussed some of the areas he would like to address, including the need for a university-wide DEI plan, in order to enhance DEI across the university in consultation and collaboration with students, faculty, and staff.
The DEI Committee also heard about programs that were hosted during DEIS Impact from Director of the Gender and Sexuality Center Julián Cancino and Director of the Intercultural Center Habiba Braimah.
Institutional Advancement Committee
The Institutional Advancement Committee heard an update on the progress of fundraising for FY22 through the third fiscal quarter. Fundraising continues at a promising pace, with new gifts and pledges, cash revenues, and unrestricted operating cash totals all significantly ahead compared to last year. When controlling for Springboard and realized bequests, FY22 totals reflect continued notable fundraising momentum compared to the historical average over the past 10 fiscal years.
An update on campaign planning work was also discussed.
Nominating and Governance Committee
The Nominating and Governance Committee discussed refinement of the process used to recruit new trustees by identifying gaps in current Board membership and best practices for recruitment.
Ahead of the full Board vote, the Resources Committee reviewed and approved the FY23 budget proposal, including the up to $150 million in tax-exempt debt issuance. Upon the committee’s recommendation, the Board voted to approve the proposed FY23 budget. The committee also heard updates on the search for a new dining service provider and the ongoing housing planning study.
Since the Board meeting, the new dining service provider, Harvest Table Culinary Group, has been announced to the university community.
Risk Management and Audit Committee
The Risk Management and Audit Committee reviewed and approved the IRS Form 990, the annual tax filing that most tax-exempt organizations must file that gives the IRS an overview of the university’s activities, governance, and detailed financial information. They were also were given updates on the upcoming audit plan for FY23 from university external auditors and a report from the internal auditors on executive procurement card expenses, the completion of cybersecurity testing by IT Security, and the progress made toward identifying potential solutions that address the challenges the higher education industry faces with regard to securing insurance coverage, gaps in coverage, and increases in premiums. The committee also reviewed the status of the university's conflict of interest and employee background check policies.
Student Life Committee
The Student Life Committee heard a number of updates on the Hiatt Career Center, the Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC), and the Division of Student Affairs. The committee was informed that the Hiatt Career Center has reorganized a few departments so that it can more effectively achieve its mission through enhanced recruiting pipelines and external partnerships. Additionally, the BCC and the Division of Student Affairs discussed mental health trends at Brandeis compared to other institutions of higher education, along with programming like Health and Wellness Day deployed to support student wellbeing.
Associate Director Lara Ericson from the Center for Spiritual Life gave a presentation on the faith and spirituality-based offerings, programs, and counseling available to students, and Executive Director of Hillel and Director of the Center for Spiritual Life Rabbi Seth Winberg provided an overview on the support made possible by the network of professional staff and student leaders involved with the office.
As ever, I remain grateful to the Board for its generous support of the university. These meetings provide us with the opportunity to benefit from the trustees’ collective expertise, wisdom, and stewardship of Brandeis, and I am pleased to be able to continue to rely on their guidance.