Office of the President

September Board of Trustees Meeting Report

October 3, 2022

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

I hope the first part of the fall semester has gotten off to a great start. I am writing to report on the recent Board of Trustees meetings, which were held in person on September 19 and 20. This was the first time since January of 2020 that the Board was able to convene on campus. It was a pleasure to welcome members back and to have a productive set of conversations.

At the meetings, we welcomed three new Trustees: Marjorie Hass, Leonard X Rosenberg ’89, and Jay Ruderman ’88, H’18. The Board looks forward to working with them and benefiting from their expertise in academia, law, and social entrepreneurship as we advance the mission of the university.

In the meeting's plenary session, I updated the Trustees on topics related to student life and provided information about the larger-than-expected Class of 2026. Further, I made note of our revised COVID-19 policies on campus, and lastly shared updates related to the curriculum.

Also in the plenary session, Hannah Peters, interim senior vice president of Institutional Advancement, provided a detailed fundraising update. She reported on the excellent fundraising results from the past fiscal year, which included surpassing goals and securing gifts in key areas.

Over the course of the two days, Trustees also had the opportunity to meet with a number of students, faculty, and staff, in committees and over lunch and dinner.

I am especially pleased to share that the Board accepted the recommendations from the administration to grant the following faculty promotions and appointments:

  • Tory Fair to the rank of professor with tenure in the department of Fine Arts.
  • Paul Miller to the rank of professor with tenure in the department of Biology.
  • Prakash Kashwan to the rank of associate professor with tenure in the program in Environmental Studies.
  • Jeffrey A. Lenowitz to the rank of associate professor with tenure in the department of Politics.
  • W. Benjamin Rogers to the rank of associate professor with tenure in the department of Physics.

Please join me in congratulating these faculty for their excellent teaching and research, as well as their significant contributions to the Brandeis community.

Highlights from the Board Committees

Academy Committee

The Academy Committee heard updates from Dean of Admissions Jen Walker, as well as the Deans of each graduate school regarding student enrollments in each of the schools. Provost Carol Fierke and the Deans provided an update on the university-wide Ph.D. program review. The board also heard an overview of faculty data by Provost Fierke and Haley Rosenfeld, director of Institutional Research.

The committee voted to recommend the closure of three master's programs in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences to the full Board: Global Studies, Comparative Humanities, and Genetic Counseling. The Board accepted the committee’s recommendation during the meeting's plenary session.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee received a number of updates, including on the status of the university-wide Anti-Racism Plans, the Black Action Plan, and the reorganization of the Office of DEI under its new leadership. Members of the committee recognized the accomplishments of the previous academic year and heard goals for the office for the coming year. They also learned of the plans for a campus-wide climate survey.

Institutional Advancement (IA) Committee

Members of the IA Committee reviewed highlights from the outstanding past year of fundraising. Results were driven by major new endowments—largely coming from alumni—including 6 new professorship endowments and an endowment to launch the Samuels Center for Community Partnerships and Civic Transformation. Goals for FY’23 build on this momentum, as well as focus on an upcoming campaign. Plans right now are for the "quiet phase" of the campaign to begin July 1, 2023. And finally, the committee discussed preliminary plans for the 75th anniversary celebration.

Nominating and Governance Committee

The Nominating and Governance Committee, as it does at every meeting, discussed potential Trustees to recruit. Members reviewed recent governance changes and considered new bylaw amendments.

Resources Committee

The Resources Committee meeting reviewed operating results for the last fiscal year (FY’22), which showed a modest surplus. The committee spent time on the current (FY’23) operating forecast, which projects a surplus similar in size. Members of the committee then received updates related to the "Science Phase 2A" construction project, which the Board previously approved for funding through a debt issuance at its April meeting

Lastly, the group discussed the university's decarbonization study and a comprehensive housing study aimed at improving residential life on campus.

Risk Management and Audit Committee

Members of the Risk Management and Audit Committee received a report on the annual audit of the university’s financial statements. This audit is still ongoing, with a target for completion in October. Additionally, committee members discussed an internal audit of the university’s payroll operations and reviewed the internal audit plan for the next three years. The committee then held a follow up discussion on the changing insurance market and the challenges the university is facing (e.g., increasing costs) and the options for addressing the challenges.

The committee also received updates on ongoing information technology (IT) projects and developments surrounding the re-imagining of the university’s approach to public safety.

Student Life Committee

The Student Life Committee meeting began with a presentation from student representatives Inaara Gilani ’23 and Shelley Polanco ’24. Gilbert Hinga, interim director of the Brandeis Counseling Center, spoke about efforts to increase students’ access to therapists. Leah Berkenwald, director of Health and Wellness Promotion, and Matt Galewski, director of Student Engagement, explained how the university is addressing mental health and wellness through campus-wide events. Kate Stutz, director of Pre-Health Advising, presented the work of her unit and updated the group on new initiatives and programming.

I remain extremely grateful to the Board for its continued and thoughtful engagement over the course of these meetings and beyond. I would like to thank the many staff members who played integral roles in the successful reconvening of our Board after many months of virtual work. And thanks, too, to the faculty and student representatives to the Board for their valuable contributions to Trustee discussions.

Best regards,

Ron Liebowitz