April Board of Trustees Meeting Report
Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,
I hope that you’ve had a productive semester, and I wish you all the best of luck as you finish up finals, and prepare yourself for the upcoming summer.
On April 24 and 25, the Board of Trustees met on campus. They heard updates about campus initiatives and challenges; took part in lunches with students, faculty, and staff; and held committee meetings. The meetings were engaging, and productive, and signaled a strong commitment from those in attendance to support Brandeis and its bright future.
The Board welcomed new trustee Lewin Wright ’84. Lewin majored in computer science and was commissioned a Naval officer in 1985. In July 2003, Lewin assumed the command of the USS Constitution, and was the ship’s first Black commanding officer. He has also served on the Brandeis Alumni Board from 2007 to 2010. We welcome Lewin and we look forward to working with him.
In the meeting's plenary session, the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit organization which works to help young people to seek mental health care, and to prevent suicide, addressed the Board, and provided a presentation regarding trends in college student mental health, along with strategies to support them.
I also updated the Board on various topics during the plenary session. A few include:
- I recognized the many accomplishments of Dean of Arts and Sciences Dorothy Hodgson, who after five years at Brandeis, is moving on to the next chapter in her life.
- I provided an update on our new initiative with the Kraft Group to combat antisemitism.
- I spoke about the recently convened Task Force on Academic Administrative Structure.
- And I updated the Board on undergraduate admissions numbers, fundraising progress in this calendar year, a new branding initiative, and the latest schedule for our upcoming 75th anniversary celebration.
I am pleased to share that the Board accepted the recommendations to grant the following faculty promotions and appointments:
- The promotion of Erin Gee who is in the Music department to the rank of Professor with tenure
- The promotion of Jonathan Touboul who is in the Mathematics department to the rank of Professor with tenure
- The promotion of Sebastian Kadener who is in the Biology department to the rank of Professor with tenure
- The promotion of Monika Mitra who at the Heller School of Social Policy and Management to the rank of Professor with tenure
- The promotion of Jerome Tharaud who is in the English department to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure
- The promotion of An Huang who is in the Mathematics department to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure
- The appointment of Olajumoke Yacob-Haliso who is in the African and African American Studies department to the rank of Associate Professor with tenure
- The appointment of James Cho who is in the Physics department to the rank of Professor with tenure
- Please join me in congratulating these faculty members. I am grateful for everything that each of these gifted faculty members does for the Brandeis community.
The Board also reelected the following trustees to new terms: Lewis Brooks ’80, P’16; Barbara A. Dortch-Okara ’71; Nancy Dreyer ’72; Monique Nelson; Greg Petsko; and Mark Surchin ’78.
In addition, real estate professional and art advisor John S. Foster '75, human rights advocate and founder of Beyond Conflict Tim Phillips, and the founder and CEO of several successful startups, Beth Marcus, were confirmed to the Board of Fellows.
Lastly, the Board approved memorial resolutions for two beloved Brandeis community members, former trustee Thomas Haskell Lee and former fellow Shirley Spero, P '82. May their memories be a blessing.
Highlights from the Board Committees
The Academy Committee approved a proposal to discontinue the Interdepartmental Program in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES) and return it to a track in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies (NEJS).
The committee also discussed strategic questions regarding Brandeis’ future, especially, regarding how to emphasize and support excellence in science while maintaining a strong liberal arts curriculum, and what that means in practice. Other discussions surrounded the question of if, and how, resource allocation should correlate with enrollment data.
The committee made recommendations to the Board for tenure and promotions.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee
This Committee met prior to the week of the Board meetings on campus. Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion LeManuel Lee Bitsóí, along with Haley Rosenfeld, Director of Institutional Research, shared an overview of the initial results of the campus climate survey that was administered last fall. The group analyzed the results and the participation rate, followed by discussion.
The group also discussed the different roles of the DEI Committee members with respect to advising the Board on DEI issues and ensuring that other committees obtain a DEI perspective in their work. The Committee voted to add disability to its mandate.
Institutional Advancement (IA) Committee
Senior Vice President Hannah Peters and Associate Vice President of Development Stephen Rodriguez reviewed FY '23 fundraising progress to date and projections for the remainder of the fiscal year, while also reviewing the structure for the upcoming comprehensive fundraising campaign. The committee also discussed overall opportunities and challenges in IA and campaign planning priorities against the current economic climate.
In addition, Assistant Vice President of Development Operations and Fundraising Support Lauren Wilson described plans to convene an Institutional Advancement working group to update, further develop, and clarify the university’s gift acceptance policy, in order to have consistent processes for the increased number, and complexity of, large gifts that are expected to come with a campaign.
Nominating and Governance Committee
The Nominating and Governance Committee met prior to the week of the Board meetings on campus. At the Nominating and Governance Committee meeting, members discussed amendments to the Board’s bylaws, strategic planning around new trustee recruitment, and maintaining an engaged Board of Trustees. The Committee voted to recommend renewal terms for several existing trustees and the addition of three new members to the Board of Fellows.
Members of the Resources Committee received an update on forecasted financial results and the budget for FY’24, and received an interim update on a deferred maintenance campus-wide analysis, led by Lois Stanley, our Vice President for Campus Planning and Operations. They also discussed Brandeis’ undergraduate financial aid practices and policies – led by Jen Walker, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid and Sherri Avery, Assistant Vice President of Student Financial Services.
Risk Management and Audit Committee
The Risk Management and Audit Committee reviewed and accepted the draft IRS Form 990; discussed the results from recent internal audits, which are complete; reviewed the audit plan for the FY'23 audit; and reviewed the university’s property, casualty, and liability insurance coverages; and its cash management policies and practices.
The Committee also received cybersecurity and public safety updates from David Albrecht, Chief Information Security Officer and Matt Rushton, Chief of Public Safety, respectively.
Student Life Committee
The Student Life Committee reviewed and discussed excerpts of the results of three campus-wide surveys: the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Climate Survey; the National College Health Assessment; and the Student Life Committee’s Survey. The Committee discussed how to use the data presented, and instances in which Brandeis responses diverge from national data, and will continue to discuss how these surveys inform the prioritization of their strategic work.
As always, I am grateful to the Board for their commitment to Brandeis. Their expertise is incredibly valuable as we look to forge a new path for the future of our university.
My sincere thanks also to all of the staff, faculty, and student representatives to the Board who provided their time and perspectives to these important conversations.