September Board of Trustees Meeting Report
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
I hope that your semesters are off to a productive beginning.
I'd like to share updates from the recent Board of Trustees meetings, which took place here on campus Sept. 11 and 12. During their time at Brandeis, the Trustees held various committee meetings and lunched with students, faculty and staff to hear about their hopes for our university.
I remain optimistic about Brandeis' future following these recent meetings with the Trustees; they are a group comprised of impressive, and thoughtful, professionals who are dedicated to Brandeis' success.
The Board welcomed new Trustee David Harris, who is a distinguished veteran of Jewish-affairs advocacy. David has been at the helm of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) for 30+ years. He has been honored worldwide for his humanitarian and advocacy efforts, and he has led the vast expansion of the AJC, building its influence through relationships with Jewish community organizations, and more than 100 national governments worldwide. We are grateful that he has agreed to work with us in setting a path for Brandeis' future.
In the meeting's plenary session, I updated the Board on strategic thinking to plan for a sustainable and successful future of Brandeis, answering a number of questions from an engaged group about how Brandeis could address some of the headwinds facing higher education. We spoke about maintaining excellence in providing both an excellent undergraduate liberal arts education and a stellar research endeavor.
I also provided updates about the status of the work of the Task Force on Academic Administrative Structure and PhD and MA degree reviews; I shared details on our impressive incoming class of undergraduates; our upcoming 75th anniversary; our ongoing commitment to antisemitism initiatives; and some of our work on strengthening our relationships with institutions abroad.
Lastly, I introduced the Board to our new Dean of Arts and Sciences Jeffrey Shoulson, who joins us from the University of Connecticut where he was senior vice provost, and to Carmen Aguilar, the new VP of the Rabb School, who was most recently Dean of Continuing Studies at Providence College. We are very glad to welcome them both to Brandeis.
I am pleased to share that the Board accepted the recommendations to grant the following faculty promotions and appointments:
- Promotion of Linda Bui (Economics) to the rank of pProfessor with tenure, effective immediately.
- Promotion of Faith Smith (African and African American Studies/English) to the rank of professor with tenure, effective immediately.
- Promotion of Douglas Theobald (Biochemistry) to the rank of professor with tenure, effective immediately.
- Promotion of Joseph Wardwell (Fine Arts) to the rank of professor with tenure, effective immediately.
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.
Highlights from the Board Committees
Provost Carol Fierke presented a report on tenure and tenure-track faculty hires in 2023-24. The committee then delved into a strategic conversation on enrollment trends in undergraduate education and on undergraduate education at Brandeis more broadly. The committee also started a discussion about the role of master's programs at Brandeis.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee
The DEI Committee met prior to the week of the Board meetings on campus. Members discussed specific goals for the DEI Committee and how those correspond with the Board's overall strategic goals.
Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion LeManuel "Lee" Bitsóí presented a DEI professional development draft questionnaire. He also shared a draft DEI addendum to the Framework for the Future for discussion. He will be moving forward to finalize that document and also continue drafting a university-wide DEI Strategic Plan.
Institutional Advancement (IA) Committee
Senior Vice President Hannah Peters and Vice President of Development Stephen Rodriguez reviewed FY '23 fundraising results, discussed Institutional Advancement goals for FY ’24 and outlined next steps in the comprehensive fundraising campaign.
In addition, the committee discussed the upcoming 75th anniversary, including the Global Service Initiative, which invites Brandeis community members worldwide to participate in acts of service; various regional events; and the latest on the main celebration weekend in October.
Nominating and Governance Committee
The Nominating and Governance Committee met prior to the week of the Board meetings on campus. At this meeting, members discussed Trustee candidate recruitment.
The Resources Committee welcomed all Trustees to its meeting to discuss issues of broad interest to the Board. They received an update on FY '23 operating results and forecasted FY '24 operating margins. There was also a presentation and discussion on strategic planning for near- and long-term capital investment in campus housing, the Science 2A project and addressing the significant backlog of deferred maintenance across campus buildings.
Risk Management and Audit Committee
The Risk Management and Audit Committee received a high-level update on the audit of the university's financial statements for FY '23. There were also updates on the state of higher education and accounting from RSM, Brandeis’s external auditors. IT staff provided a briefing on current efforts to improve internal cybersecurity. Chief Matthew Rushton updated the committee on continued evolution of Public Safety, particularly with respect to community engagement. The Trustees were also provided an update on the services now being provided by DPV, Brandeis' new transportation operator including, for example: the Brandeis logo on all buses; a new shuttle app Tripshot to track available routes and shuttle locations in real-time; and a seat reservation system for the Boston/Cambridge shuttle.
Student Life Committee
The Student Life Committee met Sept. 20, 2023. Committee members and student representatives discussed campus priorities, focusing on housing and dining issues. The committee is eager to focus on how to ensure that students have the services, activities and environment necessary to support their experience at Brandeis. The committee also talked about the factors that one must keep in mind when thinking about housing in the modern era, including fostering community, technology, sustainability and safety. The administration shared updates regarding dining, including how meal plans help address food insecurity; and facilities upgrades, including the new accessible ramp to the counseling center and upgrades to the Shapiro Campus Center.
I'm thankful to the Board for its steadfast commitment to Brandeis. 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, which I know will serve to move our university forward.