Review committee releases proposals
The Centers and Institutes Review Committee presented several recommendations in its report, which was released yesterday, such as making directors of the University's centers and institutes regular members of the Brandeis faculty, creating the Academic Priorities Committee to consider the overall academic planning of centers and institutes, and ensuring that centers and institutes cover their indirect costs as best as possible.According to the report, other "major" recommendations include forming steering committees for all centers and institutes; seeing that the steering committees "work together with Center directors and relevant academic departmental chairs to define shared goals and to best allocate resources for faculty, student support, and program expenses;" and establishing "incentives that promote engagement and cooperation between Centers and relevant faculty."
The recommendations also state that centers and institutes contribute to the University's educational mission and that "all paid and unpaid research appointments associated with Centers should be of limited term and meet university standards of scholarly or practitioner excellence."
The Centers and Institutes Review Committee was charged by University Provost Marty Krauss to offer recommendations regarding "how to maximize Centers/Institutes' academic and fiscal contributions to the university's core missions of teaching, scholarship, and public engagement," according to the committee's website.
In an interview with the Justice, committee chair Prof. Susan Birren (BIOL) said, "One of the findings of the committee is that there has been a lack of communication between different units of the University." She stated that some departmental faculty had questions about the role of centers and institutes and how they financially operate. "Likewise, from the centers [and institutes,] there's this sense that they would like to be more integrated, but it's not clear how to do that integration," explaining that the recommendations emphasized transparency.
Krauss said in an interview with the Justice that she thought the "most fundamental recommendation" was concerned with the creation of steering committees.
The report recommends that all centers and institutes should have steering committees that include departmental faculty selected by the dean of Arts and Science and the provost in consultation with directors of centers and institutes.
With regard to finances, Birren told the Justice that the committee was mostly charged with making recommendations about the governance of centers and institutes and communication within centers, institutes and departmental faculty.
In this financial section of the report, the committee writes, "All Center programs and operating expenses that constitute direct costs should be fully supported by outside funding sources secured by the Center." However, the report also states, "While Centers should cover indirect costs to the greatest extent possible, we recommend that complete coverage of these costs not be required. Nevertheless, the university should develop and define clear indirect cost rates that approximate the overhead costs incurred by the individual Center."
Currently, the provost's guidelines for centers and institutes mandate that all centers and institutes fully fund both direct and indirect costs, according to the report. The report states "The mandate to cover all costs is not typical of our peer institutions, many of which do not require that Centers fully cover indirect costs."
"Many Centers do not have a funding structure that allows them to fully cover their indirect costs, forcing them out of compliance with university policy," according to the report. The report states that indirect costs borne by the University are likely to exceed 15 percent of expenses for the centers and institutions.
Birren told the Justice, "The money was given to [centers and institutes] with the understanding that it was going to be used to carry out research projects or specific set of activities, so the question isn't 'Can we divert from the centers and institutes?' but 'How can we work . together in order to maximize the ability of those funded activities?"
In an interview with the Justice, Krauss said that she is meeting with the directors of centers and institutes this week to discuss the report.
She said that she will also meet with the committee to "try and flush out some of their thinning behind some of the recommendations" and discuss the report with other faculty members.
"I think it's a complicated report. It will take some time to digest it and identify what the appropriate process and step will be for implementing recommendations," Krauss said.
-Alana Abramson and Fiona Lockyer contributed reporting.