Liebowitz delivers first address to student body
University President-elect Ronald Liebowitz addressed students for the first time in Levin Ballroom on Tuesday, expressing his excitement toward joining the University community. Liebowitz stated that he was attracted to Brandeis due to its history of inclusivity, experimentation with curricula and teaching, and interaction among undergraduate and graduate departments.
In an interview with the Justice after his speech, Liebowitz said that he will be spending one day a week on campus starting in February “to really learn as much as I can in this four or five month period leading up to July First when I begin.” He was announced as the selected candidate for the University’s ninth president on Dec. 18, succeeding Interim President Lisa Lynch, who will return to her position as Provost.
Lynch briefly introduced Liebowitz’s remarks to a crowd, which included midyear students, Orientation Leaders and student activists and advocates. Liebowitz, who served as the president of Middlebury college for 11 years, stated, “The fact that it [Brandeis] was founded in order to be more inclusive, provide opportunities for students who had otherwise been denied access to many institutions, to me, is quite compelling.” He added that he found the combination of undergraduate, graduate and professional studies — and the fact that undergraduates at Brandeis can take courses on the graduate level — engaging. “That faculty members and programs collaborate and talk to one another like I haven’t seen at most universities and colleges — it’s really an amazing commitment to these three levels of education that was very compelling,” he said.
Liebowitz then expressed his hope that the University would consider its “historical willingness to go beyond what is typical” throughout the next year. “In other words,” he elaborated, “to be innovative, to experiment, to take risks in higher education. I think we’re in a period now in higher education where we need that. We need leadership and thinking a little bit differently on how to do things, on how to address issues, on how to engage students in a different way.”
Liebowitz added in his interview with the Justice that he felt it would be important to ensure “that Brandeis is in step with the times, to make sure that the education Brandeis offers really does meet the needs of students.” He declined to comment on particular areas his administration will focus on, emphasizing his intention to first speak to the students and community members.
After the speech, several of the student leaders of the Ford Hall 2015 movement presented Liebowitz with a folder containing information about their sit-in at the Bernstein-Marcus Administration Center last semester. Liebowitz told the Justice that he would review the information in the folder but declined to comment on the movement itself at this time. Student Union President Nyah Macklin ’16, who was among the students presenting the folder after the speech, could not be reached for comment by press time.
Liebowitz concluded his speech by expressing that he’s observed a connection among Waltham and Newton residents to the University. “People in this area have a connection, a deep connection to Brandeis whether or not they went to Brandeis. ... Everyone seems to have an opinion about Brandeis.” Liebowitz also congratulated Lynch on her time as interim University president, saying, “She’s had an incredibly challenging year that she’s handled, I think, most masterfully.”
Liebowitz added that he is looking forward to hearing about the thoughts, ideas and concerns of the student body. “Don’t hold back,” he told the audience. “It doesn’t matter if someone carries the title of president — it’s important to engage.”
Liebowitz's appointment represents the end of a months-long search process that began after the eighth University president, Frederick Lawrence, resigned last February.