President Ronald Liebowitz reports on the Board of Trustees meeting
At the most recent Board of Trustees meeting and retreat, the trustees discussed, among other topics, a retirement plan for tenured faculty and the draft principles on free expression, according to an email from University President Ron Liebowitz. The trustees will address the hot-button topic of fossil fuel divestment at the January board meeting, he wrote.
“As the report suggests, Brandeis has much work to do to be the institution it has aspired to be from its founding. My hope is that many of you will join in working toward this goal, providing the ideas, energy, and goodwill,” Liebowitz wrote in his Nov. 27 email to the community.
During the meeting, which took place from Nov. 13 to 15, the full board voted to accept three resolutions from the Academy Committee, including the promotion of Prof. Olga Papaemmanouil (COSI) to associate professor with tenure and the approval of two new graduate school programs: Master of Science in robotic software engineering within the Rabb School of Continuing Studies and Master of Science in business analytics within the Brandeis International Business School.
The Academy Committee also heard a report on the Pathway to Retirement Plan for Tenured Faculty, which was first proposed in 2014 and has since become University policy.
The board also received summary updates on the town hall discussions from the Task Force on Free Expression and the new general education curriculum approved by faculty earlier this month.
Undergraduate admissions reported an increased number of applicants, both domestically and internationally. The Nominating and Governance Committee, meanwhile, reviewed a list of potential trustee candidates and discussed goals for the coming year, including University bylaw review and assessing trustee orientation. Additionally, they approved a proposal to appoint a senior administrator to serve as University treasurer.
The Risk Management and Audit Committee gave a report on the University’s information and technology security and gave updates on both the Affirmative Action Plan audit from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Enterprise Resource planning “workday” effort — an administrative software update, which Liebowitz notes is a “multi year multimillion dollar implementation underway.”
The Resources Committee heard a presentation from Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration Stew Uretsky on the goals for the 2018 fiscal year, which also included a discussion with the board on the range of higher education impacts that could occur from tax legislation from the U.S.
The Advancement Committee reported that the University raised $99 million in FY17, including the largest gift in the University’s history at $48.4 million. The University seeks to increase programming and foster relations with new friends and alumni, Liebowitz reported.
The concluding plenary session of the board included a discussion on administrative structure and the division of “student life” and “enrollment.” Liebowitz said, “The goal of this phase … is to integrate more consciously the academic and non-academic aspects of both our undergraduate and graduate students’ education.”
Graduate and undergraduate student representatives discussed with the board issues and challenges they face regarding student life.
The board’s two-day retreat following the meeting sought to “revisit roles and responsibilities of trustees in what for many of them is an unfamiliar environment — higher education,” and engaged in discussions of best practice for “when and how trustees should engage with students, faculty, or staff,” Liebowitz wrote.
He concluded his report with a summary of his executive session with the trustees, in which he reported on 33 self-reflection documents regarding University programming and their independent analyses of impact.
He noted that two immediate issues were highlighted during the session, both featuring faculty resolutions: The forfeiture of University retirement contributions by faculty during recession and the divestment of fossil fuels from the University’s endowment.
“The trustees agreed that we need to engage both issues as a full board and cost to resolution, if not total agreement, on each,” wrote Liebowitz, who explained that time will be set aside in January for the board to meet with faculty, staff and student representatives. However, he noted, “I cannot guarantee a particular outcome for either issue.”