Trustees discuss Univ. finances
On April 24 and April 25, the Board of Trustees met for what University President Ron Liebowitz called “the most productive board meetings in [his] time at the university” in a May 10 email.
The Investment Committee met to start off the meetings, reviewing risk exposure, investment returns, expected cash flow, investment manager news and liquidity. Additionally, in terms of the University's endowment, Brandeis has performed better in generating returns than many of its peer institutions.
The Investment Committee also identified the need for “an enterprise-level review of the current conservative investment posture in light of the fact that peer universities have portfolios with higher risk levels and therefore higher expected returns,” per the May 10 email.
Following this meeting, the Board members and Liebowitz met in an executive session. Along with Board Chair Meyer Koplow, Liebowitz provided an update regarding the town hall meeting that followed the termination of men’s basketball coach Brian Meehan: The investigators are continuing to interview individuals who step forward with complaints and experiences, and reports are then forwarded to Koplow.
Following the executive meeting, the Academic Committee convened to tour the library, learn about the improvements made in the library over the past two years, visit the Maker Lab and discuss a proposal to establish a new program for a Bachelors of Science in applied mathematics.
During the Risk Management and Audit Committee meeting, trustees heard an update on the Workday system implementation, as well as a report from internal auditors on executive expenses and an internal audit plan for the upcoming year.
The Institutional Advancement Committee then heard a report on this year’s fundraising efforts. Compared to last year, the University received a similar number of gifts from friends of the University but fewer gifts from foundations and corporations. Phonathons, direct mail and online giving programs were more successful than in prior years, mostly due to last December’s “Giving Tuesday” event. According to the email, the committee will also reinstate a Gift Acceptance Committee to “meet regularly and make recommendations to the IA Committee and senior leadership regarding all matters related to fundraising.”
The Nominating and Governance Committee recommended an amendment to the bylaws requiring that each standing committee charge be approved annually by the full board. They also discussed restructuring board meetings to make them more effective, reviewed candidates they recommended to become trustees for the full board and talked about recruitment efforts for trustees.
The Resource Committee meeting consisted of many different financial reviews, including a review of their 2018 fiscal year financial and administrative goals, an update of the 2018 financial budget, a report on endowment policy and practice and an update on the implementation of the ERP-Workday.
On the second day of meetings, trustees focused on two issues. The first was a report from an ad-hoc committee that recommended solutions to issues relating to the suspension of retirement benefits in the 2009-10 academic year. The second was a proposal to divest fossil fuel holdings from the University’s endowment.
Stewart Uretsky, Brandeis’ executive vice president for Finance and Administration, and Sam Solomon, the University’s chief financial officer, presented a “financial primer” to the trustees on the basis of Brandeis’ financial model for obtaining revenues, spending money and maintaining a relationship with the University community. A similar presentation will be made to the faculty in the fall.
Divestment was then discussed in an executive session. A subcommittee was appointed to consider multiple options with the goal of arriving “at a decision on the divestment of fossil fuels within 60 days,” according to Leibowitz’s email.
An April 25 BrandeisNOW article detailed the election of five new members to the University’s Board of Trustees. Bonnie Berger ’83 is the Simons Professor of Mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Deborah Bial ’87 H’12 is the president and founder of the Posse Foundation. Jonathan Davis ’75 is a former vice chair of the Brandeis Board of Trustees and has now been re-elected to the board. Josh Kraft is the Nicholas president and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs in Boston, and Lan Xue ’90 MA ’91 is a founding partner at Trivest Advisor with 24 years of investing research experience in Chinese financial markets.