The much-anticipated preliminary framework for the University's strategic plan was released on Wednesday in an email to the Brandeis community from Provost Steve Goldstein '78.

 The document is another step closer to the culmination of a process that began in September of last year as University President Frederick Lawrence began his first full year in office.

According to Goldstein's email, "The framework seeks to ensure that Brandeis University remains a clear first choice for exceptional students, faculty, and staff committed to making a difference in the world."

This framework will be presented to the Board of Trustees at its meeting at the end of October, and after that meeting a final plan will be produced, to be approved by the Board in January.

The 14-page document discusses strategic directions for five categories: academic experience, discovery enterprise, community, campus and technology and stewardship. Goldstein wrote in his email to the community that the plan recognizes a full realization of the "Brandeis model."

This model, he said, "is a learning experience in the finest liberal arts tradition." Goldstein explained that it involves education in critical thinking, as well as discovery that "can be offered only by a small, research-intensive university at the leading edge of innovation."

The next step in moving toward the final plan is six feedback sessions, which are a chance for the community to share their opinions on the plan with the administration and others who have been in charge of drafting the framework. Those sessions started last Thursday and will finish tomorrow, with a discussion at 3 p.m. in the Levin Ballroom.

Professors also had a chance to give feedback at the faculty meeting on Thursday, where Lawrence and Goldstein introduced the framework and led a discussion.

While responses fluctuated between praise and criticism, the majority of the assembled faculty who spoke were critical of the plan's generality and lack of specific direction.

One faculty member called the framework a "vision on a hill" with "little substance." Another said it was "desperately uninspiring," and a third expressed her "disappointment and dismay" at the content of the framework.

Academically, the framework highlights potential new initiatives such as biomedicine and global health, engineering, integrated arts, legal and ethical studies, and a world issues forum. The framework also states the goal of making education personal and flexible, by providing a range of opportunities and mentorship.

At a feedback session on Friday, Prof. Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow (CLAS) said that she was worried about the repeated mentions of "programs" and the lack of mentions of "departments," wondering whether this kind of emphasis would reduce the power and autonomy of departments.

In terms of the University community, the framework focuses on celebrating the undeniable "distinctiveness" of Brandeis, as well as extending the University's global reach through alumni and other networks.

The plan also considers the need to enhance the campus and technology used by the University, making a commitment to "create campus spaces and facilities that enable and inspire" as well as making use of the innovative technology available for students, faculty and the global community.

Jason Bernard, the assistant director of Academic Technology for the International Business School, said at one of the feedback sessions that he wanted to see more of a focus on embracing the future of technology and doing business.

Finally, the framework emphasizes the need for financial strength, with an aim to invest in excellent programs, commit to financial stability and "build a strong, multifaceted community of individuals and institutions who actively support and invest in the future of Brandeis."

According to Goldstein, in an interview with the Justice last month, the framework is a work in progress and should not even be considered a draft of the final plan. "[It's] something we can ... interrogate, push against, respond to and ultimately decorate, fill out into the plan," he said. "By December, the plan will be in draft form ... and by January the Board of Trustees should be able to give us the green light to move ahead."

Student Union President Todd Kirkland '13 said in an interview with the Justice that there will be an announcement soon about a more student-exclusive feedback session, which will be held in the Shapiro Campus Center atrium either next Wednesday or the week after and will be moderated by Kirkland and Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel.

Some professors at the faculty meeting expressed a wish to see copies of the individual reports of the task forces involved, so as to gain some understanding of the process and of the specific ideas which were not expressed in the framework itself. Lawrence said that he and Goldstein would consider releasing the reports earlier than originally planned.

Goldstein and Lawrence also defended the framework, explaining that in a strategic plan, it is important to express "strategic" ideas rather than "tactical" ones, saying that the release of specific tactical plans would cause people to get mired in extraneous debate about the details.

Kirkland, who is on the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, said that he understands some of the criticisms given by faculty, but thinks that overall "it's a good framework to start the conversation."

Flagel agreed, saying that "The framework seems to be engendering the exact kind of discussion we want at this point."
"The framework is meant to be another stage of iterative discussion and feedback," said Goldstein in last month's interview. "It will evolve, it will reflect all that feedback."

At the end of the faculty meeting discussion, Lawrence made a promise to the gathered faculty: "What comes out in January will be inspiring."

-Andrew Wingens and Robyn Spector contributed reporting.