New representatives to the Board address plans
The Board of Trustees discussed some of the more prominent issues on campus, including sexual assault, tuition, dining services and diversity on campus at its first meeting of the year.
According to Junior Representative to the Board of Trustees Grady Ward in an interview with the Justice, although he was involved in two phone call meetings over the summer, this was his first time personally meeting members of the Board. This meeting was Senior Representative to the Board of Trustees Mohamed Sidique’s first meeting too, as he was elected to take over the position in September. Ward and Sidique said that they were both able discuss multiple on-campus issues with the Board of Trustees last week.
Ward discussed the way tuition increases impacts student perception of the University and “the way that, over time, the students have been kind of soured by consistent increases that don’t seem to be treated by the administration with the appropriate degree of severity or thought.” He said that initiated a conversation among senior administrators about the issue. Though he noted the administration tends to look at the budget on a macro perspective—or the way it impacts the way the University runs—he said that students are impacted on a micro level.
Sidique brought up the issue of diversity on campus. Although he said that the campus is diverse, he explained that a number of students in minority groups, as well as international students, feel that the amount of support on campus needs to improve. “It’s nice to have a diverse campus, but at the end of the day, how do you support them?” said Sidique. He said that the administration needs to get across that it is there to support these students. Sidique said that perhaps offering a course to first-year and second-year students regarding that realm of diversity would improve support on campus.
Ward and Sidique also said that they briefly expressed concerns regarding the current meal plans and meal swipes at the meeting.
The Board also discussed the issue of sexual assault on campus and how to improve support for students. “I’m personally really excited with the way things are progressing with both our compliance with Title IX and our sexual assault prevention services,” said Ward. “Being in these meetings, I learned about a lot of things that are going on behind the scenes that are intended to make this campus a safer place and intended to make the lives of students here better and really seeing the concrete steps that administration officials have enacted in the last year and also plan to enact in the next year.”
A group of students involved in the “Carry the Weight Together” day of action appeared at the Board of Trustees Audit Committee Meeting. Ward, who attended the meeting, said that Senior Vice President, Chief of Staff and Chief Legal Officer David Bunis ’83 did not open the door, though the students proceeded to enter regardless. He said that Bunis was initially perplexed and asked what was going on, but when it became apparent what was occurring, he gave the students a few minutes to speak at the meeting and asked them if they could leave after that so the meeting could readjourn. He said that the students present gave a summary of their frustrations, left a poster that they had made and then exited.
“The way I talked about that issue later on is within the context of Brandeis students caring deeply about their university and caring deeply about changing this place for the better,” said Ward.
Ward said that, although he is unsure of what occurred after the students left, they were not there when Ward left the meeting. He said that he is also planning to meet with students who attended the protest and that several senior administrators also reached out to those students to invite them to talk about those issues. Sidique was not in attendance at that particular committee meeting.
Both Ward and Sidique expressed optimism about working with the Board. Sidique noted that the Board members, many of whom are alumni, are “passionate about Brandeis” and “really care.”
Ward said that the Board is “excited about engaging the student voice and engaging the voice of professors.”
Ward also noted that the Board will now hold monthly meetings over the phone between meetings in order to remain up-to-date. Ward and Sidique also added that they are putting together a form for student input.