EDITORIAL: Appreciate Liebowitz’s early successes
At the start of this semester, this board issued President Ronald Liebowitz a challenge. We called on him to avoid “the trope of the dispassionate establishment leader,” in an Aug. 30 editorial, and asked him to communicate clear stances on a number of issues for the University community to really learn who their new president was.
Now that Liebowitz has helmed the University for a semester, it’s time to give credit where it is due. This board applauds Liebowitz’s unflinching dive into establishing a path for Brandeis’ future and his emphasis on transparent communication throughout the process.
In the course of four months, Liebowitz has shared more information with students about administrative plans and priorities than his predecessor, Frederick Lawrence, would in a full semester. Liebowitz articulated at his inauguration that he believes the University’s “start-up phase is over,” and that his job is to lay a sustainable groundwork for Brandeis’ future, economically and pedagogically. To accomplish this, he’s commissioned, completed and shared two frank assessments of the University’s spending and marketing strategies, as well as provided regular and detailed summaries of Board of Trustees meetings.
It’s no surprise that Liebowitz leaps naturally into the business end of the presidency, coming as he does from years of management at Middlebury College.
What is surprising and welcome are his communication skills. The Brandeis community loves to criticize and freely debate its own future, and providing open information about the administration’s own priorities allows all community members to enter this civil discourse with thorough and established facts.
Moreover, Liebowitz has centralized diversity and inclusion initiatives in both his vision of the University’s future and his actions in the present. He’s followed through on post-Ford Hall 2015 initiatives, like hiring a Chief Diversity Officer and providing regular updates on diversity and inclusion, and spoke eloquently when he said at his inauguration, “We should agree that 21st century Brandeis is a richer and more effective educational environment for students when it includes and successfully brings together in discussion, debate and learning students with different life experiences, perspectives and world views.”
However, in two areas, Liebowitz remains evasive. In our Aug. 30 editorial, we called on Liebowitz to clearly state whether he plans to re-establish the University’s partnership with Al-Quds University or to divest the University’s endowment from fossil fuels. The semester has seen fewer pavement-pounders than past years on both of these issues, but diminished public activism is no excuse for shuffling two moral questions under the rug. As Liebowitz calls for renewed University partnership with the state of Israel in his inauguration and warns about the University’s unsustainable revenue model, clearly stating University policy on these two topics becomes all the more crucial.
This board believes the community deserves answers on these issues, even as we commend Liebowitz’s strong first semester.