In their January meeting, the Board of Trustees passed General Education Requirements, discussed board transparency and trust and heard a presentation on fossil fuel divestment, according to a report published on Thursday by University President Ron Liebowitz. 

The Board also had a dinner discussion between trustees and 15 relatively new faculty members, in addition to meeting with students about student-life challenges, Liebowitz wrote in the summary.

Much of Jan. 31 was devoted to a two-hour discussion on the new General Education Requirements, wrote Liebowitz. 

Dean of Arts and Sciences Susan Birren presented to the Trustees on the 18-month process of working with faculty, staff, students and administrators to craft the requirements. She also discussed how their implementation would unfold. 

A major concern raised in the discussion was how the new “diversity, equity, and inclusion” requirement will meet its goal, including the approval process and categorization of courses to fulfill the requirement. Despite these concerns, the board voted unanimously to support the new curricular proposal. Birren and Provost Lisa Lynch will share these concerns with the faculty for further discussion and resolution. 

The Academy Committee also brought two additional resolutions to the Board that were both approved unanimously. The first resolution approved the promotion from Associate Professor with tenure to Full Professor for Profs. Aida Wong (FA), Janet McIntosh (ANTH) and Yu-Hui Chang (MUS). The second resolution changed the MA degrees in Computer Science and Computational Linguistics to MS degrees.

The Coordination Committee hosted a session for faculty and staff to express unresolved tensions with the Board related to the suspension of employer-matched retirement benefits in 2009-10. “The presentation, along with the ensuing questions and discussion, was respectful and direct,” wrote Liebowitz. “The trustees appreciated hearing the range and depth of the feelings that have left a chasm between some faculty and staff members and the Board of Trustees.” 

Liebowitz wrote that he will assemble a small group of faculty, staff and administrators to discuss how to “redress the situation,” and that “the most important thing will be to find ways to build or rebuild trust between faculty and staff on the one hand, and administration and board on the other.”

A plenary meeting was held with students and faculty on the divestment of fossil fuels from the University’s endowment. Liebowitz wrote that he will appoint an eight-person committee — which will include faculty, staff, students and trustees — to review “issues and tradeoffs considered and acted upon by peer institutions,” and short-term and longer-term actions into a report for the April Board meeting.

A student panel, including undergraduate and graduate students, spoke to the full Board about financial, housing, counseling, transportation and communications challenges that students face on campus.

 The “process to assess student life on campus” is one of the Board’s four major strategic priorities, for which the students’ accounts and suggestions will be taken into consideration, Liebowitz wrote.

The Nominations and Governance Committee also forwarded two resolutions to the full Board, a change in the Bylaws converting the position of treasurer of the University from a Board position to a staff position and a Bylaw change that would allow the president of the University to delegate his signatory authority without prior Board approval. Both resolutions were passed unanimously by the Board. 

The last session of the meeting included an executive session with Liebowitz, who wrote that he and the Board discussed the planning for Brandeis’ future, the framing of upcoming “gaps analysis” in physical and human resource deficits, and the status of honorary degree invitations.

Liebowitz concluded his report, “I want to thank the many administrators, staff, faculty and students who contributed in many ways to make the meeting a success.”