At the second-to-last faculty meeting of the semester, faculty members received an update from University President Ron Liebowitz on the University’s recent town hall and ongoing investigation; a report from the Brandeis Counseling Center; and an announcement on annual teaching awards on Friday afternoon. During the meeting, the faculty also voted to approve the new Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Mathematics to begin in fall 2018.

Liebowitz informed faculty of the community climate regarding former men’s basketball coach Brian Meehan. Liebowitz said of the April 9 community town hall meeting, “I thought it was a very worthwhile meeting and a very important meeting to set us in the right direction.”

Liebowitz said the administration is actively discussing further actions and that the Board of Trustees is also involved and taking the issue very seriously. 

Prof. Sabine von Mering (CGES) commented to colleagues that departments who signed support for Ford Hall 2015 should reevaluate whether they’ve followed through. To Liebowitz, she said, “What I’ve heard students say loud and clear to you and [Provost Lisa Lynch] is ‘stop investigating and talking, start doing something about it.’”

Liebowitz also announced that the April Board of Trustees meeting will take place this week, focusing on the 2019 fiscal budget, nomination of new trustees and the two task forces on fossil fuel divestment and faculty retirement benefits. 

Brandeis Counseling Services Director Joy von Steiger gave a presentation comparing the University’s undergraduate wellness and mental health statistics to the American College Health Association’s national average, accumulated from 51 participating universities. 

The latest survey, in which 35 percent of the University’s student body participated, shows that health, nutrition and endorsement of exercise are “all very good” compared to the cohort, said von Steiger. However, von Steiger noted concerns that marijuana usage is higher than the national average and that 25.5 percent of students endorsed binge drinking. 

Furthermore, University students experience psychiatric symptoms, anxiety, stress, sleep disorders and discrimination at higher levels than the rest of the cohort, reported von Steiger. Particularly concerning, she said, are reports of exhaustion, of how overwhelmed students are with all their involvements, and loneliness and thoughts of suicide. Von Steiger plans to distribute a mental health action plan to faculty and provide workshops to promote healthy classroom environments and a sense of belonging.

Faculty and staff awards for 2018 were also announced at the meeting.The Faculty Service Award was presented to Prof. Robin Feuer Miller (COMH), “an incredible articulate spokesperson for the liberal arts and for the humanities,” said Dean of Arts and Sciences Susan Birren, and “the heart of scholarship and service at its best.” 

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Mentoring Award was presented to Prof. Laura Miller (SOC).

The three annual Committee for the Support of Teaching award recipients were Prof. Anita Hannig (ANTH) for the Walzer ’56 Award for Teaching, Prof. Aparna Baskaran (PHYS) for the Lerman-Neubauer ’69 Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring and Prof. Kristen Mascall (CHEM) for the Brandeis Prize for Excellence in Teaching.

Birren also announced that the inaugural recipient of the University’s Nahum Glatzer H’73 Teaching Scholar was Prof. Gabriella Sciolla (PHYS), who was recognized for her “humility, kindness, integrity and good humor that characterizes relationships between students and faculty at Brandeis.” 

Graduate school teaching award recipients included Meredith Bazzell (Rabb), Jessica Santos, Ph.D. ’15 (Heller), Tatjana Meschede (Heller), Prof. Carol Osler (IBS) and Prof. Christopher Alt (IBS).