EDITORIAL: University must address serious fault lines
The second of the independent investigators’ report, commissioned after Brian Meehan’s dismissal last spring, was released on Thursday. While the first half of the report, issued in September, focused on the specifics of the Meehan case, this half focused on the state of Brandeis’ campus culture. After reading the report, this board concludes that despite the University’s claims to being a school centered around social justice, Brandeis’ student body cares far more about diversity as an educational value than its faculty and trustees do. Until this discrepancy is addressed, Brandeis’ campus will continue to be a less-than-ideal environment for students of color.
Since Ford Hall 2015, tensions have grown between a student body that sees diversity as a strength and a virtue, and many faculty and the Board of Trustees. who seem apathetic or outright hostile toward these efforts. Administration and faculty interviewed in the report “agree that diversity, equity, and inclusion do not appear to be particularly pressing issues for Brandeis’s Board of Trustees unless there is an episodic crisis or it drives curricular change.” In the Meehan case, it took national negative attention from a story published in before the administration was willing to act.
Furthermore, there appears to be a segment of the faculty that opposes the greater inclusion and prominence of non-white students and faculty at the University. One particularly disturbing portion of the report describes faculty members who believe that “diversity is a ‘zero sum’ situation because an increased minority presence could ‘water down’ the University’s ‘Jewish character’ and even its ‘academic excellence.’” This board condemns this racist trope, and urges all in the University to reject it. The notion that minority students would dilute the school’s academic reputation or go against its stated Jewish values of critical thinking and inclusivity is absurd.
Unfortunately, the report also shows the struggles that administrators face in trying to work against anti-diversity efforts. While administrators often have students’ interests at heart, they are often hamstrung by a lack of resources and an operational structure that is unfavorable to them. Per the report, “One administrator described the Brandeis management structure as an ‘inverted pyramid’ with faculty at the top and the administration – most notably the President – at the bottom.”
While this board is disappointed to find few original solutions to the campus climate in the report, the report does highlight stark divides that remain unaddressed. This board hopes that these concerns are taken into account and used to further any efforts to create a welcoming environment for students of all backgrounds on campus. If Brandeis truly wants to realize its stated values of social justice, it would be unwise to address issues of diversity and race only in the instance of a crisis.