University welcomes new students with Convocation
President Ron Liebowitz and other leaders addressed the Class of 2023 and transfer students.
University President Ron Liebowitz, the Orientation Core Committee and other notable Brandeis administrators welcomed new students and their families to the University at a Convocation ceremony on Chapels Field on Sunday, Aug. 25.
Liebowitz began with a brief retelling of the University’s founding, which took place in 1949 during a time when several universities were placing quotas on Jewish people in their admissions processes.
Liebowitz explained that the University was founded on principles of “openness to self-criticism,” social justice, free expression, pursuit of truth and tikkun olam, which is Hebrew for “repairing the world.” He continued, “our namesake, Justice Louis Brandeis, was a fierce advocate for the underdog and of free speech.” In light of these principles, he emphasized that Brandeis was meant to create a community of safety for marginalized people.
Liebowitz gave the new students three pieces of advice as they embark on their Brandeis journeys: Don’t try to do too much, be true to yourself and remember it is not yet necessary to have a plan or have everything figured out. “Please look out for one another,” he added. “Lend a hand to roommates and classmates when you see they need some support."
New Vice Provost of Student Affairs Raymond Ou addressed the community, connecting with students through the fact that he, too, was new to campus. Ou, coming from Tufts as senior associate dean of student affairs, talked about his day spent driving around campus during Orientation trying to find where he was supposed to park, often getting lost along the way. “What? Every building is named Shapiro?” he asked. Finally, he said, a student noticed that he looked lost and asked if he needed help. He said she showed him where he needed to go, which reminded him that it is all right to ask for help and to be unsure in a new place. “Students, we’re all in this together,” he said.
Provost Lisa Lynch empathized with the parents of new students, revealing that she cried on move-in day when sending her student off to college despite working at the school her child would be attending. She advised parents to let go and allow their children some freedom, but to still be there for them in tough times.
Lynch also made sure to emphasize to students that they all belonged there, even if they might feel like they were struggling once classes started. “Our admissions office does not make mistakes,” she said.
Ou had a story for the parents as well. Although he had never seen a child off to college, he described instead how hard it was the first time he left his dog at the kennel while he went out of town, but how proud he was when he picked him up at the end and he was happy and healthy. The next time Ou had to leave his dog at the kennel, he recalled, the transition was much easier.
Dean of Arts and Sciences Dorothy Hodgson spoke next, explaining that as a top research university with a strong commitment to its undergraduates, the new students had research opportunities available to them during their time at Brandeis. Her advice to students was to explore, take intellectual risks and join clubs. Her advice to parents was to let their children explore their passions.
Executive Director of Hillel and the University’s Senior Jewish Chaplain Rabbi Seth Winberg talked about the concept of truth of belief, which involves being able to count on something or someone. He referenced the Brandeis seal, which focuses heavily on the concept of truth. The outside of the seal has the University’s motto, “Truth, even unto its innermost parts,” and the inside has the Hebrew word “emet,” or “truth.” Winberg advised students to be themselves and be there for each other.
—Editor’s Note: Justice Editor Andrew Baxter ’21 is a member of the Orientation Core Committee. He did not contribute to or edit this article.