Board of Trustees discusses student concerns, endowment
The Board addressed the progress of the Framework for Our Future report.
The Board of Trustees met on Sept. 16 and 17 to discuss its plans for the 2019-2020 academic year. University President Ron Liebowitz sent an email Thursday to the Brandeis community with a summary of the meeting.
Chief on the agenda was the Framework for Our Future report, which according to Liebowitz, synthesized recommendations from the Board’s task forces and working groups for the coming year. In a report on the meeting to the Brandeis newspapers, Brandeis Senior Representative to the Board of Trustees Zosia Busé ’20 explained that the Framework detailed three major goals: promoting diversity and inclusion, continuing to develop a culture of intellectual rigor and advancing the reputation of the University nationally and internationally. Liebowitz announced that he would “solicit input and feedback [regarding the framework] from the larger Brandeis community” in late October and November. He said that the Board would alert the Brandeis community “over the coming weeks” of their engagement efforts.
The Board met with students for dinner on Sept. 16, where they discussed the students’ concerns about the University’s “dining, residence halls, and campus culture in terms of school spirit and community,” Busé wrote in the email. The students attending the dinner included Samira Bari ’20, Andrew Baxter ’21, Grace Berry ’21, Ph.D. candidate Robert Cochran MA ’17, Fernando Estrella ’20, Jason Frank ’22, Ph.D. candidate Jack Huguley MA ’16, Elidaurys Martinez-Catano MA ’20, Madhura Shringare MBA ’20, Jordan Walder MBA ’20 and Emma Wolters ’21 along with Junior Representative to the Board of Trustees Zoe Fort ’21 and Busé. According to her report, the general sentiment was that “Brandeis fuels a remarkable amount of academic excellence. Yet, students crave community and a spirit of affiliation.”
The Board’s committees each presented developments in their area of specialty. The Academy Committee discussed the progress of the Brandeis Core, the University’s new core curriculum for students matriculating after fall 2019. It also announced plans to review academic services and discussed new data on the undergraduate and graduate populations, with particular focus on international students and the recent rise in visa denials for graduate students from Africa, per Liebowitz’s email. According to Busé, Provost Lisa Lynch announced that the results of the July 2019 climate survey would be released later this fall.
The Resources Committee reviewed the fiscal year budget of 2019 and the upcoming budget for 2020. It also gave an update on the implementation of the new Workday program, reported on the establishment of a Data Governance Committee and IT Governance Committee and discussed the reasons behind the dining contract with Sodexo. Busé wrote that “student concerns with quality, pricing and dietary accessibility were large factors in Brandeis’ pursuit to re-evaluate the contract.”
The Institutional Advancement Committee also discussed the results of FY19 and the fundraising processes for FY20. According to Liebowitz, the committee achieved “97% toward its overall cash goal.” The committee announced plans to implement a “powerful, sustainable, volunteer-led campus-wide alumni relations program” over the coming year.
The Nominating and Governance Committee assessed changes to the trustee orientation program and discussed efforts to recruit a diverse body of Board members.
The Risk Management and Audit Committee assessed the improved capacity for disaster recovery due to “use of an off-site server facility,” the implementation of the two-factor authentication software Duo and the general state of campus safety. According to Busé, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Stewart Uretsky announced that “special secure locks have been installed in every single classroom on campus,” the campus security camera system is being updated and “more strategies are in the works.”
The Investment Committee provided an update on the University’s endowment. According to Liebowitz, they explained that “equity market volatility” has led to fluctuating returns on the endowment portfolio.
Throughout the meeting, the Board discussed the University’s five-point drop in the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the best colleges and universities and the research undertaken with marketing agency SimpsonScarborough to understand the reputation of the University among key groups. Liebowitz wrote in his email that these groups range from potential undergraduate and graduate students to “philanthropic-minded adults who are likely to be interested in Brandeis.” Other items on the Board’s meeting agenda included the creation of an ad hoc committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the appointment of UniWorld Group CEO Monique L. Nelson to the Board of Trustees and the promotion of International Business School Associate Professor Aldo Mussachio to professor.
Liebowitz concluded his email by praising “the level of engagement, thoughtfulness, and insight” of the meeting and wrote that anyone with questions should not hesitate to reach out.
—Editor’s Note: Andrew Baxter is an Associate Editor for the Justice. He did not edit or contribute to this article.
—Editor’s Note: Jason Frank is a News Staff Writer for the Justice. He did not edit or contribute to this article.