Board of Trustees approves Framework for the Future
The plan’s approval will jumpstart the University’s ‘‘strategic vision’’ for the future.
The Brandeis Board of Trustees has approved the Framework for the Future, University President Ron Liebowitz announced in an email to the community on Feb. 18, cementing the plan’s “strategic vision for Brandeis” with changes to residence hall communities, building renovations and academic programs.
The Framework, which has been in the works for 16 months, seeks to “chart the future of our university” as it grapples with its founding social justice identity and connectivity within and between academic programs, and student life on the Brandeis campus.
Before the plan was approved in January, the Board listened to presentations by members of the Framework’s 11 task forces and gave each feedback. The Board’s main concern, Liebowitz said in a joint interview with the Justice and The Brandeis Hoot on Wednesday, was how to fund the initiatives.
“Their concern really is how we’re gonna fund this, and whether or not it retains what makes Brandeis, Brandeis. And I like to say that this plan, you know, makes Brandeis more like Brandeis,” Liebowitz said.
The approval of the Framework comes at the same time as the University prepares for its upcoming capital campaign, a fundraising initiative which will eventually finance 10 of the projects described in the report. The University has been using its Springboard funding to prepare for this campaign, along with heightened spending of endowment funds. The University’s policy is to use 5% of its endowment each year, but it has allowed itself to overspend with the implementation of Springboard. This year, it will spend 5.5% of its endowment.
Several of the Framework’s projects that will be financed by this spending are part of a larger proposed plan within the Framework of moving towards a residential college model, similar to that at Yale University, Harvard University and Rice University. The focus would be on the creation of smaller communities within the residence halls through the addition of new social spaces and the greater integration of graduate students and faculty into residential life.
Aspects of the residential college model that Liebowitz mentioned include “affiliate programs” that would see graduate students, postdoctoral students and faculty affiliated with these residential communities serving as mentors and engaging with undergraduates and a decentralization of the deans’ offices.
This concept of decentralization would also potentially apply to student support services such as the Brandeis Counseling Center and career services. The University is exploring the possibility of having outposts in residence halls for support services rather than centralized offices. Each service will be evaluated individually to determine the best method for reaching students, whether it be through one central office or in individual residence halls.
During the creation of the Framework, Liebowitz explained during the interview, community members criticized the residence halls as “just a place where students went to sleep, that it wasn’t a place where they built community, where they didn’t really hang out or socialize as much as you might think.”
To further address those concerns, the University will begin a residential project to renovate residence halls, dorms and other buildings, starting with Kutz Hall. Kutz, which currently houses the Office of the University Registrar, Campus Card Office and Kutz Bakery among others, will serve as an “anchor building” that will allow the University to renovate other halls and spaces. It will be converted into a new residence hall with 170 beds and a dining hall. The addition of that space would lead to the next phase of the project, the renovation of North Quad.
The buildings in North Quad will be linked to create more social and study spaces and to improve accessibility, an issue that has sparked considerable discussion on campus in recent months. A number of the University’s buildings were built long before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and their aging skeletons have made upgrades to modernize them a difficult task.
An inventory of the 102 buildings at the University, considering building condition and cost of renovation, showed that North Quad was the first priority. Buildings with “easier solutions” for modernization such as those in North Quad will be renovated first, while those that would involve more complicated construction would be longer-term projects.
“We developed a plan of knocking off as much as we can, choosing the buildings that we can actually modernize to sort of make accessible, and we’ve done a nice job. We’re nowhere near what we need to do, and so that’s part of our physical facilities planning. The new buildings of course will all be ADA-accessible, the question is [in] which of the old ones can we do it, and how quickly,” Liebowitz said.
In another move to help marginalized students, the University will be reexamining how it assesses financial aid, Liebowitz wrote in an email to the Justice on Monday. When assessing need, the University would include travel costs, internships and research opportunities and the transferability of financial aid for study abroad programs.