President Liebowitz rejects one-year contract extension offered by Board of Trustees
Liebowitz publicly responded to a leaked letter he wrote to the Board of Trustees about his contract.
University President Ron Liebowitz made headlines on March 15 after the Boston Globe published a leaked letter Liebowitz wrote to the Board of Trustees about a contract dispute. A day after the dispute was published, Liebowitz declined a one-year contract extension in a statement distributed through an independent public relations firm, according to an Inside Higher Ed article.
The leaked five-page letter and follow-up statements from involved parties have clarified the conflict — Board members expressed dissatisfaction with Liebowitz’s fundraising track record at the University, while Liebowitz accused the Board of unfairly trying to push him out of his position.
Liebowitz referred to the Board’s one-year extension offer as a “dead end,'' writing that the contract would put a halt to ongoing donor opportunities that could bring significant income to the University, explained IHE. The one-year extension would not be enough time to close donations and ensure that gifted money is going where he promised donors it would, Liebowitz wrote.
According to the letter, members of the Board are not satisfied with Liebowitz’s fundraising during his time at the University. “The board decided to offer a one-year extension to see if he could succeed in his efforts [to improve fundraising],” Board Chairman Meyer Koplow wrote to the Globe. In order for the contract to be extended, members of the Board are calling for a successful nine months of fundraising.
In response to this request, Liebowitz wrote he was not given “objective metrics” to define his progress in the coming months, according to the Globe. Liebowitz also highlighted recent achievements in University fundraising efforts, citing in his letter that “through February 2021, new pledges in the first eight months of the fiscal year have nearly doubled what they were for each of the past two full fiscal years — despite the pandemic.”
Many alumni of the University are shocked by the Board’s allegations, given that Liebowitz ran a $535 million fundraising campaign at Middlebury College prior to his term at Brandeis, explained a March 19 Forward article. “Liebowitz, by all accounts, was specifically brought into Brandeis for his stellar fundraising reputation,” the article said.
In the midst of negotiations, Koplow told the Globe that the Board offered to keep Liebowitz’s current financial compensation for the one-year extension. However, Liebowitz made “additional financial demands we could not agree to,” Koplow said in a statement to Forward.
Liebowitz refuted these claims, stating he requested a retirement health benefit, not a salary increase, according to IHE. Judy Rakowski, Liebowitz’s spokesperson, noted that Liebowitz asked for less compensation than the Board established at the beginning of his contract. Liebowitz’s current salary of $618,014 is a 20% cut from his base salary of $772,518, Rakowski added. The Globe reported that the University paid Liebowitz $956,000 in 2018.
Koplow has asked Liebowitz to meet with the Board as negotiations continue, explained IHE. As the June 30 expiration date for Liebowitz’s existing five-year contract approaches, there is hesitation with regards to whether both parties will be able to come up with an agreement before the contract ends. “While it would be inappropriate to speak in detail about our contract negotiations, they have lasted longer than we had hoped,” Koplow wrote.
“The Board and the President continue to be in discussions and are working to find common ground. All parties share a deep commitment to making thoughtful decisions about what is best for Brandeis,” the University wrote in a March 16 email to the Brandeis community.
In response to the situation, a petition in support of Liebowitz remaining at the University has been posted on Change.org and is open for students, alumni and friends of the University to sign.