January Board of Trustees meeting report

In a Feb. 27 email to the Brandeis community, University President Ron Liebowitz sent a report of the January Board of Trustees meeting, which took place virtually on Jan. 30 and 31.

Liebowitz wrote that he updated the Board on various topics during the meeting’s plenary session. These updates included plans for the University’s 75th Anniversary, which will take place from Oct. 13-15, and the University’s plans for a new format at Commencement this year, which includes separate ceremonies for undergraduate and graduate students. This new format, Liebowitz explained, will allow all students to be able to walk across the stage at Commencement. Liebowitz also updated the Board on the University’s mid-year orientation, which welcomed 129 new students to campus.

Karen Desmond (MUS) was promoted to the rank of professor with tenure in the Music department, Avital Rodal (BIOL) was promoted to the rank of professor with tenure in the Biology department, Gowri Vijayakumar (SOC) was promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure in the Sociology department, and Derron Wallace (SOC, ED) was promoted to the rank of associate professor with tenure in the Sociology department and the Education program.

The Board also approved memorial resolutions for several Brandeis community members: fellow Judith Paull Aronson ’55 H’21, fellow Gerald S. Fineberg, fellow Laurel E. Friedman, and trustee emeritus and fellow Paul E. Levenson H’52, P’78, P’82, H’87.

Additionally, Liebowitz shared highlights from various Board Committees. The Academy Committee approved a proposal to discontinue the Master’s in Teaching and BA/MAT programs in the Brandeis Education Program. This change, according to the email, is based on the Education Program’s “new focus on undergraduate education, and the prioritization of the liberal-arts-oriented components of its curriculum.” The Academy Committee also looked at a review of the University’s Ph.D. programs, which showed that “doctoral students who complete their program from Brandeis have similar or better outcomes when compared to our peer institutions,” according to the report.

The Vice President of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee LeManuel “Lee” Bitsóí updated the Board on new initiatives and new staff, including three student interns. One new initiative is a DEI strategic plan which will incorporate the Black Action Plan and anti-racism plans, and the interns have been working on developing a DEI peer education program.

From the Institutional Advancement Committee, Interim Senior Vice President Hannah Peters and Associate Vice President of Development Stephen Rodriguez reviewed fiscal year 2023 fundraising progress as well as projections for the remainder of the year. Additionally, the Committee reviewed plans for the upcoming 75th anniversary weekend. 

The Risk Management and Audit Committee discussed the impact of increased fundraising on the University’s finances, as well as education plans for phishing scam emails for the entire Brandeis community. 

The Student Life Committee discussed two campus surveys that were conducted in the fall, an American College Health Association Survey, and a survey called the Higher Education Data Sharing Survey, which focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus. Liebowitz wrote that the University plans to analyze and share Brandeis’ data from these surveys in the future. 

Andrea Dine chosen as vice pesident of student affairs

In a Feb. 28 email, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol A. Fierke announced that Andrea Dine will become the University’s new vice president of student affairs.

Fierke included Dine’s history at Brandeis over the past 15 years, including executive director of the Hiatt Career Center and various roles in the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs for more than six years, where she served most recently as the division’s interim vice president of Student Affairs. 

Before working at Brandeis, Dine held positions at Macalester College, the University of Minnesota, the University of Cincinnati, and Wesleyan University, working in career services, residential life, student orientation, women’s centers, student activities, and the registrar’s office.

Fierke wrote that Dine is “deeply dedicated to Brandeis’ values of academic excellence and social justice,” and elaborated that she is “passionate about furthering the University’s strategic vision for diversity, equity, and inclusion, to which she was a key contributor.” Fierke also included that Dine was an “integral member of the University’s COVID-19 management team,” and added that most recently, Dine and the rest of her team spent “countless hours in the wake of the shuttle accident connecting students to family members and friends, while providing critical resources for grieving community members.”

Fierke also elaborated on Dine’s plans as vice president of student affairs, writing that Dine is “wholeheartedly committed to the division’s mission: to provide programs, services, and resources that contribute to the overall educational mission, build community, provide support, and create an inclusive, vibrant Brandeis experience for our graduate and undergraduate students.”

Fierke asked that the Brandeis community join her in offering Dine congratulations on her decision to take on this new role at Brandeis. 

Disability Inclusion and Equity Month

In a March 1 email, Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion LeManuel Lee Bitsóí and Mel Ptacek, Communications Coordinator for the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy formally inaugurated Disability Inclusion and Equity Month at Brandeis.

The email noted a few events taking place over the month, including Phantom Limbs: Frida Kahlo, disability and art being held virtually on March 8, Neurodiversity Celebration Week taking place from March 13 to 17, and Advocacy & Action at the Intersection of Disability & Reproductive Justice, a conversation with Carrie Buck Distinguished Fellows Laurie Bertram Roberts and Rebecca Cokley, on March 29. The email suggested looking at the full campus calendar to hear about more upcoming events.

The email clarified that one in four adults is considered disabled, and more than 20% of Brandeis’ undergraduate population identify as disabled/having a disability, in addition to many graduate students, staff members, and faculty. The email explained that Disability Inclusion and Equity Month can aid the Brandeis community in working to ensure “full access and inclusion for all members of our community” and to “move us toward genuine and sustained action against the exclusion, marginalization, and invisibilization of disabled people.”

The email elaborated on the various struggles that disabled people face regarding employment, fair wages and benefits, access to higher education, and gaining workplace accommodations, as well as the “denial of rights in social, civic, and cultural life; rights to accessible and high-quality medical care; rights of autonomy and choice in sexuality, reproduction, and parenting; and rights to access the legal system.” The email mentioned that March 1 marks the Disability Day of Mourning, a time for members of the community to gather and remember the many people with disabilities murdered, as people with disabilities are often subjected to assault and murder at disproportionately high rates. 

The email also emphasized that disability is “necessarily intersectional” with other modes of social disadvantage such as race, class, and gender, acknowledging that the disability rights movement was shaped by the civil rights movement. The email also highlighted that it is necessary for disabled people themselves to “form, participate in, and lead the actions and organizations for disability rights and justice, so it is necessary to ensure that the diverse membership of the community is active and involved in all that affects the community, whether this be organizational leadership, policymaking, research, or other efforts, in order that goals of social, economic, and racial justice are achieved.”

Antisemitism plans

In a March 2 email, University President Ron Liebowitz elaborated on a plan Brandeis has in the works to combat antisemitism, in collaboration with Kraft Group’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism. 

Liebowitz cited the Anti-Defamation League in saying that antisemitism reached an all-time high in the United States during 2021, and that solely in higher education, antisemitic events were up 21% from the previous year. The collaborative effort is a “comprehensive, multi-pronged strategy to equip students, higher ed leaders, and Jewish communal professionals with knowledge, resources, and tools to engage diverse communities in the critical work to address this rise in antisemitism and hate.”

Liebowitz explained that the plan is structured around three areas of action: a student fellowship program alongside the Samuels Center for Community Partnerships and Civic Transformation; a plan to equip leaders in higher education with knowledge and support in order to adequately address antisemitism on campus; and a low-residence master’s degree and graduate certificate program in antisemitism training, which will take place at Brandeis’ Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program. 

The email also said that FCAS will provide fellowships and post-graduate opportunities for Brandeis students and alumni, and that more information for each aspect of the program could be found in an article on BrandeisNow. 

Women’s History Month

In a March 1 email, ChaeRan Y. Freeze, chair of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department, and LeManuel “Lee” Bitsóí, vice president of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, elaborated on the University’s plans for Women’s History Month. 

Events include the 2023 Tillie K. Lubin Symposium titled Decolonizing Genders and Sexualities on March 29, an artist talk titled In Iran’s Streets and on the World Stage: Two Artists Talk About Women, State, and Politics on March 29, and a conversation with women’s rights attorney and activist Julie F. Kay on March 8 titled Conversations on Equity and Justice - Reproductive Freedom: Legal Rights, Political Context, and Opportunities for Action. More information can be found on the Women’s History Month webpage. 

The email elaborated on the history of Women’s History Month, whose origins trace back to 1982, when Congress and the president proclaimed Women’s History Week beginning on March 7, and ultimately the designation of March 1987 as Women’s History Month. The email also elaborated the history of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department at Brandeis, which began to take form as a single course in 1975 but developed into a full department in 2020. 

The email also noted Brandeis’ “long and storied feminist history and legacy,” elaborating that the University is “proud of the notable genealogy of canonical Black feminist thinkers who were students and faculty (including current professors) at the University: Pauli Murray, Angela Davis, Julieanne Richardson, Hortense Spillers, Patricia Hill Collins, Karen E. Fields, M Jacqui Alexander, Anita Hill, Aliyyah Abdur-Rahman, Jasmine Johnson and Faith Smith, among others.” The email highlighted current Black feminist scholar Prof. Shoniqua Roach (AAAS, WGS), who is “a pioneering academic and public intellectual in the fields of Black feminist theory, Black queer studies, and Black popular and quotidian performances studies.” The email also mentioned other prominent Brandeis alumni, such as literary critic Elaine Showalter, sociologist and psychoanalyst Nancy Chodorow, physicist Evelyn Fox Keller, historian Joan Wallach Scott, Ms. Magazine editor Letty Cottin Pogrebin, and many more. 

Additionally, the email announced that the Women’s Studies Research Center and the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies jointly applied for and received a Mellon Sawyers Seminar Grant for Imperiled Bodies: Slavery, Colonialism, Citizenship and the Logics of Gender-based Violence, and explained that the seminar, which will be led by Profs. Hill, Freeze, and Harleen Singh will host a number of panels and events in the 2023-24 academic year.