The Faculty Senate votes to drop charges against arrested students
Brandeis faculty held two meetings to continue to address the University’s derecognition of SJP and the arrests of students at the Nov. 10 protest.
The Brandeis Faculty Senate held meetings on Dec. 8 and Jan. 19 to continue to discuss proposed motions following the University's derecognition of Students for Justice in Palestine and the subsequent protester arrests.
The first of these motions moves that the Provost Carol Fierke and the senate work together to establish a Task Force on Free Expression. This task force’s purpose is to revise and reinterpret the University’s current Principles of Free Speech and Free Expression and possibly suggest appropriate consequences for failing to adhere to them. This motion passed an official faculty vote by 84% with 221 votes in favor.
Following the passing of this motion, it was brought to the administration and an email was sent to the Brandeis community by President Liebowitz. In this email Liebowitz stated, “I will be appointing a task force.” The Senate Council met with President Liebowitz and his leadership team on Jan. 18, and they reached a tentative agreement that stated “the senate [is] to meet with the President to review and agree upon a change to the task force, in addition to recommending faculty to join the task force.” The Justice reached out to the University administration regarding this matter and has not received a response as of press time. The only debate regarding this motion was the inclusion of the members of the Board of Trustees.
Motion 2 asked that the “administration commission a thorough independent investigation — to be shared with the Brandeis community in written form by March 1, 2024 — of its decision-making, communications, and other consequential acts leading up to and including the events of Nov. 10.” The Senate members stated that they wanted to participate in decisions regarding this investigation including factors like the scope and charge, and choosing the outside investigators. Their goal was to make sure that this included solutions to prevent similar such events from occurring in the future and eliminate harm if any such thing were to happen. This motion passed with a percentage of 81% with 214 voters in support.
After the senate passed this motion, the University shared the direction that they decided the review of the protests would be taking. In response to the rejection of Motion 2, the Faculty Senate sent an email to Ron Liebowitz, Carol Fierke, Stew Uretsky, Steve Locke and Meredith Ainbinder on Jan. 8. This email, which The Justice obtained through an anonymous faculty member, highlighted three main issues. These include a lack of independence in the review, which results in lack of credibility, too narrow of a scope of the review and disregard for shared governance through the rejection of the faculty mandate.
According to the email, the faculty believe that their will for a comprehensive and independent review of administration actions is being ignored and proceeded to further outline the three main issues that were highlighted. The email calls on the administration to reconsider their response to Motion 2 and “engage with the Faculty Senate” to create a review process that is comprehensive, collaborative, and genuinely independent.”
During the Jan. 18 meeting, the Senate council formed a tentative agreement with President Liebowitz and his leadership team. The agreement included hosting a listening session for the independent review team, faculty, staff and student representatives.
Motion 3 was in regards to eliminating restrictions surrounding free speech until some more clear rules and restrictions were drawn up. This motion was withdrawn. Motion 4 moved to involve faculty and staff in communications sent to students from Student Life and other administrative services that are believed will have a significant impact on student life. This motion passed the faculty vote with a percentage of 88% and 231 votes.
Motion 5 was brought forward for a second reading during the faculty meeting on Jan. 19. This motion moves that the University call on the District Attorney of Middlesex Marian Ryan to drop all charges against the Brandeis students arrested at the Nov. 10 protest. According to the motion, the proposers believe that this action is essential to begin the “process of healing” as stated by President Liebowitz on Nov. 11. There was some debate during the meeting regarding who should be included in this pardon, some faculty members suggesting that the impartial lawyer who was arrested should be included in this statement, as well as the other affiliated individuals. After some discussion, this amendment was denied as the faculty decided to focus on the students. A high enough percentage of faculty voted the last time this was sent out at 73%, but this is not a high enough percentage to wave the second reading. The faculty voted to send this motion to the second round of faculty votes.
Motion 6 was also brought forward for a second reading, again getting enough votes to pass but not to waive the second reading. This motion calls for the University to not take disciplinary action against the students arrested. The Senate feels that not pursuing disciplinary action is a way to repair harm and heal the community, “leading not with punishment but with care.” This motion passed without amendment, going back out for a second faculty vote, to be held in the upcoming week.
Some faculty took the Jan. 19 Q&A with President Liebowitz and Provost Fierke to express some concerns regarding budget cuts to graduate programs. The Anthropology Department explained that they already have a large number of candidates for admission, and are behind in their selection process. Without the budget being finalized, they are unable to offer admission and are concerned about ethically having to return admission fees and garnering bad press. The Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Jeffrey Shoulson promised answers as soon as possible, explaining that they are working through different models.
These two meetings also consisted of three different remembrances for community members, Eli Stuart, Jerry Cohen and Bob Meyer. The Faculty Senate will be reconvening for another meeting in early February.