EDITORIAL: Jaffe, Krauss deserve pat on back for months of headaches

March 11, 2005

When Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe put forth his preliminary proposals for improving the Academy at Brandeis, an immediate furor erupted from all quarters. Members of potentially affected departments were understandably concerned about how Jaffes proposals would affect them. Others in the faculty were instantly suspicious, angry, fearful, or just plain mad about proposals that they felt came out of nowhere.
Directed concern is justified. The need for reasoned discussion and discourse in such planning decisions is a must. But the alarmist talk and cries that the sky is falling did more to make faculty members look like children than to move the process forward.

Throughout this long, complicated ordeal, we have been shocked at the number of highly educated professionals who have been quick to decry Jaffes proposals without doing us all the courtesy of actually reading them. When the Faculty Review Committee was formed to examine the proposals through a fair, deliberative process, some directed their anger at the group of professors who, called on by the Provost and the faculty senate to serve the community, chose to take part in an honest evaluation of the Deans ideas.
It seems that when tough decisions are to be made, even the wisest among us can be reduced to Chicken Littles.

Dean Jaffe is correct that Brandeis must continue to evolve to meet the needs of a changing world and a changing student population. At the same time, we must work to ensure that our core mission is upheld. The Deans proposals, while in some ways flawed, were a frank attempt to look at the problems confronting the Academy and proposed methods of addressing them. It is striking that so many recognize the truth in Jaffes analysis of the problems facing our campus, and yet so few are willing to understand that, in order for progress to be made, sacrifices must be made as well.

Recently, Jaffe and Provost Marty Krauss were accused of using institutional shop talk in an effort to justify their proposal. This could not be further from the truth. If one actually took the time to read Jaffes proposal, the many documents publicly available through the integrated planning web site, or Jaffes and Krausss numerous public statements to the media, one would find that the proposal is actually well reasoned with pages of figures to back it up.

Ironically, it is Jaffes opponents who have been using scare rhetoric more befitting the Bush White House.

When the Provost established the Faculty Review Committee, we made the decision, unlike other media, to withhold comment on the proceedings until such time as that group could complete its work and put forth its recommendations. We see now that our move was a wise one, as the FRC released a report that was thoughtful, logical, and took into account ideas and opinions from across a broad spectrum of the community. It is unfortunate that by the time all of the facts were known Jaffes proposals had received such a public beating that there is some doubt now whether any of them are salvageable.

Instead of moving forward, we are now doomed to remain stagnant. Instead of working to incorporate the FRCs feedback into new, better proposals, Jaffe has felt pressure to remove his entire plan from the table.

It is time for someone to come out publicly and commend Dean Jaffe and Provost Marty Krauss for their efforts. They should be applauded in their efforts to make this a public process. They could have carried out this plan in secret by not rehiring professors or slowly shifting money from one department to another. Yet they did not.

Despite how Jaffe and Krauss have been painted in recent months, neither is an outsider to Brandeis. Both were and continue to be professors. Before either of them obtained their recent administrative positions, both served in the trenches alongside other faculty. We strongly doubt that in their short time in office they have lost all ties to the Brandeis community and have been taken over by pernicious forces bent on destroying the University.

Clearly, Jaffe and Krauss put in much thought, time and effort to work to improve an institution they love and cherish. For a community to spit in their faces by putting out conspiracy theories and slander is, frankly, insulting, and not befitting this fine institution. Some members of this community should be ashamed of themselves.

Dean Jaffe does not have all the answers. Provost Krauss is not infallible. Neither should either of them need to be martyrs for a cause. The proposals were certainly not perfect, and maybe some may conclude that they were not good for Brandeis. But there is no doubt in our minds that Jaffe and Krauss are good for Brandeis.

The next time we see them, we will be thanking them for their tireless efforts over the past months in doing what they thought was best for this community. We will thank them for putting their ideas out there, and for being open to comment and criticism. We will thank them for their willingness to listen to all community members. And most of all, we will thank them for continuing to come to work after the way weve all treated them.

Perhaps some others in our community should do the same.

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