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Students hopeful about Lawrence presidential appointment

By web

Section: News

August 27, 2010

 

The debate surrounding what to call the newly appointed Brandeis University President Frederick Lawrence has begun. So far, Sahar Massachi ’11 and his friends have four choices: Prez Fred, Freddy Law, F Law, and Florence, or Flo.

“Jehuda had a good number of syllables to it,” Massachi said, referring to the university’s current president, Jehuda Reinharz, “We have a few things to figure out with the new guy.”

The pick of Lawrence as president by the university’s board of trustees is the culmination of the seven-month long process which followed Reinharz’s resignation from the post last October. Lawrence will assume the post on Jan. 1, and until then, students are left to do little but wonder how his appointment might change things at the university, and, of course, give Lawrence a nickname.

“We don’t know anything about him yet but what the university has told us,” Leah Hartman ’12 said. “I want to do research on him and what sort of work he has done in the past, but it’s difficult to judge until you actually see him as president.”

Amanda Hoffman ’11 agreed, adding she did not know much about how much power a university president has, and therefore was “apathetic to the appointment.”

“I feel like having an opinion requires expertise on both how Brandeis works and about [Lawrence] that I don’t have, so I just have to wait and see,” she said.

Jon Sussman ’11 also said he knew little about Lawrence. “I don’t know what to think about him because I have never heard his name before now,” he said.

“His bio seems like a good fit,” he added, referencing Lawrence’s career as an expert on civil rights law. “I’m hoping he will find ways to be proactive and reach out to students and set a different tone of transparency, but we won’t know until he gets here.”

As former president of the Brandeis student union, Andy Hogan ’11 was the sole student on the presidential search committee this spring, which ultimately chose Lawrence. Hogan was the first Brandeis student to meet Lawrence, and said he believes Lawrence will live up to students’ expectations.

“Fred is impressive first on paper and then in person,” he said. “We were impressed with his work in relation to Brandeis’ social justice mission and then, when you meet him, he’s also an extremely nice guy in general.”

 

Hogan was not the only student to give the board of trustees input on their presidential pick. There was also a student advisory committee to the board which surveyed students about what they would like to see in a new president and relayed the information to the Board.

In the survey, 800 students checked that they would like the incoming President to have an “academic background.” Heddy Ben-Atar ’11, of the committee, wrote in an e-mail to The Hoot that Lawrence, as Dean of the George Washington University Law School, fits this characteristic.

“Together, the student voice was heard–our voice made the difference,” she wrote.

But Massachi, who was upset about what he called the “secretive presidential selection process”–which only included one student as a non-voting member of the presidential search committee–hopes Lawrence’s open personality translates into open policy as well.

“This university always throws around the words ‘social justice’ without discussing what it really means, but [Lawrence’s] past in social justice gives me hope that we can actually apply that term to the university itself,” he said. “I hope that he takes this great opportunity to rally the Brandeis community together, not just the faculty and staff, but the whole community.”

“He’s still an unknown quantity, so he’s going to have to try a lot of things to include everyone,” Massachi said. And, trying something himself, he added “Hopefully Prez Fred can figure it out.”

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