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Flagel offers critiques, insights on campus culture and community

By Katarina Weessies

Section: Features

October 30, 2015

Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel joined the administration at Brandeis University in 2011, and relative to other administrators, he is consistently visible to the student body. Recently in an interview, he discussed his history, some of the idiosyncrasies of Brandeis culture and possible campus reforms.

Flagel graduated with a Ph.D. in education from Michigan State University, a school known for its school spirit. Flagel also served as the vice president for enrollment development and dean of admissions at George Mason University. Additionally, Flagel served as the director of admissions at the University of Michigan, Flint, director of enrollment management at the Congressional Youth Leadership Council and as a regional admissions director at George Washington University.

When asked how Brandeis differs from other schools, Flagel said that “Brandeis has a fascinating culture.” He believes that Brandeis is a uniquely “mission-driven institution,” and describes its mission as a “common theme of making a difference in the world” that is “powerful to be a part of.” However, Flagel noted that the Brandeis student body has a lack of school spirit and hyperpluralism.

Flagel understands that there is a unique form of school spirit that does manifest itself in the student body, stating that “one of the challenges for me is figuring out how we can express that pride, that connection, that mutual support and demonstrate that in ways that are positive and spirited, without crossing into arrogance.” He wants “the spirit of 24-Hour Musical or the ‘This Is Our House’ event at Orientation to happen in more places and in more ways,” he said, including at sports games.

Another aspect of Brandeis that Flagel discussed is the high volume of clubs and programs at Brandeis. The school is known for its number of a cappella groups, performance groups and special interest clubs. Most students participate in a multitude of programs, meetings and events. Flagel hopes to “ease the stress level” of Brandeis students by asking “how many clubs, shows and events should we be doing at one time, and is there a point where that starts running counter to student interest?”

According to Flagel, Brandeis’ programs have begun to drift from constructive pluralism into inefficient hyperpluralism. He thinks that decreasing the amount of events on campus could “raise programming to an ‘A’ level,” arguing that “you want to be experimenting, and things don’t always have to be at an ‘A’ level, but when you’re doing the same thing year after year and they’re not, that’s where there’s a disconnect.” Flagel suggests that the quantity over quality approach to Brandeis clubs and events could be failing, saying that “we have not pushed ourselves to see if there are better collaborative models.”

He also noted the pluralism in the school newspapers, asking “What is the function of two student newspapers? Should there be more interaction?”

Every administrator brings a unique vision of what the campus and the culture should be, and Flagel offers a number of critiques and of Brandeis culture. He also sees changes that are available to be made that he believes could create a university even more worthy of the mission of social justice with which the school is endowed.

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