Lynch addresses sustainability and next steps after Climate Survey at town hall

Lynch addresses sustainability and next steps after Climate Survey at town hall

November 6, 2015

At a student Town Hall on Wednesday night, Nov. 4, Interim President Lisa Lynch discussed a flyer campaign to raise awareness about services for survivors of sexual violence and said it is up to the new president to make any decisions related to divestment. Around 20 students attended the event with Lynch and other administrators in the Admissions Center presentation room.

Prior to this, Lynch held two other town halls, on Sept. 9 and then on Oct. 8. to discuss the results of the Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Misconduct. The most recent event was meant to be a continuation of prior town halls, as well as an open invitation for students to pose their concerns and questions to the administration and become updated on initiatives.

Major topics discussed include the Campus Climate Survey, sustainability and divestment, Castle renovations and the student financial assistance survey.

Lynch emphasized her dissatisfaction with some of the results of the Climate Survey, assuring students that the Task Force for Sexual Assault Response Services and Prevention is currently taking the results of the survey and working on the next steps that need to be taken. She told the task force to expedite work in two areas, raising awareness about resources for survivors of sexual violence and prevention training for graduate students.

One statistic that concerned Lynch was the fact that about a quarter of undergraduate respondents and about 50 percent of graduate students did not know where to turn if they needed support services associated with sexual assault. “That has to get corrected,” she said.

“We’re going to put flyers everywhere so that people can see if something happens, here’s who you can turn to,” she said.

Lynch also brought up the issue of renovations to the Castle. It is the oldest building on campus and as Jim Gray, vice president for operations, has pointed out, although it is certainly iconic, it was constructed without the help of an architect or engineer. When the Castle was first purchased by Brandeis in the 1940s, Lynch said one of the major concerns was the “appalling state” of the Castle, which at that time was only about 20 years old.

“There is a review process both internally and with a management team and the Board of Trustees to see what our options are with respect to the Castle, the goal being to find a way … to preserve the iconic parts [of the Castle],” she said.

Preserving the entire Castle and bringing it up to the proper state would possibly be too expensive of an endeavor, she said, so there is a chance parts of the Castle would be taken down.
However, the earliest anyone will be affected by Castle renovations would be spring 2017, according to Lynch and Andrew Flagel, vice president for students and enrollment. Nothing will be happening this year.

Lynch also reiterated the university’s commitment to financial aid. She thanked Emily Conrad ’17, who was in attendance at the meeting, for her work on putting together the financial assistance survey with Grady Ward ’16. She promised to redistribute copies of the report to the board members with a note on it from her asking them to pay special attention.

“Students put a lot of time and care in both constructing this survey, filling out this survey, please take some time to read this survey,” she said. “We need more assistance on financial aid, and we’ll continue the discussion with the Board of Trustees about other things that we can do; there’s some great recommendations in that report,” she said.

Two members of Brandeis Climate Justice (BCJ) also attended the meeting, and were interested in hearing about Lynch’s position on divestment. One student said sustainability efforts must be “two-fold,” incorporating on-campus efforts and divestment.

Lynch commented on the issue, “It’s an important decision to be made by the Board of Trustees in consultation with the president,” but she believes the issue is “important to leave to the next president.”

There will be an announcement as to who the next president will by the end of this calendar year or beginning of the next, said Lynch.

Although BCJ expressed their concern that the university “can’t wait that long,” Lynch held firm.

She also emphasized the steps the university is taking to improve sustainability on campus, like “Turn it Off” days and the first-year quad sustainability contest. Lynch has also commissioned a task force to reduce Brandeis’ carbon footprint.

A BCJ representative expressed concern that “Turn it Off” days were not enough to combat climate change outside of Brandeis’ campus.

“Don’t be dismissive of [Turn-it-Off Days],” said Lynch, explaining the program reduced Brandeis’ normal peak consumption by about 25 percent. Lynch believes actions taken on campus can have a large impact, and the students reaffirmed agreement.

Lynch advised BCJ to be prepared for any meeting with the Board, and to not present a “best and final offer.” BCJ students believe they are prepared for a productive conversation, after research and thoughtful consideration of the issue, they said.

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