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Introduction to the board of trustees

By Jacob Edelman

Section: Features

April 15, 2016

The Brandeis University Board of Trustees is, according to the university’s website, “comprised of up to 50 elected members” and is the “final authority on all aspects of the university’s operations.” The board has a number of specific functions that are carried out by a number of the committees, which include: “Academic Affairs; Audit; Budget and Finance; Development; Executive; Honorary Degrees; Investment; Nominating and Governance; Personnel, Compensation and Ethics; Physical Facilities; and Students and Enrollment.”

Additionally, the board includes four faculty members and three student representatives. The faculty representatives are Professor Wendy Cadge (SOC/WMGS), Professor Steve Dowden (COML/GRAL), Professor Liz Hedstrom (BIOL) and Professor Susan L. Parish (HS). The student representatives are Emily Conrad ’17, Grady Ward ’16 and Shen Wang, the graduate student representative.

The student representatives to the board both meet with students who need to communicate certain ideas and provide proposals to the board, and then speak with trustees in order to bring these topics to the table. The representatives additionally serve as a student point of view to board members and work in tandem with board members when the board is working on some of the most difficult university issues.

On March 13, 1947, Brandeis University was brought into existence, rising from what was previously known as Middlesex University. The Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts sanctioned the name change and Brandeis became chartered as an eleemosynary (reliant on charity) corporation, giving the actions taken by the board of trustees “legal validity,” according to the website.

Later, in 1961, the board was expanded to a maximum of 35 voting members, and by 1973 it was expanded to a maximum of 50 voting members. The board is self-perpetuating, and trustees are elected by other eligible voting members to four year terms. The board itself operates under a set of bylaws that can be found on the Brandeis website.

The board is the group that selects the president of the university, and according to the website, the president is “responsible solely to the board.”

Currently, the chair of the board of trustees is Perry M. Traquina ’78, the retired chairman and CEO of Wellington Management Company LLP. Traquina has served in the position since 2013. On May 22, Larry Kanarek ’76 will take over as chair. Kanarek is the retired senior director of McKinsey & Company.

The board has had many notable members, including former First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt, who joined in 1949.

One of the responsibilities of the board is to approve of candidates who have been nominated to receive honorary degrees. Any person can nominate someone to receive an honorary degree; however the Honorary Degree Committee on the board decides who should be recommended for receiving a degree, and the full board decides whether to approve the individuals recommended by the committee. “The president of the university selects degree recipients from the list of approved nominees,” says the website.

Previous recipients of honorary degrees include US Senator Cory Booker, journalists Tom Brokaw and Walter Cronkite, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), numerous Supreme Court justices and many, many other deserving recipients.

There is, of course, a great amount more that the board is responsible for and finds itself involved in; however the information above should have hopefully served as a most basic introduction to the definition, role and basic responsibilities of Brandeis’ most powerful governing body. Greater detail about the board can be found at: http://www.brandeis.edu/trustees/index.html

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