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Liebowitz shares highlights of Board of Trustees Meeting

By Elianna Spitzer

Section: News, Top Stories

February 10, 2017

The Board of Trustees discussed four resolutions including the approval of a $50 million bond to begin construction of a new residence hall to replace the Castle, according to a campus-wide email sent out by President Liebowitz on Friday, Feb. 3.

The heads of committees presented ongoing topics of discussion with trustees. Administrators, students and faculty were also present.

Liebowitz updated the trustees on Mark Neustadt’s findings and the continued effort to reshape Brandeis’ image. In January, Neustadt gave presentations open to the student body about the marketability of the Brandeis campus. Neustadt, a market analyst specializing in college image, ranked Brandeis using a Net Promoter score.

The score is determined by a survey in which respondents rank the university based on whether they would recommend it to someone else. Those who rank Brandeis at a nine or 10 are labeled “promoters” while those who rank Brandeis between zero and six are “detractors.”

Neustadt determined Brandeis to have Net Promoter score of +6, the lowest he has ever seen. He argued that a large problem for Brandeis is that the students and alumni have varying opinions on how Judaism should play a role on campus. He is working with Admissions, Advancement, Communications, IBS, Heller and Rabb to create a “single narrative,” according to Liebowitz’s email.

Susan Birren, Dean of Arts and Sciences, gave a report on the Task Force for Education’s review of general education requirements. It is the first time in 20 years that the requirements have been reviewed. The trustees conversed with members of the Academy Committee about the proposals.

The task force, seating seven professors and two students, held five open forums on possible revisions to the requirements between Jan. 23 and Feb. 1. The new format would divide general education requirements into five categories: 21st-Century Changes and Challenges; Foundational Literacies; Schools of Thought; Health, Wellness and Life Skills; and Global Citizenship. These categories have not been described in detail.

Faculty members at the Feb. 1 forum expressed concern that the sections would not adhere to the traditional idea of a liberal arts education. They also noted that language would not be a requirement under the new categories. No announcement has been made as to any concrete general education changes.

Trustees also heard a report from the Task Force on Free Expression. Three trustees are members of the task force. “They noted, to nobody’s surprise, the range of opinion as to how to define free expression today and how that fits into our goal of being a diverse and inclusive academic community,” wrote Liebowitz. The task force has not announced any conclusive findings or proposals as of press time.

Liebowitz proposed that the board decide on a way to discuss two topics, fossil fuel divestment and the university’s relationship with Al-Quds University, that he deemed were of interest to groups on campus. A divestment rally was held in late May of last year in which students expressed frustration with the administration’s investment holdings. Trustees listened to a presentation of the Exploratory Committee on Fossil Fuel Divestment’s 2015 findings.

Al-Quds University sent a delegation to Brandeis in May of last year. The delegation spent a week at Brandeis attending classes and participating in events. It was the first delegation to arrive on campus since then-President Fred Lawrence suspended Brandeis’ partnership with the university over a demonstration in which members of their campus held fake weapons and used anti-Semitic slurs. Liebowitz did not expand on what he meant by “reviewing our institutional relationship with Al-Quds University.”

The Jan. 17 and 18 meeting was the third that President Liebowitz has presided over. The next Board meeting will take place in April.

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