Transparency cannot be in name only

December 1, 2017

President Liebowitz and the Brandeis administration have taken steps to improve transparency on campus. But transparency is only valuable if it is accessible. While the administration has been sharing information through a series of open forums, they could do more to encourage attendance and reach more students with this information.

We appreciate Liebowitz’s efforts to expand transparency. The open forums he has hosted throughout the past three semesters provide a wealth of important information about the university.

This semester alone, there have been three different open forum topics. Wednesday’s presentation on Brandeis’ finances discussed the school’s endowment and the large quantity of deferred maintenance—all those construction or cosmetic projects on campus that sit unfinished.

There have been meetings on the draft principles on free expression, exploring major contemporary issues of free speech or controversy surrounding conservative speakers on college campuses. On Tuesday, Liebowitz hosted a meeting on the future of Brandeis, where he spoke about obstacles the university faces and possibilities for the future.

These meetings are important, and we appreciate Liebowitz and administrators sharing this information. For the most part, the administrators are candid and detailed, and we respect that Liebowitz thinks we can handle having this information. For once, we are getting information not written in sugar-coated public relations language.

However, while these meetings are transparent, they are not accessible. The finance meeting was held at 11 a.m. on a Wednesday. The meeting on Brandeis’ future was held at 12 p.m., which is perhaps the most common time to have class. Levin Ballroom was packed on Tuesday for that meeting, but not with students. It was filled with staff and faculty, and fewer than 10 students attended.

These meetings are not accessible when they take place in the middle of the day. Students have class or work, things they cannot reschedule. It is not enough to host these presentations if no one is able to come to them.

This responsibility rests, to a certain extent, with students. Not all students were in class at this time, and we encourage everyone to attend these meetings and be proactive in learning about their school. Still, these sessions could be much more accessible if they were held at a different time. It is also the responsibility of the university to take steps to encourage and allow for higher attendance.

Brandeis has hosted open forums in the evening in past years, and even these are not as well-attended as one would like. Brandeis could take other steps to encourage attendance, including publicizing them via other mediums than email. As much as we, as journalists, are eager to open every campus-wide email, others will just scroll by. Publicizing the event on Facebook or Instagram could reach more students.

We encourage Brandeis to consider hosting forums in the evening. We recognize this is after business hours, but even if the meeting were around 4 p.m., fewer students would be in class. Improving Brandeis as an institution takes everyone’s knowledge and effort.

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