Liebowitz reports on the January Board of Trustees Meeting

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February 9, 2018

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to pass the new general education requirements, the final stamp of approval before the requirements go into effect for the class entering in fall 2019, according President Liebowitz’s summary of last week’s board meetings released last night.

Brandeis faculty had unanimously supported the Gen. Ed. proposal at a Nov. 3 meeting, sending them on to the board.

The trustees voted after a “thorough” two-hour long discussion with “great passion and thoughtfulness,” said Liebowitz. Their “major concern” was regarding the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the U.S. requirement.

“No one questioned the value of having such a requirement,” said Liebowitz’s report, but rather the questions centered on which courses would count towards this requirement and the process for them to be approved. Provost Lisa Lynch and Susan Birren, the Dean of Arts and Sciences, will discuss the trustees’ concerns and their suggestions with the faculty as the university plans to implement the new requirements, according to Liebowitz.

The Gen. Ed. proposal was introduced last year. It split Brandeis’ existing requirements into five new categories: Brandeis First Year Experience, Foundational Literacies, Schools of Thought, Health Wellness and Life Skills and Global Engagement.

Two new requirements were added: “Digital Literacy” and “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the U.S.,” which bring the total list of requirements to 13. Brandeis is also adding a new component to the University Writing Seminar (UWS) called the “First Year Experience.” It includes a three to five hour mandatory experiential learning trip during the semester and a “Critical Conversation,” where faculty members will offer contrasting views on the core theme of the UWS class.

When the Task Force on General Education first released the General Education requirements, members of the Student Union were concerned the new requirements would burden incoming students, according to discussion at a Senate meeting.

According to Birren, the task force expects students to take fewer required courses because, although the number of requirements is higher, every major department will be required to house classes that satisfy the Writing Intensive and Quantitative Reasoning requirements. This way, students can take those courses within their own major.

Also during the January meetings, a student panel spoke to the full board regarding major concerns of the student body such as “financial, housing, counseling, transportation and communications problems,” according to Liebowitz’s report.

The panel featured several students, including Jacob Edelman ’18, the Student Union President. Matters discussed included how Brandeis could support students looking for off campus housing and the burden students face when working many hours at an on-campus job and trying to keep up with schoolwork, Edelman said.

At one point, the panelists were asked if they knew anyone who worked so much it impacted their school performance, according to Edelman. They all raised their hands. The panelists also addressed certain hidden costs of college and areas where the university can “nickel and dime students.” Examples included the cost of subscription to online services for some courses and late fees at the library.

The Risk Management and Audit Committee of the Board reviewed two internal audit reports, including one on a “safety and security review of campus.” This audit is conducted routinely to help the Brandeis ensure the safety of the campus, according to Ed Callahan, the director of Public Safety.

The board also met with members Brandeis Climate Justice (BCJ) and Faculty Against the Climate Threat (FACT) who presented on divestment of the endowment from fossil fuels. As a result of that presentation, Liebowitz plans to create an eight person committee of faculty, staff, students and trustees to address two trustee requests. The trustees requested a report on peer institutions’ actions and possible short and long term effects on environmental action.

The Academy Committee approved a resolution appointing Aida Wong (FA), Janet McIntosh (ANTH) and Yu-Hui Chang (MUS) from associate professors with tenure to full professors. They also passed a resolution to move the Master of Arts degrees in computer science and computer linguistics to Master of Science degrees.

The meeting also featured a presentation from Nick Warren on Brandeis’ endowment. According to Liebowitz’s report, Warren described the investment portfolio as low-risk but still bringing in returns in the top 30 percent of endowments of comparable size over the last decade. Only five percent of the Brandeis investments are direct investment while 95 percent of investments are through fund managers. Liebowitz stated he plans to offer a similar presentation on the endowment for the entire campus this semester.

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