President Liebowitz reports on January Board of Trustees meeting

February 8, 2019

President Ron Liebowitz released a report on Monday of the most recent Board of Trustees meeting, where the Board discussed university task forces to address maintenance and accessibility on campus, the new Springboard Funding Plan, the new General Education requirements, university response to U.S. Department of Education proposed changes to Title IX and the promotion of three faculty members.

The email, sent out to the Brandeis community Monday, detailed an overview of the topics the Board discussed on Jan. 27-29 as well as the reports from the various Board committees.

The Board of Trustees discussed making Brandeis more accessible and the feedback from the campus climate report. This report, by two independent investigators, was initiated after the firing of and drawn-out Human Resources investigation into former basketball coach Brian Meehan, who was fired for abusive and racist behavior in April of 2018, according to an article from The Brandeis Hoot.

The Board discussed the accessibility forum, a discussion with administrators about how accessible the Brandeis campus is to students with disabilities. The forum met some criticism from students, according to an earlier Hoot editorial. “The trustees agreed that we must pursue, as a high priority, specific recommendations on services for students, faculty and staff with disabilities, both physical and nonphysical,” the email read. Provost Lisa Lynch also spoke on the “dramatic increase in the use of mental health services by students,” read the email.

The board reviewed feedback received after the release of the second report on Brandeis’ climate, said the email. “We continued our conversation about ways trustees and university administrators can work together to advance our progress on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion,” it continued.

Liebowitz briefed the board on proposed Title IX changes, which were proposed by the U.S. Department of Education in early January. “I expressed our concerns that the proposals present an overly prescriptive approach that would inhibit our ability to craft procedures, unique to our particular circumstances, that ensure equity, fairness and respect for all community members,” wrote Liebowitz in the email.

The email also touched on university funding, especially the “Springboard Funding Plan,” which includes increased endowment spending and bond refinancing to fund university maintenance projects, and new faculty and administrative hires, according to an earlier article from The Hoot. The email detailed several different sources of funds for the university, coming not only from fundraising but also from the new financial framework.

The Institutional Advancement Committee discussed fundraising for the upcoming fiscal year (FY2019). “Through December 31, 2018, fundraising results have achieved 58 percent of the FY19 goal,” the email read. The new fiscal year will begin after June, and fundraising is projected to meet expectations, said the email. This committee also received a report on the office of Institutional Advancement’s goals to grow as an office, engage alumni friends and parents about the “Framework for Our Future” and to encourage future funding opportunities.

The “Framework for Our Future” is Liebowitz’s three-point plan to strengthen Brandeis, by improving the student learning and living experience, supporting research, creativity and collaborative innovation, and honoring Brandeis’ Jewish roots. Liebowitz announced this plan on Oct. 29, 2018.

Alumni giving increased from FY18, from 29 percent to 55 percent in FY19, due in part to the $10 million gift from Toshizo “Tom” Watanabe ’73 for international students. Without his contribution, alumni giving is still larger than FY18, at 35 percent.

The Resources Committee reported on the new financial framework, which was developed over the past two years, according to an earlier Hoot article. The board found that the original FY19 budget had a slight operating surplus and expects a similar surplus for the second quarter.

The Investment Committee reported on a positive return of 1.2 percent, as compared to the policy benchmark return of

-4.7 percent, a greater return than expected for the calendar year of 2018.
The email also announced the promotion of two faculty members to full professors. Professor Pengyu Hong (COMP) and Professor Susan Lichtman (FAS) were promoted, and Amy Singer (HIST) was awarded tenure and full professor status.

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