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Univ. plans to increase fundraising to account for new hires

Brandeis has secured $84.7 million to move forward with the springboard funding plan to address the gaps in Brandeis’ operational budget, including deferred maintenance and new hires, President Liebowitz announced in an email to the Brandeis community on Oct. 24. The plan, which was first announced in January, has $44 million immediately available and about $18 to $19 million will be spent within the first fiscal year, or during 2020. 

To continue to fund new hires after a three-year hiring period, the university needs to sustain about $100 million of annual fundraising, said Liebowitz in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot, or about a $43 million increase from current annual fundraising. According to Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement Zamira Korff, the university raises about $57 million a year. 

“We’re working on a three-year period and of course we are investing very heavily in Institutional Advancement and one of the assumptions in this is that we’re going to increase our annual fundraising as well as our endowment fundraising,” said Liebowitz. “We have to increase our revenue from where it is now to meet those expenses.”

Nearly 70 percent of the operating funding, or of $40.7 million, will go to hiring new personnel, including 15 new faculty members in the School of Arts and Sciences and the International Business School and new fundraisers for the Department of Institutional Advancement over the course of the next three years.

“Part of this whole springboard philosophy is to fill in gaps that have existed at the university for the last 10 or so years,” said Liebowitz in an interview with The Hoot. “So we’re really only now trying to get back to our faculty size of 2007, to our advancement size of 2006… We’ve sort of struggled all of these years because of the layoffs in 2008-2009 and the financial situation so basically we’re now trying to build back up.”

Hiring new faculty presents costs that will continue past the initial three-year hiring period, including salaries and benefits, which Liebowitz referred to as “the cliff.” These continual costs are why Brandeis is investing in Institutional Advancement to increase annual fundraising and endowment fundraising, said Liebowitz.

The $40.7 million will also go toward increasing employee benefits, such as faculty and staff salary pools, to assist in recruitment and retention. Liebowitz also said the university was piloting a program where Brandeis will help faculty members with a second mortgage and offers an opportunity for additional child care assistance to combat the high costs of living and childcare in Massachusetts. 

Some faculty hires will be going to the International Business School (IBS), which has two active searches for faculty in data analytics and in a finance focus, according to Senior Associate Director Kelly Forde, and will hopefully hire another two tenure-line faculty members for the next academic year.

IBS has limited space for current faculty, said Forde, but is being creative to make up for the physical constraints of the IBS buildings. A new building is a priority for both IBS and the university, said Forde.

“We are very very limited with our space,” Forde said in an interview with The Hoot. “We’ve had to get really creative in looking at who is here… People have been pretty understanding,” she continued. “That’s why a new building is a priority for us and a priority for the university.”

But new building projects are not in the current springboard funding framework, according to the email Liebowitz released to the student body, though new buildings could be funded in an upcoming university capital campaign that Liebowitz expects to possibly begin after the next three years. 

“The amount of funds needed for the infrastructural improvements on this campus are with extra zeros,” said Liebowitz. “That will come with fundraising… We haven’t yet determined that because we haven’t yet done a full financial assessment of the overall costs of the framework because we haven’t completed [and] synthesized all of the recommendations.”

The framework refers to the Framework for Our Future plan Liebowitz announced in 2018 that created three task forces and several working groups to address issues at Brandeis. Those recommendations will form a basis for later changes at Brandeis.

The first changes to the Brandeis campus that students will see, said Liebowitz in an interview with The Hoot, are infrastructure improvements. The funding is broken down into two sums: $40.7 million dedicated to the operational budget and $44 million in a capital budget. Brandeis raised $18 million more than their projected fundraising for the $44 million pool because of high interest in university bonds, which were refinanced to create the capital budget fund. 

The capital budget can be used immediately, said Liebowitz, who expects the university to spend between $18 and $19 million the first year. 

These projects will include upgrades to roofing, elevators, one of Brandeis’s boilers, Workday—the new online human resources, payroll and other finance operations platform which will eventually expand to student enrollment in the next two years—improving cellular and Wi-Fi coverage across campus, improvements to campus security cameras, hiring additional personnel in public safety and increasing funding to expand shuttle programs into later evening hours. The funding will also go toward making buildings more accessible.

“Accessibility is a very expensive task on this campus because the campus was built in the 50s and 60s and there weren’t ADA (American Disability Act) laws then,” said Liebowitz.

If a building is upgraded beyond a certain cost threshold, accessibility upgrades must also be provided, according to Vice President of Campus Operations Lois Stanley. 

“If the cost of the upgrade is equivalent to 30 percent of the building value, that triggers accessibility upgrades. But we would want to do accessibility upgrades anyway,” she said. “There are likely to be accessibility upgrades in all deferred maintenance projects, with some specific accessibility upgrades.”

Edison-Lecks will be one of the first buildings to be upgraded, said Liebowitz. The sprinklers in Edison-Lecks will definitely be addressed, said Stanley in an interview with The Hoot. 

More funds will also go to the university’s dining contract, said Liebowitz, which will end with Sodexo in June 2020. Brandeis is currently soliciting contract proposals from different vendors, and Sodexo is also invited to apply.

The new contract will have improved food quality, said Liebowitz. “I don’t think you get that for less money. I think that we’re going to have to be prepared to increase the costs,” he continued.

The two funding pools, the $40.7 million dedicated to the operational budget and $44 million in a capital budget, come from different sources. Part of the $40.7 million comes from an increase in spending on two-thirds of the endowment spending.

Two-thirds of the university’s just over $1 billion endowment is unrestricted, wrote Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Stewart Uretsky in an email to The Hoot. The Brandeis Board of Trustees authorized a spending increase to 6.2 percent from 5.7 percent on the unrestricted portion of the endowment in January 2019. In three and a half years, said Liebowitz, the endowment spending will begin to decrease until it returns to a 5 percent spending rate. 

“If it were up to me, we’d have a 5.0 or less spend rate—I mean that’s the ideal—but we are where we are,” said Liebowitz. “It’s a very lean operating budget here. What this university does with $360 million dollars is pretty amazing—to have three professional schools, 18 Ph.D. programs, 3600 undergraduates as supported as the students are in the undergraduate program,” he continued. “Now that comes at the expense of investing and that’s what we’re really missing so we don’t have much margin for reducing that spend rate just yet.”

Future Fundraising

The springboard funding plan provides a starting point for a larger capital campaign, said Liebowitz. Korff said that the campaign would most likely begin with a “silent phase,” where the university would reach out for larger gifts quietly, to be followed by a more public campaign.

Institutional Advancement will hire about 20 employees because of the springboard funding during the 2020 fiscal year. These hires will restore cuts made in previous years, wrote Korff to The Hoot in an email.

Brandeis has a strong network of alumni, parents and friends, said Korff, that Institutional Advancement can do more to reach out to, especially after new hires. Building relationships is crucial to Institutional Advancement, Korff said, which requires personnel to travel and explain to alumni, parents and friends about what they want to help build at Brandeis.

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