Univ. lost $38M in revenue due to pandemic, board discusses Black Action Plan, univ. continues search for next provost

October 2, 2020

The university lost a projected $38 million in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to an email from President Ron Liebowitz to the community on Sep. 24 about the September Board of Trustees meeting.

The email said that fiscal year 2020 (FY20) ended with an operating surplus of $1.15 million. The trustees discussed the processing of $3.2 million in CARES Act funds and the financial levers that were implemented in the summer to offset the revenue loss. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act was a $2 trillion aid package passed by Congress in March of 2020.

Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Stewart Uretsky reported at the April Board of Trustees meeting that the endowment has lost less value than most other universities due to the university’s relatively conservative investment strategy, according to an email to the community on May 12. He said that this year’s endowment performance will reduce funds available in future years.

The Institutional Advancement Committee announced at the Board of Trustees meeting that fundraising totals for FY20 showed a 15 percent increase over FY19, representing the best fundraising year in 10 years with the exception of FY17, according to Liebowitz’s Sept. 24 email.

The Board of Trustees also discussed re-imagining Brandeis’ approach to public safety and how the university can address “anti-Black racism” on campus at its September Board of Trustees meeting, according to an email to the community from President Ron Liebowitz on Sep. 24. 

“I want to thank the Board’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee for its advice and support over the past several months as the university has grappled with these important issues,” reads the email from LIebowitz. “In advance of the September Board meeting, the committee met twice to review the Black Action Plan and discuss how it can support the administration in its partnership with the students who are leading these efforts. The committee is also beginning to plan for an in-depth discussion of these topics with the full Board at its November retreat.”

The meeting also introduced Sonali Anderson ’22, the newly elected junior undergraduate representative to the Board of Trustees and one of the authors of the Black Action Plan, to the Board. Before Anderson was elected to the board, she told The Brandeis Hoot during her Sep. 3 candidate debate that she had already been meeting with upper administration and wanted to shift the focus from talking about the problems to making changes.

Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mark Brimhall-Vargas and Liebowitz told the trustees about their meetings with Anderson and the other authors of the plan and their ongoing work to develop action plans to address anti-Black racism, according to Liebowitz. The administration will share the plans to address the students’ concerns later in the fall, according to the email.

The Nominating and Governance Committee also talked about building a strong pipeline of diverse trustee candidates during the meeting, according to Liebowtiz.

Liebowitz said that the board also discussed the continued search for Provost Lisa Lynch’s replacement. Lynch announced on Jan. 21 that she was going to go on sabbatical, but on April 3, Liebowtiz announced that Lynch was delaying her sabbatical until December of this year so she could help with the university’s response to the pandemic. 

“Over the past several months, the committee has met six times and is continuing to consider candidates for the position,” reads the ‘Provost Search’ website. The committee will present its list of finalists to President Liebowitz for his review later in the fall semester.

Board Chair Meyer Koplow ’72, P’02, P’05 announced that “student life” will be separated out from the Board’s Academy Committee’s mandate and there will be a separate Student Life standing committee to enrich the student life experience at Brandeis. Liebowitz said he will provide more information on this initiative in the coming weeks.

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