This past Friday, Jan. 30, Brandeis President Frederick M. Lawrence announced that he will resign from the university at the end of this academic year. After five years in the position, Lawrence leaves behind a mixed legacy. He inherited a series of problems, which he strove to combat, while also coming under constant fire. When Lawrence took office, the university was experiencing serious financial trouble as a result of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and the 2008 recession. Lawrence’s predecessor, Jehuda Reinharz, attempted to close and sell off works from the Rose Art Museum, which resulted in massive on-campus resistance.
The university is now thriving again financially. Lawrence noted in his email to the Brandeis community that the university’s endowment “has grown to its highest point ever.” He also successfully re-opened and revitalized the Rose Art Museum, securing new exhibits and hiring new board members. Considering where he started from, Lawrence has made commendable strides in improving the university during his relatively brief tenure. There are, however, issues which the editorial board feels Lawrence mishandled.
During Lawrence’s tenure, the university came under investigation for Title IX violations, and in response to the sexual assault protesters at the “Light of Reason” protest in September, Lawrence remarked, “We’re not here to protect you. We’re here to prepare you for the real world.” Students activists reacted harshly to the comments.
In an Oct. 9 editorial, The Brandeis Hoot criticized Lawrence’s decision to cut ties with Al-Quds University, stating that “Brandeis missed an opportunity to move forward by instantly judging the response from the Al-Quds administration, rather than seeking direct dialogue with the university.” We also felt he mishandled the controversy surrounding Ayaan Hirsi Ali by failing to look close enough at Ali’s background before making the decision to award the honorary degree.
In a new university president, the editorial board would like to see a president who makes a larger effort to listen to student concerns. We would like the new president to improve transparency in regard to board of trustees meetings, but also take student feedback into account when making decisions that affect students. Recently, several major and sudden decisions have been made, including the introduction of mandatory meal plans, a change that upset many students.
In the Oct. 9 editorial, The Hoot implored the university to listen to students recounting experiences at Al-Quds and their desire to reinstate the partnership. Moving forward, we would like to see more students involved in decision making as well as more information circulating throughout the entire Brandeis community.