President Ron Liebowitz vowed to tackle issues of divestment and diversity at a faculty meeting on Friday, Sept. 9. The meeting included a remembrance of Brandeis Professor of Economics Rachel McCulloch, a statement by University President Ron Liebowitz, the introduction of new staff and faculty, updates on unfilled positions at Brandeis and a brief presentation by the Class of 2016 Commencement Speaker and founder of HistoryMakers, Julieanna L. Richardson.
Rachel McCulloch, professor of economics, passed away on June 18. McCulloch taught at Brandeis for 29 years and in her time as an economist, she published over 100 papers. A tribute at the start of the meeting remembered McCulloch as an “enormously curious” person who “fell in love with economics.”
President Ron Liebowitz listed climate change, fossil fuel divestment, diversity and inclusion, financial stability and financial sustainability as issues which will be of importance in September and throughout the rest of the academic year.
President Liebowitz described the complexities of working both with the Board of Trustees and with those that call for divestment from fossil fuels. “[People] on campus [who] advocate for divestment and the trustees who feel their fiduciary responsibility is to protect the interests, financial and otherwise, of the institution are at odds,” Liebowitz explained in his address to the faculty. “Communication is the best antidote to this stalemate.”
Liebowitz navigated discussions about divestment during his previous term as president at Middlebury College. He worked alongside an investment committee comprised of both students and board members. On Aug. 23, 2013, Liebowitz announced that the college would not divest its shares. However, the investment committee would work to create a set of ESG, (Environmental, Social and Governance) principles to affect future investments.
Liebowitz also addressed the importance of free speech on college campuses. He stated that the principle is “not only an issue of student autonomy, it’s an issue of student responsibility.” Provost Lisa Lynch also mentioned a plan to create a task force for free speech, inquiry and expression in the coming weeks.
Lynch reminded the faculty that interviews with the finalists for the Chief Diversity Officer are ongoing and expressed her hope that the university can “fill the position as soon as possible with the right person for Brandeis.”
Lynch has also been involved with helping the search committee at the Rose Art Museum as they complete work on the job description for the Director of the Rose Art Museum. Chris Bedford, the Henry and Louis Foster Director of the Rose Art Museum, left his position on July 31. Bedford began his role as Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director at the Baltimore Museum of Art on August 15. Lynch expects the job description to be completed by the end of September.
Julieanna L. Richardson ’76, the commencement speaker for the Brandeis Class of 2016, gave a brief presentation to the faculty on her educational non-profit organization The HistoryMakers. Richardson is the founder and executive director of The HistoryMakers, an archive of interviews of 2,700 African-American individuals containing over 9,000 video hours.
She has spent the last 16 years on the project, which is available to faculty at 16 universities including Brandeis. Richardson hopes to “engage student and faculty with our content.” She said that “the strength of the collection is really in the stories.”
During Richardson’s presentation to the staff she showed several clips from the archives. The presentation included a demonstration of the accessibility of searching within The HistoryMakers online archive. “What we’re hoping is revolutionize teaching by providing this huge repository,” Richardson concluded.
The faculty meeting also dedicated time to introduce new members of the faculty as well as to announce faculty who have assumed new positions at Brandeis. Departments receiving new faculty members include: African and Afro-American Studies, Biology, Classical Studies, Economics, English/Comparative Literature and Culture, English/Creative Writing, Mathematics, Music, Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Psychology and Sociology. Additional faculty have also been added to the International Business School.