Brandeis announced this week that it was firing its men’s basketball coach for racist remarks, inappropriate behavior and nepotism, and the university said it was undertaking an independent investigation of the policies and procedures used to investigate grievances.
Members of the Brandeis community have discussed Meehan’s firing in the context of the larger, persistent issue of racism at Brandeis and in our society.
We commend Brandeis for recognizing where they have failed to properly address complaints like this and for acknowledging the work they need to do to confront discrimination and dramatically increase diversity on campus. However, it is essential that administrators not wait until there is public scrutiny or outside media attention to make public statements or promise action. The university needs to be proactive and take concrete action by hiring more faculty of color, ensuring students of color have adequate support at the Brandeis Counseling Center (BCC), implementing new diversity trainings and listening to students who know their own experiences best.
Though we appreciate President Liebowitz’s public statements, an apology only holds weight if those who apologize take action to make change. The concerns raised this week are in no way new and the incidence of racism is no way isolated to this coach.
Students have been calling for change for decades, and the university must be working actively to address these concerns in a public and transparent way, whether we are in the midst of a scandal or not.
The Brandeis community is not immune to hatred and abuse, and the administration must be vigilant in addressing these concerns, as they are the most powerful body on campus and can affect real change. Therefore, actively working to protect the student body has to be the administration’s priority. President Liebowitz has suggested initiatives, including implementing diversity trainings for staff across all departments, and he is right to suggest these types of initiatives.
In President Liebowitz’s initial email to the student body addressing the dismissal of the head coach, he mentioned the administrations “zero tolerance” policy, which means that the administration does not permit any act of discrimination “against any student, staff member, faculty member, or visitor because of their race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or any other aspect of their identity.” We must ask ourselves what zero tolerance really means. It is crucial to take complaints seriously and work seriously to change our entire campus culture.
We, as The Brandeis Hoot Editorial Board, recognize we are an overwhelmingly white body, and we must and will work to recognize both our privilege and how we might marginalize members of our community. In addition to working against racism and any form of discrimination ourselves, we must continue to hold the administration accountable.
Editors involved in reporting on the investigation did not contribute to the editorial.