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Trustees pass Free Speech Principles, no vote on issues of divestment

The Board of Trustees unanimously voted to adopt Brandeis’ Principles of Free Speech and Free Expression and discussed but did not vote on “proposed new guidelines for socially responsible investment” in a meeting with President Ron Liebowitz last month, according to a campus-wide email from Liebowitz.

“The meeting’s tone was both optimistic yet realistic,” Leibowitz noted in the Wednesday night email.

The board did not come to a conclusion on the issue of whether or not to divest university funds from fossil fuels, according to the email. The decision by the board not to vote on the matter comes five months after Liebowitz and Board of Trustees member George D. Krupp announced to student demonstrators that a vote on divestment would take place within 60 days.

In a June statement, Liebowitz pushed the vote on divestment to November, noting that before they voted on divestment, the board must vote to update guidelines established in 1973 titled “Brandeis University as a Responsible Investor.” No vote was held to update these investor guidelines.

“The board devoted a significant amount of time to discussing whether and how the university can address the legitimate concerns about climate change through fossil fuels divestment, as well as how our 1973 Statement on Socially Responsible Investing might be updated to address conditions the university could not have anticipated 45 years ago,” Liebowitz said. The email promised that the board “is committed to remaining focused on these matters and resolving outstanding questions at upcoming meetings.”

The Board of Trustees’ unanimous vote to adopt Brandeis’ Principles of Free Speech and Free Expression rendered the principles—which can be found on the Brandeis website—an official statement of Brandeis University.

Last year, the then “draft” principles sparked heated debate in campus discussions which were held to receive feedback on the formerly unofficial guidelines. In these discussions, some students expressed fear that the principles would be used to allow controversial or inflammatory figures to speak on campus.

The two day meeting between Leibowitz also discussed “important issues related to finances, facilities, and enrollment,” a “draft framework for Brandeis’ future” written by Liebowitz, cyber-security measures being taken by the university, and “questions about how we can best finance an upgrade of our facilities,” according to the email.

The board promoted Nidhiya Menon to “the rank of full professor with tenure” and appointed Dorothy Hodgson, the Dean of Arts and Sciences, to the same rank, the email noted.

Eight new trustees were welcomed to the board during the meetings which took place on Sept. 26 and 27.


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