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Board of Trustees update highlights diversity committee, Framework for Our Future

The Board of Trustees formed a new ad hoc board committee, the Committee on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) during their September meeting, according to an email sent out by President Ron Liebowitz on Oct. 3. The two-day meeting also touched on Liebowitz’ Framework for Our Future, the campus climate and university fundraising and finances.

The Committee on DEI will be chaired by trustee Debbie Bial ’87 and will provide the administration with advice and expertise to address various DEI issues around campus. 

The committee will work with Chief Diversity Officer Mark Brimhall-Vargas and “will also help set collective goals and monitor the university’s progress” to create a “more welcoming and inclusive place to live, learn, and work,” according to the email.  

The board also approved the appointment of Monique L. Nelson as a new board member. Nelson is the chair and CEO of UniWorld Group (UWG), the country’s longest-standing multicultural market agency, according to their website. She is also on the New York Advisory Board for The Posse Foundation, of which she is an alumna. Nelson received her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University in human and organizational development and her master’s of business administration in international marketing and finance from the Kellstadt Graduate School of Business at DePaul University. 

Liebowitz, along with Provost Lisa Lynch, presented an update on the Framework for Our Future process and how the work being done in the process relates to the work that has been done over the past few years in regards to various external reviews and working groups. The email noted that the administration received over 250 task force recommendations that will be factored into furthering improving the university. 

Dick Reynolds, the interim vice president for campus operations, presented an interim report on the work of the Framework’s Task Force on Focused Physical Planning, which Reynolds chairs. According to the report, “strategic investments in the university’s physical plant are essential for achieving Framework goals and initiatives.” 

Liebowitz’s email also said that the board provided the senior administration with feedback about the progress of the Framework and will begin to preview the draft report in October and November and will look for input and feedback from the greater Brandeis community in the coming weeks.

Zamira Korff, senior vice president of institutional advancement, spoke about the university’s constant fundraising efforts. She explained how the goals of the Framework cannot be met with sustained support from the Brandeis community. “[Korff] explained how we are working to improve our capacity to engage with and solicit feedback from these communities,” wrote the email. 

The email said that the university is planning on hosting small-group discussions, Presidential Roundtables, on campus and around the country, to engage with different groups of the Brandeis community.

They also had the opportunity to speak with newly tenured/promoted faculty members about their research and teaching and their Brandeis experience. Graduate and undergraduate students were also invited to speak about the living and learning experience at Brandeis. 

The board approved the promotion of Professor Aldo Musacchio (IBS) to professor with tenure, effective immediately. 

The board also discussed the recent drop of Brandeis in the U.S. News rankings and the ongoing efforts to improve campus safety. They also spoke about current research that is being undertaken with SimpsonScarborough to “help us understand our reputation among key groups, including prospective undergraduate and graduate students; academic and administrative leaders at peer institutions; philanthropic-minded adults who are likely to be interested in Brandeis; and our alumni, families, and friends,” said the email.

The Academy Committee was updated on plans for Raymond Ou, vice provost of student affairs, “to conduct a review of mental health services on campus,” according to the email. Ou will also oversee a self-study of the Hiatt Career Center, which will be followed by an external committee review. 

University Professor Irving Epstein (CHEM), Senior Associate Provost Kim Godsoe and Professor Melissa Kosinski-Collins (BIOL) presented on the five-year $1 million Inclusive Excellence grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). “The grant will help build our capacity for inclusion and success in the sciences for students of all backgrounds, expanding the success of the Science Posse and Galaxy programs,” according to the email. 

The committee was also briefed on information from the incoming graduate and undergraduate classes. There has been an increase in visa denials for graduate students from Africa in the past year. 

The Resources Committee reviewed the financial results from FY19 and looked at the updated budget for FY20. The email added that FY19 was the fifth year that the university had an operating surplus in the budget. In FY19, there was a $3.7 million surplus on a total revenue budget of $356 million. They also received a report from Human Resources (HR), which is currently looking for a permanent HR vice president. HR anticipates the search process will be completed within the next four months, said the email.

According to the email, Chief Information Officer Jim La Creta also updated the committee on key initiatives within technology services, including the creation of a Data Governance Committee and an IT Governance Committee and a Workday HR/Finance Implementation update. 

The Institutional Advancement (IA) Committee looked into fundraising in FY19 and FY20 and the committee’s long-term and short-term objectives. The email said that Korff told the board that the fundraising totals for FY20 is “well ahead” of last year. 

Patsy Fisher, Vice President of Alumni Relations, is working with external consultant Kathy Edersheim to “build a powerful, sustainable, volunteer-led campus-wide alumni relations program that would serve the Brandeis community in a number of ways,” according to the email. The initiatives will be implemented during the next academic year. 

The Nominating and Governance Committee received a report from the Diversity Recruitment Subcommittee about their efforts to build a “strong pipeline of diverse trustee candidates,” said the email. There was also discussion about the new trustee orientation program and ways it could be improved.

The email said that the Risk Management and Audit Committee heard an update on the university’s audit and accounting issues from a representative from KPMG, the university’s auditors. 

Vincent Lim, assistant director of strategic initiatives, gave an update to the committee on the Enterprise Risk Management process, “which had identified campus safety and security as its pilot risk area for in-depth study,” said the email. 

Ed Callahan, Chief of Police, and Josh Manfredo, Director of Emergency Management, also updated the committee on recent measures taken to enhance campus safety and security, according to the email.

The Investment Committee reviewed “investment returns, risk exposures, liquidity, cash flows, and investment manager news,” according to the email. The endowment’s FY19 return was approximately 5.8 percent and assets have grown to $1.074 billion from June 30, 2019, which was up from $1.046 billion on June 30, 2018.

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