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Strategic decisions to be announced despite ‘planning fatigue’

Published: October 7, 2011
Section: News

President Lawrence acknowledged at Thursday’s faculty meeting a feeling of “planning fatigue” among the Brandeis community, even as he asked the assembled professors and staff to bear with him and continue looking to the future.

“We’re looking not only at where we have been and where we are, but where we want to be,” Lawrence said, “and not just next year, but five years from now or even 10 years from now.”

Lawrence also announced the impending creation of a Strategic Planning Steering Committee that will undertake “a broad process to engage faculty, staff and students.” The committee will perform a thorough examination of the university’s academic values and “the university’s strengths and weaknesses,” Lawrence said.

Subjects of the strategic planning review include changes to the curriculum; possible hiring changes or merging of departments and/or programs; managing the resources of the university for financial efficiency; and examining approaches meant to improve student life on campus.

The committee will not, however, replace or even reopen issues decided by the CARS and Brandeis 2020 committees of recent years, but will instead accept those recommendations and build on them. The new “Faculty Cabinet,” a powerful nine-member body integrated with the primary University Advisory Committee, will assist in the strategic planning process.

The president took questions on the nature of some of these many “advisory” bodies that have been formed recently, in addition to older schemes like the Faculty Senate, and how they fit into the process.

Of the four schools of Humanities, Sciences, Social Sciences and Creative Arts, the first two have appointed “directors” and are known as divisions instead of just schools, while the arts and social sciences maintain a council system with an ad-hoc chair. Lawrence said that a council/school chair and a division director were effectively “the same thing, [with] no difference” in terms of what they actually performed.

He also said that the advice he gets from faculty members and many different bodies is about hearing views, while the implementation of strategic planning will actually be a separate process entirely.

The process should be spread over approximately 18 months, according to the president. With his full team in place, including new Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel, changes can be discussed and implemented from now on and implemented without delay.

Lawrence admitted that “not all changes need to wait until the end of 18 months,” and that some ideas could begin to take effect sooner, though he would not specify what academic changes he and the administration had coalesced around thus far.