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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

University releases new framework for Strategic Plan

Published: October 12, 2012
Section: Front Page, News

Provost Steve Goldstein released the preliminary framework for Brandeis’ strategic plan on Wednesday, highlighting the university’s commitments to social justice, global connections and selective academic excellence in new focus areas.

“This proposed framework reshapes our practices in profound ways, guiding us toward the fulfillment of our founding vision while addressing today’s unique challenges,” Goldstein wrote in the framework’s cover letter. “It provides mechanisms to helps us make hard choices about investment, consolidation and redirection of resources over the coming years—choices necessary to advance our premier standing while establishing a sustainable financial structure for the university.”

The framework itself, which is now available on the university’s website, is a 14-page “rough draft” of how the next five years of the strategic plan will be enacted. It gives readers a broad overview of how Brandeis will attempt to ensure that various improvement initiatives around campus are possible, rather than specify each initiative individually.

Some aspects of the framework will affect different areas and members of the community more so than others; one area that could definitively impact Brandeis students is the addition of five new educational programs. These programs include Biomedicine and Global Health, Engineering, Integrated Arts, Legal and Ethical Studies and World Issues Forum. Each of theses programs are described in the framework as being designed to bridge a gap between schools, and are emphasized as being interdisciplinary.

The Integrated Arts program, which according to the framework would “[link] creative and performing arts to the sciences, humanities, social sciences and professions on campus and around the globe” was met with praise at the first of a series of feedback sessions on Thursday, as the discussion at one table focused on the gap between arts and the sciences for a portion of time.

In an email sent on Wednesday to the Brandeis community Goldstein wrote that the framework “seeks to ensure that Brandeis University remains a clear first choice for exceptional students, faculty and staff.”
The framework itself repeatedly emphasizes the ways in which the plan would help put Brandeis’ financial resources to work and improve the process of their usage, as well as what they can provide for Brandeis. It also mentions its commitment to financial stability, a topic that remains contentious among students given last year’s unfavorable tuition hikes.
President Fred Lawrence addressed this at the first of a series of feedback sessions on Thursday morning in Rapaporte Treasure Hall, saying that the capital campaign will be a significant part of the framework and plan. “We rely on the support of our alumni network, generous donors and others,” Lawrence said. He also said that this campaign is something we need to discuss in order to deal with, rather than from which to shy away.

Goldstein also commented on this at the feedback session when he stated, “we will have to make choices” about which programs we will focus more heavily on than others. “This is scary, and this should be scary,” he said.

While it may seem like a good idea to simply accept more students and thus increase the total tuition revenue Brandeis receives, Lawrence stated his opposition to this at the meeting. When speaking about Brandeis’ graduate program, he said, “I would not sell three times the tuition to three times as many graduate students as we currently have.” He then explained that Brandeis’ small size is part of what makes it so special, and cited that Brandeis’ unique status as such a small research university allows each student access to a very high-quality education.

He also stressed that the plan was to be a “living plan,” or one that would be able to adapt to different circumstances as it is enacted. Goldstein told the audience, “We need to remember Brandeis’ roots” as the plan is fine-tuned and shaped, “while also being able to adapt for the future.”

At the feedback session, Lawrence discussed the ways in which the framework would help to guide initiatives around Brandeis in the next five years. The framework “can give us a focus and a sense of where we want to be,” he said, as well as help the community “get the full power and value out of our lives.”

The remaining feedback sessions will be held between Friday and Wednesday. All members of the Brandeis community will have the chance to speak with individuals who have been involved in the various task forces that have shaped individual parts of the plan at the sessions.

Following these sessions, there will be additional meetings and opportunities for different community members to continue to voice their input on the framework and make sure that each aspect is tailored for Brandeis, until a full version of the plan will be voted on in a Jan. 23 Board of Trustees meeting. This meeting will represent the plan’s ultimate approval or rejection, and will largely determine the direction in which Brandeis will move during the coming decade.