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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Goldstein hears feedback on strategic plan draft

Published: March 21, 2013
Section: News

Several community feedback sessions took place last week so that students, staff and faculty could offer comments on the most recent draft of the strategic plan.

On March 14, an intimate discussion took place in Levin Ballroom in Usdan Center. The session was led by Provost Steve Goldstein, who forfeited the microphone to sit down at the round tables amid a group comprised of small variety: a graduate student, staff members and faculty. Some of these participants have attended all three of the feedback sessions, while others had not yet finished the lengthy read of the draft plan, but were still eager to give and hear feedback from the rest of the community.

Goldstein began the talk by establishing the goal of the feedback sessions. It was not only important to “highlight the parts of the draft that get it right,” but to point out the areas in which it could improve.

One of the earliest questions addressed to Goldstein was what will happen after the plan is finished. “Implementation,” he answered, “is, in fact, one of the exciting things for us. The pages … [emphasize that] just like the process itself, it’s going to be a collaborative process between the people doing the work, and the people trying to keep track of where we’re headed.”

The process of implementation will be run by the University Advisory Committee. Goldstein added that he thought it was important that leaders be defined as responsible for seeing the plan move forward. Goldstein insists that the question, “Are we achieving what we thought we would achieve?” needs to be asked frequently throughout the implementation of the plan.

The conversation followed the passions of the attendees. The positions of staff and faculty members was a frequented topic. Compared to staffing levels at other universities, “we are quite lean,” Goldstein admitted. This is difficult for the university, and for the employees, as one member of the discussion pointed out, there are many professors doing things here that are done by staff members at almost any other university.

One young staff member in the room talked about his concerns for himself and his colleagues his age: “You’re going to lose us not to other universities, but to the for-profit industries because you simply can’t compensate us appropriately for the work that you’re asking us to do.”

The staff member qualified that it wasn’t that he “didn’t love [his] job,” but that Brandeis puts more money, and pages in the draft plan, towards tenured faculty members than the “very young talent” at the lower levels.

It was, however, acknowledged that 40 percent of the faculty at Brandeis is over 60 years old. One question that needs to be answered, according to Goldstein, is why the faculty feels like it cannot afford to retire.

One issue concerning students did arise: the question of how better to assist international students in adjusting to life at an American university. One answer is through Library and Technology Services, or LTS, who is eager to reach out to students through more than just University Writing Seminars.

Tufts University also just released their “T Ten” Planning for the next ten years, a similar plan to the Strategic Plan here at Brandeis. This makes sense, explained Goldstein, as both are established, small and creative schools.

The next step of the plan is to absorb the community feedback: the UAC will discuss the draft this week and into the break. A final draft will be produced and will go to the Board of Trustees on May 17.