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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students protest Reinharz’s executive compensation

Published: February 14, 2014
Section: Front Page, News

A group of about 15 students gathered outside the Bernstein-Marcus Administration Center this Thursday, in protest of Brandeis’ policy of executive compensation.

The controversial policy, recently widely revealed in The Boston Globe, has drawn criticism for being the basis of the continued payment of former Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz, who received $4.9 million of deferred compensation this January, a sum including $811,000 for untaken sabbaticals. Reinharz also receives $287,500 (which drops to $180,000 this July) per year in salary for his work as part-time president emeritus of Brandeis, though Reinharz is rarely on campus.

An alumni-generated petition against the policy garnered over 1,600 signatures last fall, but Thursday’s protest was the first example of on-campus resistance. The protest was organized by four Brandeis undergraduate students.
“It is completely ridiculous to give so much money to someone who is barely here after [the university] voted to raise tuition by [a proposed] four percent,” Aaren Weiner ’16, one of the event’s organizers, told The Hoot in an interview. “There’s no reason that money shouldn’t go to something like financial aid.”

The idea of a protest was first discussed by Weiner and fellow sophomore Elaine Mancini several weeks ago. “We met up and wanted to come up with a way to really show [the administration] that we, the students, are not OK with this,” said Mancini in an interview. “So a protest was always the main idea because it’s the most straightforward.”

Weiner and Mancini planned the protest with fellow students Guy Mika ’17 and Joy Brenner-Letich ’16, and all four served as hosts on a Facebook event created on Feb. 5. Once the time of the protest arrived, the students braved fierce snowfall and wind speeds for several hours to make their voices heard, carrying signs and chanting loudly.

“Brandeis fully supports students’ right to protest,” wrote Brandeis Senior Vice-President for Communications Ellen de Graffenreid in an email to The Hoot. “Brandeis University encourages debate, discussion and frank exchange of conflicting views.”

De Graffenreid also reiterated the university’s current commitment to full transparency about the compensation policy with the board of trustees and “equity at the university and public confidence as factors to be considered” when the university sets compensation rates. This March, the Board Chair is expected to make his first report to Brandeis faculty on executive compensation.

The report will be “part of the University’s continuing efforts to ensure that executive compensation is fair, competitive, appropriate and consistent with the best interests of Brandeis University,” wrote de Graffenreid.

The compensation, however, still remains unjustified in the eyes of many students. “It doesn’t make sense that Reinharz and President Lawrence are receiving so much money while making it harder for the the rest of us to stay at Brandeis,” Weiner said. “I just don’t see how the school can justify the payment with social justice,” Mancini agreed. The two also said that this week’s protest was just the beginning and that more actions will happen after the February break.