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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Student reps relay board notes

Published: November 20, 2014
Section: News

Last week, student representatives to the Board of Trustees Mohammed Sidique ’15 and Grady Ward ’16 sat in on the board’s fall meeting. Sidique and Ward sent out a memo to the entire student body describing the proceedings of the meeting and their roles as student representatives. Their memo also included the board’s future plans and future initiatives they are taking to better connect the board to Brandeis students.

The Board of Trustees meets to discuss and make decisions regarding the plans and operations of Brandeis and is composed mostly of alumni. The meetings held by the Board of Trustees are confidential, but the memo mentioned discussions of diversity and ways to make the university more culturally aware.

“In terms of diversity, we talked about the need for a campus which reflects socioeconomic diversity, in addition to the more often discussed racial, cultural and religious diversity. We discussed the possibility of a course on diversity and cultural sensitivity, and reflected on the ways that the student body as a whole can be trained to be better social citizens,” wrote Ward in an email to The Brandeis Hoot.

“Part of the challenge that our position presents is finding ways to bring the aims of [the student body and the Board of Trustees] together and get the Trustees and administration to be concerned about the same things that the students are,” Ward and Sidique stated in the campuswide email.

The memo states that sexual violence and sexual misconduct were at the forefront of the meeting. Ward and Sidique wrote, “Though we cannot speak to the current state of our system, we know that the state of resources, counseling, campus and administrative support is significantly better now than it was a year ago.”

“Disconnect was one of the primary problems that we focused on in our formally expressed concerns to the board, [in] addition to individual discussions with its members,” they said.

They wrote that they are currently working on ways to share financial information with students and communicate student concerns with the university administration. In order to improve communication, the board will be holding monthly phone meetings. Ward wrote in his email, “The board does its best to understand the needs and concerns of the student body, but like all forms of communication, that process can be improved upon.”

Part of the disconnect discussed in the memo was issues surrounding tuition increases and the need for financial transparency. According to the memo, the Board of Trustees was surprised to learn that students wanted to help inform large spending decisions. The Trustees, Ward and Sidique wrote, were not aware that students were interested in learning more about the university’s budget and spending.

They explained to the board that students “understand the trade-offs that come with big spending decisions, but want those decisions to be informed by students and want the primary investments in this school [to] be in the quality of faculty and staff, over campus amenities.” The Board’s discussion of financial transparency and tuition decisions was influenced by a desire to keep attendance open to students of all backgrounds.

The meeting included discussions of student protests, like the one that interrupted a previous Board of Trustees meeting, though Ward was unable to further discuss any of the opinions or discussions that proceeded.

Ward, in his email to The Hoot, wrote, “I would implore anyone who is dissatisfied with how this school is run to take an active role as a participant in the solution. We are all about action, and action requires solutions.”