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A Correspondence with President Reinharz

Published: September 26, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.


The following is a compilation of questions-and-answers drawn from an e-mail to University President Jehuda Reinharz. Diverse City selected the questions posed from submissions made via a Facebook group. The questions were selected editor Maxwell Price.

Maxwell Price: Is the university committed to promulgating Louis Brandeis’ views on Zionism? If not, why is the faculty and administration encouraged to invoke his name in a multitude of other fields (“social justice” comes readily to mind) but not when it comes to Israel?

Jehuda Reinharz: As you know, Brandeis is a non-sectarian university. The university does not take political positions.

MP: Taking into consideration the close student election last year where a plan to install a solar-panel system on a prominent Brandeis building only lost by 17 votes, and the outcry and disappointment expressed by much of the student body after the election winner was announced, would the President and administration consider investing in a tangible project to provide energy through alternative, sustainable energy sources such as wind or solar to the campus?

JR: Over the years, the university has spent literally millions of dollars on energy conservation and energy sustainability measures. If you have not already done so, I urge to speak with Mr. William Bushey, Brandeis’s Energy Manager.

MP: Does the university consider the potential consequences of overbuilding our campus? Do we really need another admissions center, science building, or other piece of concrete obstructing the students from nature? Consider psychological studies that have proven that the happiest and thus most conscientious students are those that are exposed to the outdoors, with large open, green spaces not closed in by concrete and metal.

JR: The university has a master planning process to which it adheres. The university has no more buildings today than it did 20 years ago. In fact, during my presidency, we have removed 19 buildings and added 8. There are presently 89 buildings on campus, the fewest in the past 20 years. As new buildings are constructed, others are razed, as in the case of the science building, the admissions center, and the new Ridgewood residence hall. We have systematically added green space to the campus whenever possible. For example, the Great Lawn in front of the Shapiro Campus Center used to be a parking lot for 150 cars.

MP: Do you support gender neutral housing on the Brandeis Campus? If so, why is it being delayed? If not, for what reasons (moral, ethical, political, practical etc…) do you oppose it?

JR: I do not personally have a position on gender neutral housing. Have you spoken to Dean Sawyer about this issue?

MP: How long have the [Carl J. and Ruth] Shapiros been involved in the Brandeis community? How has the University’s relationship with the Shapiros shaped the campus over the years?

JR: The Shapiro family has been involved with Brandeis for more than half a century, starting with Mr. and Mrs. Shapiro’s first gift to the university in 1950. In addition to the new Carl J. Shapiro Science Center and the new Carl and Ruth Shapiro Admissions Center, the Shapiro family’s benefactions to Brandeis include the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Center for Library Technology and Journals, the Carl J. Shapiro Chair in International Finance, the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Campus Center, and a major gift in 2004 for the new Heller School building. Mr. Shapiro joined the Board of Trustees in 1979 and is presently a trustee emeritus. His daughter, Mrs. Rhonda Zinner, has served on the Board of Trustees since 1992 and is vice chair of the Heller School Board of Overseers. The family is among the university’s most generous and devoted supporters.

MP: How is the university making concrete efforts to increase diversity among the student body? How can Brandeis maintain a balance between tradition and cultural diversity?

JR: The university has always sought to have as broadly diverse an undergraduate student body as possible. I’m not sure I understand what you mean by, “How can Brandeis maintain a balance between tradition and cultural diversity?” Can you explain what that means?