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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Editorial: Keeping your word in a tough world

Published: January 23, 2009
Section: Opinions

Academic integrity is essential to the mission of any community of learning. But integrity is important for more than just scholarly journals and USEM essays. Integrity, trust, and mutual respect constitute the foundation upon which we build all relationships, whether professional or personal. Our university compromised its integrity, undermined our trust, and treated us with disrespect when it violated its word last Friday, when the Division of Students and Enrollment informed students via e-mail that students could not receive merit scholarships while studying abroad, even after that money was guaranteed some students upon admission.

Certainly rescinding merit scholarships during a study abroad semester would save money for a university experiencing deep financial pain. As the university explores options to reduce expenditures and increase revenue to combat its budget shortfall, it is no surprise that this measure surfaced as an option. That it was approved and not shot down immediately is despicable.

It would be appropriate to introduce this measure next year, for the incoming class of 2013, but to change the rules, barely a year before most sophomores would go abroad, is unfair. Moreover, students considering studying abroad have already sat down with their families to discuss how they will finance their study abroad plans. Now, with an entirely new reality before them, those students and families must sit down again, with a Feb. 15 deadline for entering the separate study abroad housing lottery looming ahead.

University President Jehuda Reinharz promised to maintain the principles of the university even as he and other administrators explore ways to reduce expenditures and increase revenue. We believe in “truth, even unto its innermost parts.” Part of truth is integrity, and part of our university’s mission is to create the next generation of intelligent, honest, socially conscious, and responsible leaders. Forget the signs around campus with quotes from Louis Brandeis. The administration should lead by example.