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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students left out in the cold

Published: January 30, 2009
Section: Opinions

Wednesday morning, barely 48-hours after President Jehuda Reinharz informed the campus community via e-mail that the Board of Trustees voted to close the Rose Art Museum, he took student questions at an open forum about the university’s finances.

An open-invitation forum for students was an important improvement over last semester’s quiet, invitation-only event and the organizers of Wednesday’s forum must be commended.

And even as face to face time with the university president is a vast improvement over cryptic e-mails, Reinharz’s commitment to communicating with the student body continues to be undermined by more episodes of disregard and disrespect.

Two weeks ago, this editorial board admonished the president for failing to inform the university community of Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro’s losses in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme even after their connection was addressed in the New York Times and the Boston Globe. Students were forced to learn their university’s fate in the pages of the national press rather from the mouth of their own university president.

This week, Reinharz decided to kill two birds with one stone when he sent out an e-mail to the student body at the same time as he sent out a press release to the national media about the closing of the Rose. Such behavior is akin to a parent inviting the neighbors into the kitchen to inform the children of an impending divorce. Within hours, the story was all over the national media – and students still didn’t understand what was happening.

In light of the Rose decision, Wednesday’s forum was a necessary opportunity for students to share their concerns, express their frustrations, and push for answers to the tough questions Reinharz said he welcomed. He answered some, evaded others. But before he even began taking questions, at 20 past the hour, he told the students assembled that he had to leave at noon, or at the latest, 10 minutes after.

Reinharz had an appointment to speak with National Public Radio to discuss the Board of Trustee’s decision to close the Rose. As a member of The Brandeis Hoot followed after Reinharz in the blustering snow, Reinharz sent her and the student community as a whole a clear message – while the national press would be invited to a fireside chat, students would be left out in the cold.