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Justice Brandeis Semester adds professional focus to liberal arts

Published: February 27, 2009
Section: Front Page

JUSTICE BRANDeIS SEMESTER: CARS committee members Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe, Prof. Timothy Hickey (COSCI) and Susan Dibble (THA) lead an open forum Wed. evening to discuss the committee’s proposed Justice Brandeis Semester. <br /><i>PHOTO BY Amira Morgenthau/The Hoot</i>

JUSTICE BRANDeIS SEMESTER: CARS committee members Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe, Prof. Timothy Hickey (COSCI) and Susan Dibble (THA) lead an open forum Wed. evening to discuss the committee’s proposed Justice Brandeis Semester.
PHOTO BY Amira Morgenthau/The Hoot

Part II in a five-part series on academic restructuring

The Curriculum and Academic Restructuring Steering (CARS) committee’s proposed Justice Brandeis Semester (JBS) will require students to take one semester away from Brandeis, adding a professional focus to an otherwise liberal arts curriculum.

If JBS is implemented, students in the class of 2014 and beyond will be required to enroll in the university for eight semesters, one of which will be the JBS.

Under JBS, students will be able to choose from a variety of ways to spend their fall, spring or summer, including an Environmental Studies Intensive Semester, The Brandeis Summer Science Institute, The Brandeis Summer Arts Festival, A Global Engagement Summer Institute, The Academically Networked Brandeis Internship Semester, and the Brandeis Immersive Summer Language Institute.

Each choice would require a student to focus on a specific subject or career in an either experiential or immersive manner.

“We’re trying to think about what Brandeis education for the twenty-first century should look like,” CARS chair Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe said. “The idea is to connect Brandeis education to the world at large in a way that will help students post-Brandeis.”

The proposed JBS is just one of many ideas CARS has developed in the past month with the aim of attracting more undergraduate applications. The university has decided to admit 100 more undergraduate students per class in an effort to use tuition to offset the university’s projected $80 million budget deficit over the next five years.

In order to attract more students to the university without decreasing the quality of students admitted, the CARS committee has proposed the JBS. The JBS, by requiring all students to take a fall or spring semester away from campus, will also ensure that there will be no over-crowding of facilities, despite the extra students.

The JBS itself will also earn the university money by having students pay 75 percent of regular tuition for a semester away from the campus.

“We simply don’t have enough beds to essentially add 400 students to our population and have everyone on campus at once,” Jaffe explained. “We’re creating a number of off campus options in order to increase the number of students without increasing overcrowding.”

Despite its monetary origins, Jaffe said that the JBS is not motivated solely by the university’s financial crisis.

“What this is doing is giving us the opportunity to make Brandeis stand out and expand upon things we are already doing, like experiential learning,” he said. “The JBS resonates with the basic themes of the university like social justice.”

Jaffe said that one of the aims of the JBS is to prepare students for “the post-Brandeis world” because in a time of national financial insecurity, students want to be ensured that they will be successful after college. College and higher education, he said, is beginning to be seen as a stepping-stone into professional security rather than for a time for academic growth.

“What is very important about this in terms of recruitment is that JBS will significantly improve our ability to show students how Brandeis prepares them for the real world,” he said. “As much as we might like to think that students come to Brandeis because they want a marvelous four years of liberal arts education, more and more students want to know how we will help them with the next stage of life.”

Many of the logistics of the JBS have yet to be finalized. CARS has written a proposal for the framework of how the JBS would be structured, but has yet to determine details such as how to offset costs (most of the costs should be covered by the increased tuition, Jaffe said), and deal with faculty (which will be cut by 10 percent by 2010) potentially working overtime with JBS.

The Board of Trustees will vote on the JBS, along with proposals to create a business major and a communications, media and society major in late March.

Jaffe said that, if the Board approves the JBS, the university will have two and a half years to work out the details before the first Brandeis students will be required to participate in it.

Prof. Dan Perlman (BIOL) said at Wednesday’s academic restructuring town hall on JBS that the program “has a lot of potential to excite and draw more students,” however, he is worried that it is “easy to do poorly and hard to do well.”

Perlman cited the lack of detail in the CARS proposal as his reason for concern.

While many at the town hall expressed concern that the JBS proposal was rushed and not well thought out, Jaffe explained that the university wants to be certain of any changes that would be implemented for the class of 2014 before April, when the Office of Undergraduate of Admissions will begin recruiting for the class of 2014.

Dean of Admissions Gil Villanueva and Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Jean Eddy were unavailable to comment before print time on admission’s take on JBS; however, Jaffe told The Hoot that “admissions is very involved in this process and believes that this is a very exciting change for Brandeis.”