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Undergrads grill Jaffe, Reinharz on JBS and fundraising at Monday’s forum

Published: April 16, 2010
Section: News


forum: Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe answers questions from concerned students about the Justice Brandeis Semester at Monday’s undergraduate student forum with administrators.
PHOTO BY Ingrid Schulte

Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe and University President Jehuda Reinharz fielded questions about the Justice Brandeis Semester (JBS) and fundraising at Monday’s undergraduate forum.

Last week’s news that half of the JBS programs had been cut–or what Mateo Aceves ’11 called the program’s “abject failure”–was a hot-topic at the forum.

“It’s a pilot. You do the pilot to learn, and we’re learning,” Jaffe said in defense of the program. “I would have liked it better if more of the programs we did were popular enough among students to run, but this is not a profound failure.”

“We’ve noticed that we can’t count on [JBS] as a major part of the strategy to account for the increased amount of students on campus,” he continued. “It will not be the major plank in the strategy to deal with that issue, but we are still excited about it as an experiential learning program.”

Raechel Banks ’12 asked Jaffe to elaborate on those “planks,” saying she had “been feeling the increased number of students in my classes.”

Jaffe said he there were two parts to solving overcrowding issues; academics and student life.

“In terms of academics we are working on thinking about how best to maintain the sense of small classes and good interaction with faculty,” he said. “We are trying to think of large courses we could add that are exciting enough that people wouldn’t mind being in a larger class.”

Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Jean Eddy said the university is looking into ways to connect students now forced to live off-campus with the university.

The Department of Community Living used to have a staff member specifically devoted to connecting those students with campus life, and Eddy said she hopes to bring back such a position in future years.

Another topic of much discussion was fundraising for the university.

Aceves asked Reinharz about how much the university’s Jewish roots played into Brandeis’ fundraising strategy, saying “how much are we a normative university in America and how much are we a Jewish university.”

“I realize it’s a sensitive issue, and I don’t mean it politically,” he said. “But in terms of fundraising, how are we presenting ourselves?”

Reinharz responded that “Brandeis is not a Jewish university.”

“Obviously we have Jewish roots, but half of our board are not alumns, the chairs of the board are not alumns, and many of them are not Jewish,” he said. “Brandeis is not a white bread university. It’s a ryebread university,it’s an acquired taste.”

Reinharz explained that the main obstacle the university has in terms of fundraising is not its Jewish roots, but rather the youth of its alumni and their chosen professions.

“We’re young and most of our alumni are in their 50s or younger than that,” he said. “So we have to spend a lot of our efforts on finding outside money.”

“It’s even more complicated than that,” he continued, “Because the first classes from the ’50s to the ’70s all went into wonderful social justice oriented professions where they don’t make money, so we’ve got a problem.”

Reinharz added that many of the alumni who have given seven-figure gifts to the university have been from more recent classes and “took jobs on Wall Street.”

“But what that means is that as soon as you graduate, you all are going to have to donate,” he said.