Updating financial aid: What’s happening, and why the Administration is right

Some people have been in a row with the administration lately, concerning a proposed change to the system by which need-based financial aid is administered to Brandeis applicants. While I am generally wildly enthusiastic about questioning the decisions of administrators, this time, they are dead-on right.

This is not to say that the opposing students are necessarily wrong, but rather that they have been fighting the wrong battle – that is, the facts of the proposed changes and the terms of the argument have been lost in the heat of discussion.

So before we continue angrily decrying the proposed change, let me try to frame the situation as clearly as possible:

Continue reading “Updating financial aid: What’s happening, and why the Administration is right”

Departments still to be cut, Art still to be sold

That’s the news from today’s issue of the Justice, in which Miranda Neubauer reports on Board of Trustees member Meyer Koplow ’72 and Dean of Art  and Sciences Adam Jaffe’s recent address to the faculty. Koplow (a New York lawyer whose biggest gig was as lead negotiator for cigarette-maker Phillip Morris in a 1997 national $350 billion tobacco settlement) isn’t just any board member – he’s chair of the Board’s budget and finance committee, a member of the executive committee, and a big Brandeis donor who helped finance the Village dorm. Until today, he was also the chair of the presidential search committee, but stepped down after “learning that a faculty member had nominated him for president.” Koplow seems to be the prime determiner of Brandeis’ budget cut strategies, and may well be the next president of the University (having been chair of the search committee one day can’t hurt when you apply for the job on the next).

In case you had forgotten about the steps University officials are quietly making in preparation to sell art from the Rose, Continue reading “Departments still to be cut, Art still to be sold”

Event: Sustainable Endowments Director speaks TOMORROW

Susan Paykin of SEA renown fills us in on a great event. I’m going… hope to see you there!

The College Sustainability Report Card 2010 was released this week, revealing that our overall grade rose from last year’s report from a “B-” to a “B”! The Report Card, published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute and available at www.GreenReportCard.org, grades over 300 colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada on their campus and endowment sustainability activities. The categories evaluated are: AdministrationClimate Change & EnergyFood & RecyclingGreen BuildingStudent InvolvementTransportationEndowment TransparencyInvestment Priorities, and Shareholder Engagement.

Mark Orlowski, Founder and Executive Director of the Sustainable Endowments Institute and creator of the College Sustainability Report Card, will be on campus tomorrow, speaking in Lown Auditorium at 7:30. He will speak on sustainability and environmental awareness in higher education, the Report Card, and specifically Brandeis’ newest grades. I know him personally, and he is an incredible speaker and a brilliant man. Check out the Facebook event for more info.

This year, as in every single year past, the only category that Brandeis flat-out failed was Endowment Transparency. You may be asking, why and how is our endowment relevant to sustainability (and other social issues)? In short, schools across the country have a combined total of over $400 BILLION invested in the market through their endowments. As substantial investors, colleges and universities can be incredibly influential in improving corporate policies (some great examples are Bard CollegeSwarthmore College, and Dartmouth College). Where is Brandeis’ endowment invested? What are we supporting? How can we, as an institution, sustain strong returns while upholding our values of social justice?

Students have taken initiative on improving our endowment practices in terms of not only making our endowment holdings and asset classes more transparent to the school community, but also harnessing our power as a shareholders to engage in dialogue with companies and corporations. However, we need to get this conversation started again. We hope to see you at the event tomorrow.

University gives Rose additional $200,000: a Trojan horse?

In the Justice today, I read that the the University has allocated an additional $200,000 to the Rose operating budget for this fiscal year. Puzzling, considering the museum’s staff has been downsized (its previous director, Michael Rush, a strong opponent of the University’s decision to sell artwork, was fired) and the museum has its own $16 million endowment used to fund nearly all its operations. The University claims to have authorized the additional money to enable action on the Rose Committee’s recommendations, but they give no concrete specifics on what the planned purpose of the money will be. Isn’t it a little weird to allocate money for an undefined purpose, especially when we’re strapped for cash and the University has made clear that the museum is not especially high on the priority list? The Justice editorial board disapproves of the decision because of its cost in a time of financial crisis, and its seeming lack of direct need – they seem to view it as an inefficient management decision.

But I think we need to look a little further. From all signs, it seems that the University is still planning to sell some artwork in the future, or at least keeping the option open. At Thursday’s faculty meeting, new VP Jeffrey Apfel said the University was considering “monetizing assets,” according to the Justice. He told the paper, “to some extent, that’s a reference to the Rose.” The University has hired a high profile defense attorney, Thomas Reilly, to defend itself against the suit brought by the Museum’s board of overseers to prevent any sale of the art. And if you read the Hoot a little while ago, you learned that this suit hinges on the financial independence of the museum from the University.

So to me, this new allocation, when we’re even more strapped for cash than we thought, seems a bit like a Trojan horse. By allocating so much additional money to the Rose, the University may be trying to build its case that the museum is not independent, in order to win the lawsuit. It will then be able to sell artwork for a quite a bit more than $200,000. This new “gift” to the Rose could be nothing of the kind. Of course, I don’t know how much merit this strategy holds, considering the allocation was made now, not before the suit was filed. So perhaps I’m stabbing at shadows, but I don’t think so.

Brandeis contracts huge solar array for Gosman roof!

Phil and I just attended the “Great Green Ideas for Brandeis and Beyond” event in the new Shapiro Science Center. The big news: Brandeis has given the go-ahead for a large solar array to go up on Gosman roof. I find this a bit ironic, considering that last year, a proposal to build a smaller solar array with Student Union rollover money was nixed in favor of a new weight room for Gosman. (now we get both, in the same place!) Anyways, the array, consisting of 1383 individual panels covering the Southwest and Southeast sides of the building, will provide 277 kW of energy each year (between 1/6 and 1/4 of a utility-scale wind turbine.) This is expected to prevent 122 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, and provide approximately 10% of the electricity needs of Gosman. Construction should begin in November.

We’re not there yet, but this is a significant step towards the 15% reduction in emissions over the next five years targeted by the University’s new climate plan. We’ll need to do a lot more to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, but when combined with Pres. Reinharz’ suggestion at the event to seed the campus with Vespas, solar panels could go a long way.

How will we pay for all this silicon, you ask? Simply put, we won’t, because we won’t actually be buying the solar array. Rather, we’ve signed a 20-year contract with EOS ventures. They’ll provide the upfront cost of the array, and have contracted with the Boston firm Alteris Renewables to build the array and prepare the roof. In return, we’ll be buying the electricity produced every year at a predetermined rate which rises slowly each year. Initially, this solar energy will start off as more expensive than conventional fossil fuel energy purchased through the ordinary power utility. But if fossil fuel costs rise at projected rates (one assumes the projections used are those of EOS), the solar energy will quickly become cheaper. I was told by an EOS representative that after 20 years, we will hopefully have saved $820,000 in energy costs.

A good deal of credit for this venture goes to Janna Cohen-Rosenthal, the sustainability coordinator of the University. Though some were initially skeptical of allowing a private firm to own equipment on the Gosman roof, the projected energy savings and environmental good were enough to win over the skeptics. Long-term creative payment schemes like this are the future of renewable energy, and Brandeis is leading the way.

Adds Phil:

The placement of the panels on Gosman was a smart choice, not only for its solar orientation but for visibility.  Unlike most buildings on campus, Gosman has a pitched roof, so people on and passing through campus will be well aware of the panels.  They will be visible from both South St (inbound to Waltham) and the Commuter Rail.  Our committment to sustainability won’t go unnoticed.

BREAKING: Pres. Reinharz to resign


As expected, Pres. Reinharz has announced his resignation. He plans to stay on until the next president is selected by the Board of Trustees, or June 30, 2011, meaning he will continue as president for up to three more semesters. Though there were some decisions on which he seriously fucked up (the Rose Art Museum comes to mind) he also did a great job raising Brandeis’ endowment and prestige. Unfortunately, the Rose seems to have done him in… though he told the Hoot that “the situation with the Rose… had no impact on this decision,” and claims to have “reached the conclusion that now is the right time for me to focus on the next chapter of my career,”  I suspect pressure from angry alumni, faculty, and students certainly had a good deal to do with that conclusion.

I, for one, thought he was a pretty good, if often tricky, President, though I have had no chance for comparison. This one caught me by surprise – I thought Reinharz had mostly weathered the Rose / budget crisis storm and was back on top. To his credit, he didn’t leave when things started getting nasty, but waited until they cooled down. Anyways, check out Phil and Sahar’s posts for some more nuanced reflection.

The full text of Reinharz’ email is below the break.

Continue reading “BREAKING: Pres. Reinharz to resign”

Welcome Back!

Welcome home to the nest, where we shall learn to fly on the wings of knowledge and eat the worms of… knowledge. Now that I have my yearly metaphor out of the way, some light, semi-interesting reading worth taking a look at…

Financial Status Report

This latest document shows that our budget gap-closing measures, spearheaded by a $7.4 million suspension of payments to faculty retirement accounts, are going pretty much according to plan. Actually, slightly better – French writes,

At the conclusion of FY 2009, the University’s financial status can be characterized as slightly stronger than the middle-case.

Our endowment, rather than suffering a 30% loss, has dropped only 17.3% in FY 2009, much better than the ~25% drop at most peer institutions. However, we still need to recruit 400 more students and retire 35 faculty members over the next few years if we are to remain on schedule.

In other news, the new Shapiro Science Center has been declared “fully operational,” just like the second Death Star.

University Learning Goals

are here. Essentially, after Brandeis, you should have a mastery of all kinds of communication, intellectual, and critical thinking skillz. You should be creative and flexible, like a good porn star. You should understand everything and everyone, and  be able to maintain six pack abs in only 2 minutes a day. And most importantly, you should read Innermost Parts every single day of your life.

Expect regular posting from here on out. Tell your friends.

Faculty and staff to suffer cuts to retirement funds

Though I generally try to avoid posting during the summer , this is rather important.

Brandeis has decided, after considering some apparently rather unpleasant options, to suspend payments to its faculty and staff retirement accounts for FY 2010, a move it expects to save $7.4 million in an effort to make up a projected budget deficit of $8.9 million. Generally, the University matches individual donations (up to a certain percentage) to private retirement accounts, much as all employers are required to do with Social Security. Such benefits are standard at universities and in most of the nonprofit sector. Alas, no more. Read the detailed Justice article about it.

The NY Times has also picked up the story, and both esteemed publications are ambivalent to the merits of such a move.

From the Justice’s characterization, the faculty seem to be reluctantly accepting the decision, seeing it as a progressively fair way to deal with the problem, as the lowest paid staff members are generally not members of the retirement fund. From a human psychology point of view, losing theoretical future money is probably easier to cope with than losing money due to a pay cut, say, next year. The timing of the announcement – right after the onset of summer, when students and faculty are no longer naturally organized in one place – is also quite fortuitous. Probably, this one will slide by without major incident. Good thing for Peter French and his merry band of budgeteers those aren’t union contracts!

SU Senate votes to recognize Unificationist club – good or bad idea?

Today, the SU Senate voted to recognize a club that essentially is a college-level chapter of the Unification Church movement.

The Unification Church is a new age religion, called a cult by some, founded by a man named Sun Myung Moon in 1954. He claims to have seen Jesus Christ in a vision, who charged Moon with completing his work and unifying all sects of Christianity into a single moral force. The Church’s primary goal is this unification, and the promotion of heterosexual family units through arranged marriage.

In very large part, the Unification Church is driven by Moon, who is revered with near-prophetic worship by the Church’s members (those outside the organization often call its members Moonies for this reason). Moon is a very incendiary figure, a megalomaniac who somehow managed to book a Senate office building on Capitol Hill to crown himself the Messiah. He has stated,

“Emperors, kings and presidents . . . have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.”

Continue reading “SU Senate votes to recognize Unificationist club – good or bad idea?”

Recusal shenanigans

Something that came up during the case and in a recent Justice editirial was the decision by Lev and I not to recuse ourselves from the vote on the Bill Ayers / Robert King Senate Money Resolution. The Justice editorial stated,

We also take issue with the fact that Senators for the Class of 2011 Lev Hirschhorn and Alex Melman voted on the resolution even though they are members of Democracy for America, one of the organizations sponsored by the Senate’s $900. This is a conflict of interest, and the senators should have recused themselves.

I said this in the trial, but I want to repeat it here: No goddamn way. This would be true if we had a true “picuniary interest” in the vote; ie if we were set to personally make a lot of money because of it. Thats not true in the least; the SMR would have merely granted money towards an event that one of the clubs we were in was helping to plan. Unlike F-board, an organization with closed meetings that is supposed to remain unbiased and grant money in the most equitable way possible, the Senate is supposed to have opinions on its vote. This is reinforced by the ability of clubs to endorse candidates for Senate; F-board candidates are supposed to remain impartial and can receive no endorsements. To ask us to recuse ourselves from the vote is akin to asking every Senator who planned any project from recusing him or herself from the vote on whether to grant money to that project. This is not what the Senate has done in the past nor is it what the Senate should do in the future.

I said all this at the Senate meeting after careful consideration of the idea of recusal, suggested at the last minute by Treasurer Max Wallach. It is also important to note that every sophomore in the room (our constituency) urged us to vote on the issue lest they not be represented. To recuse ourselves would have been the irresponsible thing to do.

UP my MIFA: the only viable way to save the Rose?

Regardless of your feelings on the Rose (in)decision, its obvious that the ridiculous fashion by which it was made was, in Reinharz’s own words, “screwed up.” But when you start talking about the actual idea of selling art to close our budget deficit, things get a bit murkier. We need to find $79 million fast, and no matter how you spin it, that ain’t too easy.

Some say this shortfall was unavoidable. But even given the current recession and the Madoff scandal, the University should not be in as tough a spot as it now is. Our assets were overextended before the crash – we took out long-term debt in the middle of a fundraising campaign, over-relied on gifts, and added operating expenses to our budget faster than we could devise sustainable ways to pay for them. Like many institutions, our endowment investments were in funds that gave good returns but were overly risky in retrospect; our swift losses are a testament to that.

In short, the Administration’s financial strategy was ambitious at the expense of prudence, and now the shit’s hit the fan. They need to own up to that, and hopefully learn from it in the future. But enough pointing fingers – what do we do now, if not sell the Rose?

Most alternatives are completely infeasible. We aren’t going to cut need-based aid. We aren’t going to drastically hike tuition. We aren’t going to cut 200 hundred more staff, or 275 additional faculty. We aren’t going to close half the buildings on campus. Our student services have been cut to the bone.

In my mind, the only feasible alternative would be to draw from the principle of the University endowment. If we were to so choose, we could make up our budget deficit this way, completely. However, such a decision would not be without consequence. The effects of the current shortfall would linger for longer. It would take several more years for our endowment to grow back to its previous levels. Its unlikely that we’d be able to begin hiring faculty again for some time. The primary financial vision of the current Brandeis Administration – to expand and improve the University by growing the endowment as quickly as possible – would suffer a major setback.

But, we could avoid selling any of the Rose’s collection – a decision many find immoral, unprincipled, and in flagrant disregard of the ethical agreements the University entered into with donors and the American Association of Museums.

However, right now, such a path is impossible. Massachussets law follows the provisions of UMIFA, the Universal Management of Institutional Funds Act. This law prohibits charitable institutions from dipping into the endowment below “the historic dollar value of the [endowment] fund.” Since Brandeis’ endowment has been recently built, most of it is composed of original gifts, not interest on those gifts reinvested into the endowment (this is often the case at older, richer universities). Because of the sudden depreciation in our investments, we have already fallen below the level where we are legally allowed to draw from the endowment.

But, an updated version of the act, UPMIFA (the P stands for prudent), was drafted after the dot com bubble burst tied the hands of charities whose investments had suddenly dropped. UPMIFA allows charitable institutions greater flexibility in their expenditures, and permits them to draw below the principal of their endowment. Since its introduction 2 years ago, UPMIFA has been ratified in 26 states, and has been recently introduced in the Massachussets legislature by a coalition spearheaded by the Massachussets Audobon Society, which lost 26% of its endowment last year. (see the Wall Street Journal article for more details). COO French, in a letter to the Justice quoted in their recent editorial, stated,

UPMIFA … establishes a sounder and more unified basis for management of charitable funds.

But so far, Brandeis has not joined the coalition pushing for the new law. Reinharz and French have also failed to pursue other means of accessing the endowment principle. Charity Governance Consulting provides a primer on these alternative avenues. Essentially, the University could petition the Attorney General’s office to use the doctrine of cy pres to grant the University an exemption from spending restrictions. In fact, this path is explicitly endorsed as a possiblity in current Massachussets law –

If the [Attorney General] finds that the restriction is obsolete, inappropriate, or impracticable, it may by order release the restriction in whole or in part.

Which leads to an intriguing question: If the Administration supposedly endorses the premise of UPMIFA, why has it neither joined the coalition lobbying for its passage nor petitioned the Attorney General’s office to allow us to draw additional funds from our endowment?

Through either path, we’d be released from a financial bind. We’d have more options. But through inaction, the Administration is able to force our hand. Without being able to draw from the endowment, there are no other available options but to sell the Rose’s art, as soon as possible. Since this is the path settled on by the higher-ups in the Administration, it is against their strategic interest to open up viable alternatives.

Now, some would have us believe that drawing from the endowment would threaten the future stability of Brandeis. In the recent student press conference, President Reinharz said something to this effect, via goofy metaphor:

“You can eat your corn seed today. But somebody’s going to suffer in the future. You and I will not be here.”

But in the event that we are suffering an undue amount in the future due to any hypothetical increased endowment draw, the same possibility of selling art still exists. Actually, the pieces will even be worth more, as art markets continue to recover. The only difference is that our crisis mentality will have settled down. It will be even more difficult to sell the idea to the Brandeis community when we aren’t freaking out quite as much. But if we are to make such a permanent and momentous decision, we shouldn’t be shock-doctrined into doing it hastily in crisis mode.

In short – Drawing from the endowment gives us a good alternative and still allows the possibility of selling art (at a probable higher price) if the University is still in desperate need of money. So if you want a solid argument to keep the Rose, start lobbying the Massachussets legislature to review and pass the UPMIFA legislation. Pressure the University Administration to go to the Attorney General and ask if cy pres can be implemented. There is little incentive for the University to act on this without significant pressure. Very soon, I expect a coordinated campaign on campus and among concerned alumni to this effect. Its the obvious next step.

A real chance for the Rose, or is it all PR spin?

Yesterday, we were greeted with a suite of niceties – a student press conference, an email assuring us the Rose would remain open, an open forum with Pres. Reinharz, 10% pay cuts for Pres. Reinharz and COO French, and a spiffy new website for The Steering Committee. In terms of process, these measures are a long-overdue move towards transparency and community inv0lvement. The message the Administration wants to send is clear – we made a big mistake to ostracize everyone, but hey, better late than never. As Pres. Reinharz wrote yesterday in his email to the Brandeis community,

“To quote President Obama, ‘I screwed up.’ “

These are clear reversals from the earlier policy of last week, when Pres. Reinharz and others told us, with finality, that the Rose Museum would be closed. His initial email stated

The Board of Trustees met today and voted to close the Rose Art Museum.

Yesterday, 9 days later, Pres. Reinharz sent another email, stating,

The Museum will remain open.

He tells us this new idea is a clarifying correction to the earlier stance, and that the Board resolution’s real mandate merely gave the President the authority to conduct “an orderly sale or other disposition of works from the university’s collection.”

Disregarding this mandate’s parallel to the Iraq War Resolution, the initial Administrative position was nonetheless clear: The University had been authorized to sell the Rose’s artwork, and fully planned to close the museum and do so (at least the Warhols, Lichtensteins, Rauschenbergs, and other really valuable pieces).

Now, we have some softer, vaguer language. Today’s email said,

“The University may have the option, subject to applicable legal requirements and procedures, to sell some artworks if necessary, but I assure you that other options will also be considered.” (emphasis on vague-ifying words added by me).

But as was pointed out in a comment on an earlier post, nothing concrete has really changed. Even if the building is still called the Rose and remains open to the public, the museum will be turned from a museum into a teaching space. The Rose’s staff had been given leave of notice for June, and there is no indication that plan has been altered. As the Rose is financially self-sufficient, there is no reason for the museum to be closed this summer unless the Administration is planning on dismantling the “museum” part of the Rose museum.

I wish we could trust Pres. Reinharz at face value. If he says “I’m not closing the Rose,” I’d like to believe that without reading behind his words. But such trust has to be earned, and until a few days ago the modus operandi of the University administration had been to make big decisions behind closed doors and try to slip them past the community with little discussion and no fuss. I hope the University administration really has turned over a new leaf, but we cannot be naive enough to be placated so easily. For now, this new reframing of the decision looks like little substance and a lot of PR spin concocted by our new friends at Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Breaking: Reinharz backs waaay off from Rose decision

It seems the Brandeis Administration has turned full-circle from its original, seemingly set-in-stone decision to liquidate the Rose Art Museum (though its still a possiblity).

During his student press conference today, President Reinharz began by firmly stating that the Board of Trustees Resolution did not call for the closing of the Rose, nor did it mandate the selling of the collection. This had been a misunderstanding, continued Reinharz, precipitated by a hastily worded and somewhat innacurate press release. This original press release said,

“Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees today voted unanimously to close the Rose Art Museum.”

 But this morning, Pres. Reinharz told us that was an error. Instead, he went on to state,

“I’m not closing the Rose… had I said that originally, that would have saved us a lot of pain, aggravation, and the rest. I take full responsibility.”

“The arts have always been one of the four schools at Brandeis. They have been as important as the sciences or the social sciences or the humanities. We have always been supporters of the Rose. I have raised most of the money for the Rose… So I want you to understand, this decision has been painful. It has been very painful to everyone – to the trustees, to the administrators, to the faculty, to the students, and it has not been taken lightly.” 

“I take responsibility for at least two things. One is the way [the decision] has been communicated, and the other is the process that led up to that vote of the Board of Trustees. If I could turn the clock back, I would do it differently.” 

Earlier, the Administration had hedged on when and how much art would be sold. But to my knowledge, this is the first time that the University has backed off its decision to actually close the Museum. Such a move is almost certainly a reaction to the bad press, student protest, and alumni shock following the announcement that the Museum would be closed. Indeed, Pres. Reinharz seems to have entirely accepted the request in the faculty letter sent yesterday to his office. That letter asked Reinharz,

We would like to ask you to consider suspending any final decision about the fate  of the Rose Art Museum, pending a full airing of possible alternatives by the Brandeis community.

Today, Reinharz will hold a discussion with faculty, students, and other community members whose fates intertwine with that of the museum. And, in the press conference, he told us,

“We have a faculty committee thinking right now on what and how the Rose should function on this campus.” 

This is great news. Our outcries have worked. It should have been done earlier, but the unilateral Administrative decision has been reversed.

More to come.

update:  (Sahar here) Jehuda just sent an email to the University Community. Full text:

Continue reading “Breaking: Reinharz backs waaay off from Rose decision”

Reinharz and French both take a 10% pay cut!

So I just got back from a student press conference with Pres. Reinharz and the chief administrators, and am still digesting all the information. Look for more posts later today on news, analysis, and speculation.

Today, both Pres. Reinharz and COO French have announced they are taking a 10% pay cut, presumably starting this fiscal year. This was hidden away in the Boston Globe this morning – 

Reinharz will give up $50,000, French $40,000.

Such a step is something we’ve been thinking about for a while, and which I brought up with COO French at the first student forum. He originally referred me to the sticky wage theory, an economics term describing the difficulty of lowering wages even when market conditions dictate they should go down. Well, it seems the University’s new PR firm, Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications, is slick enough to overcome its chief officers’ stickiness – the move came two days after the firm’s hiring by the University. Didn’t take a genius to figure out the PR benefits of that one, however.

But regardless of PR motivation, the results are what counts. Such a move is commendable and illustrates a new sensitivity of the Administration to the mood of the community. If we are letting go 10% of our faculty, it seems pretty fair to cut 10% of the half-million dollar salary of our President. Thank you, President Reinharz.

Faculty ask Reinharz to hold off on Rose decision

Some 70 faculty members have signed and sent a letter to President Reinharz, asking him to “consider suspending any final decision about the fate of the Rose Art Museum, pending a full airing of possible alternatives by the Brandeis community.”

The letter comes as a welcom show of support from the faculty for more community involvement in decisions, and serves as a rebuke to the Administration for acting in such a secretive matter. 

Perhaps one thing that could be considered is the possibility of drawing from the endowment principle, which seems to me to be the best feasible fiscal alternative that would leave the University intact. I plan on talking more about this in a future post.

The full letter is below…


An open letter from the Faculty to Pres. Reinharz

February 4, 2009 

Dear President Reinharz,  

Continue reading “Faculty ask Reinharz to hold off on Rose decision”

Madoff Investor List released (Brandeis is sort of on it)

A former editor of the Justice pointed this out to us:

A list of investors and interested parties in the Bernie Madoff bankruptcy case has been released. Brandeis University, along with important donors like the Shapiros, are on the list.

At first glance, this would seem to indicate that the University did indeed invest with Madoff, contrary to claims by Pres. Reinharz to the contrary. But all listed parties might not have been directly affected. According to NY Times Dealbook,

The list includes anyone who responded to advertisements placed by the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of the firm. Not every name on the list is necessarily a victim of Mr. Madoff’s reputed $50 billion Ponzi scheme, but the list includes “everyone who might have an interest in the bankruptcy case,” according to a person briefed on the document.

Probably, Brandeis is one of those who “might have an interest in the bankruptcy case,” for the obvious reason that the richest members of our donor base were severely affected. But I’d like to have that verified, to clarify again that we were not directly invested with Madoff.

Student Reps to the CARS (Budget Cut) Sub-Committees

The following are the student representatives to the Budget Cut subcommittees; click to email each representative.

Central Academic Restructuring Steering Committee: Jason Gray ’10

Third Semester/Experiential Learning: Lydia Flier ’11, Lev Hirschhorn ’11

Degree Requirements and Advising: Matthew Shear ’11, Ron Kendler ’09, Ryan McElhaney ’10

Admissions and Recruiting: Mariel Gruszko ’10, Jamie Fleishman ’11, Justin Sulsky ’09

Business Major: Murat Kemahlioglu ’10, Matthew Wright ’09

Study Abroad: Alex Melman, Hanna Rosenthal-Fuller, Anum Irfan Khan

Did Too Much Debt Cause Brandeis’ Financial Woes?

The following was sent to the editors of Innermost Parts by a recent alumnus of Brandeis, who has been following the news and decided to do some of his own research on Brandeis’ finances. Most of his conclusions come after examining data from this document, the University’s publicly available FY 2007 990 tax form required of all non-profits. We thought his questions were compelling, and hope this post fosters further investigation and research. These are questions that need to be answered.

~ Loki & Sahar


During public conversations about the current state of Brandeis’ financial crisis, much has been discussed about the state of the University’s endowment and its current financial situation. However, none of the articles I have read in the Brandeis press or national press discuss the University’s substantial debt.

Numbers can tell a story. Hard data is necessary to look more deeply into the fiscal health of an organization. Numbers can also raise questions.

Every year all non-profits – including universities – must file 990 forms detailing their financial activities with the IRS. Brandeis last filed its 990 following FY 2007. At that time we were led to believe, from pronouncements in fundraising appeals and in the twice yearly Presidential letters, that the university was the paragon of financial health. Brandeis was in the midst of a successful capital campaign, which was bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into the University.  The financial crisis was not even on the horizon.

Yet that very year, Brandeis was saddled with debt. The University increased its liabilities (by issuing Tax Exempt Bonds and taking on Mortgage Debt) by $67 million, to more than $200 million — a 51% increase in debt in one year.

Continue reading “Did Too Much Debt Cause Brandeis’ Financial Woes?”

New Look for Innermost Parts!

Enter Innermost Parts, 2.0. Its been about a year since we first seriously started writing, and I’ve redesigned the site to make it look prettier and easier on the eyes. 

There were a few things I’d have liked to do, but couldn’t figure out due to my limited coding abilities. These include gravatar support, threaded comments, and a few other things. If you are reading this and know about internets and want to help us out by doing some more advanced site design (we use wordpress), that’d be great.

Leave comments with feedback on the new look, suggestions, etc.

The Rose: Education for the Pursuit of Knowledge

This is a piece written by Julia Sferlazzo, a senior here at Brandeis majoring in Studio Arts. Like most of us, she is devastated by the seemingly imminent loss of the Rose. Here are her thoughts. I hope you find them as moving as I do. ~Loki

The Rose Art Museum is not only a core part of Brandeis University, but an important American institution. It houses some of the most important works of our time, many of them directly tied to our history. Amongst other works, the collection houses a portrait by Salvador Dali of Louis Sachar, our founding President’s brother, and a portrait by Andy Warhol of Louis Brandeis. These works are a symbol of our University’s heritage and a reminder of what we are about to lose forever. Each piece was donated with the promise that they would educate our minds and enrich our culture. In closing the museum and selling these works, they will not only leave our campus but the public world, as they move to private collections.

The Museum’s beginning is symbolic of the creation of our university. Both were innovative and daring. Just as the Rose took a chance on lesser-known contemporary artists, Brandeis University opened its doors to all people without regard to gender, race, or religion. It is in this tradition that both have thrived. Continue reading “The Rose: Education for the Pursuit of Knowledge”

Finally: Some Results

Earlier today we were lamenting the lack of results to go with the pledge of student involvement. Well, it appears we have made some headway.

Some quick updates:

There will be a student forum on the budget cuts tomorrow at 11 am, where both CFO Peter French and Pres. Jehuda Reinharz will present and answer questions. Info to come on location, etc.

Students will be appointed to the sub-committees investigating what to do about everything, though the verdict is still out on whether a student will be on the uber-steering committee. It even appears that they will be present in equal numbers with faculty and administrators, a great success and step in the right direction.

Updates and analysis to come.

BREAKING: Rose Art museum to be shut down and auctioned off!

UPDATE: the text of this post seems to have mysteriously disappeared about 10 minutes ago. Here it is again. Since then, President Reinharz sent out a graceful email explaining the situation. It as I was told earlier – the Rose is to be closed, and its collection auctioned off. Reinharz says,

I am satisfied that our commitment is unwavering; that someday we will look back and say that when the quality of education and student services was at stake, we made hard choices so that Brandeis could emerge even stronger.

My thoughts on this are still conflicted. On the one hand, I love the Rose. It made Brandeis unique – which other liberal arts schools have such a prestigious museum on their grounds? On the other, this auction could raise tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars; I don’t know the full value of the collection. Was this a good decision? As I stated earlier, only if there are terms allowing us to “buy back” items at a later date, in sunnier times – such a stipulation could be written into the sale. For some of the more priceless items in our collection, this definitely seems like a logical step. Otherwise… I really don’t know. What other options were on the table? I wonder if we’ll ever find out. By this point, I doubt it.

I’m sure the recent falling-through of the new Arts building donor (about 3 months ago) had something to do with this. In the associated press release, we were told that:

Today’s decision will set in motion a long-term plan to sell the art collection and convert the professional art facility to a teaching, studio, and gallery space for undergraduate and graduate students and faculty.

So this serves two purposes – to raise capital for the University, and serve as the new teaching space for the Fine Arts department. You gotta give it to them – sort of smart. In a tragic kinda way.

Original post below.

Continue reading “BREAKING: Rose Art museum to be shut down and auctioned off!”

No VP for this semester

So according to an arcane section of the Student Union Constitution, (Article IX, section 8, clause 6),

There shall be no mid-term election for the positions of President or Vice-President except as provided for in Article III.

The relevant section (7) of Article III states,

If all positions of Union Executive Office mentioned in this Constitution shall become vacant, new Executive Elections shall be held.

So unless the President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Treasurer all get snuffed in one fell swoop, there is no new VP if the current one resigns mid-term.

And thus ends my hypothetical candidacy for Student Union Vice-President =). This means that Senate meetings will now be chaired by Andrew Brooks, and other VP responsibilities will shift around to the remaining E-boarders.

Why not trust us?

Lets do some quick summary:

The University is short tens of millions of dollars over the next few years. As such, they will be cutting lots of shit. Majorly. Some such shit has already begun to be cut – renovations have been stopped, financial aid has been cut, pools haven’t been rebuilt, professors aren’t being rehired, and I’ll bet that there will be less pretty flowers plopped in the ground for Accepted Students Week. 

But soon, we are really, really going to be seeing some really, really big changes, for real. The entire academic structure of the University may well be turned on its head – see Sahar’s last post. But we need to make sure that the changes which are made – however shattering they may be – are the best possible ways to save money while preserving the University’s dedication to social justice and its academic excellence. 

Everyone agrees, or should agree, on this basic premise, whether it be the students, administration, or faculty. Since we all have the same goals, it makes clear sense that there should be close collaboration and openness about the changes being discussed among all parties. Continue reading “Why not trust us?”

Study Abroad / Housing Changes – some clarification

So its pretty clear that disallowing merit scholarships for study abroad is all-around a pretty bad, unfair idea. Hopefully, the Student Union will have this resolved in the coming few days. As for the issue of Vilage-only housing for study abroad-ers (both Fall and Spring), here’s some low-down on what is developing to be the low-down: Continue reading “Study Abroad / Housing Changes – some clarification”

Anger at Study Abroad Changes

You all may have seen the email sent by the Director of Study Abroad, Mr. Van Der Meid, several days ago. With little apology or consultation with those wishing to study abroad next semester, the letter announced that all students studying abroad in Spring 2010 would be housed in the Village. It further announced that any merit-based scholarship would not be transferrable to pay for study abroad. Whoah.

The administration provided only allusions to the reasons for these changes. It seems they plan on housing all of the study abroad kids in the village in order to “continue to house the incoming mid-year class together.”

I wonder – does this mean they plan on putting all the mid-years in the Village vacated by the study abroad kids? That would be the simple switch-up. Or is there some other housing shuffling shenanigans in the works of which we are unaware? I don’t understand this at all – people studying abroad already are gone from campus for one semester. Now, they will all be put in the Village, seperating them from their on-campus friends for the fall semester as well!

Even worse in my mind, however (and I am a bit biased), is the non-transferrability of merit scholarships. Students who received these scholarships in their acceptance letter were specifically told that they would be transferrable to study abroad – if you doubt me, here’s my scholarship letter (click for bigger): Continue reading “Anger at Study Abroad Changes”

Carl J Shapiro loses hundreds of millions in Madoff fraud

Eminent billionaire and philantropist Bernard L. Madoff was arrested two days ago by federal agents for perpetrating the largest fraud scheme in Wall Street history, with losses estimated at $50 billion. Madoff was an extremely influential securities trader.

According to charges against Mr. Madoff, his firm paid off earlier investors with money from new investors, fitting the classic definition of a Ponzi scheme. It unraveled as markets declined and many investors who lost money elsewhere sought to withdraw money from their investments with Mr. Madoff.

The bulk of his clients were members of the mostly Jewish, exclusive Palm Beach Country Club, where Madoff met Carl J. Shapiro and his son-in-law Robert M. Jaffe years ago. For those unaware, the Shapiro family and Mr. Carl J in particular have donated countless millions to Brandeis and have financed what seems like every building on campus – the new Shapiro admissions center, the new science building, the Shapiro student center… the list continues.

Continue reading “Carl J Shapiro loses hundreds of millions in Madoff fraud”

Chartering of a capella groups… some FAQ

I recently responded to some questions from Greta Moran, a reporter for the Justice, on the chartering of a capella groups. This is something I’ve been working on as chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee, and I thought I’d provide my responses below in full for anyone else who might be interested.

Why are there currently no chartered a capella groups?

A capella groups cannot come up for charter under the current Senate bylaws because they are exclusive; that is, they audition for members. A group might be able to come up for individual charter if it provided some way for non-performing members to get involved and actively demonstrated a commitment to that. This is similar to how theater groups are able to use f-board funds because they provide a way for those not in the actual performance to help out in set design, lighting, sound production, etc. Additionally, a capella groups which are gender-specific would have to demonstrate that they do not discriminate based on gender but rather on tonal qualities of voice which are often associated with a specific gender.

Groups which have duality of purpose with other clubs cannot be chartered… Does this apply to a capella groups?
Continue reading “Chartering of a capella groups… some FAQ”

State of the Student Union Address – with full text

While I’m not sure if it lived up to Adam’s promise of it being THE BEST SPEECH EVER, Jason Gray’s address really brought home to me all the accomplishment – with almost no infighting – that has been achieved this year. We’re in the process of setting up a committee on endowment ethics, we established OSRA, the Student Bill of Rights will soon be implemented into Rights & Responsibilities, the Weight Room was finalized and will be here next semester, free bikes are coming soon, Brandeis Votes was a success and we had tons of civic participation this election cycle… the list continues.

While there is still a long way to go on Dining Issues, and the newly established CEER, OSRA, and the various other committees established have their work cut out for them, I am very nearly satisfied with our progress thus far – and that’s something I’ll rarely say.

Ideologically, I was most struck by  the point near the end of the speech when Jason challenged every single club to get involved in the surrounding community. This. is. a. fucking. great. idea. Hear what he had to say:

The University’s Department of Community Service has the resources and connections for all clubs to be able to partner with Waltham and provide services to the community.

For example, the debate team could teach public speaking at a local school. An a capella group could sing at a local shelter. Your club can play chess or knit at a nursing home, shoot hoops at the Boys and Girls Club, cook a holiday meal for those in need, or organize a talent show at the YMCA. The opportunities are endless.

Every club could have a community-service component to it.

Today we challenge every club and organization to engage the community in service, and we commit ourselves to helping this challenge succeed.

Continue reading “State of the Student Union Address – with full text”

Howard Zinn to speak at Back Pages on Tuesday!

Acclaimed author, historian, and political activist Howard Zinn – arguably your favorite person in the world – will be holding a discussion at our very own Back Pages Books this Tuesday, November 18, at 7:00 pm. Order tickets for $12 by emailing tickets@backpagesbooks.com. 

Zinn is the author of The People’s History of the United States and recently published a graphic work in comic book form, The People’s History of the American Empire. It also has a cool video narrated by Aragorn.


I, for one, will be there.

Protest the War this Saturday! (and why it still matters…)

This Saturday, October 11, is the six-year anniversary of the Iraq War Resolution granting President Bush the power to invade Iraq. There will be a large and kickin’ protest on Saturday, October 11 on the Boston Common.  The events begin at 11 am, with speakers including prominent socialist journalist Ashley Smith, pacifist author Joseph Gerson, and respected community organizer and activist Chuck Turner. Tons of activist and progressive groups will be tabling at the rally. Plus, the events will coincide with the HONK! music festival, which seems to be a gathering of socialist street bands who will play with the marchers. Fucking. Awesome.



From the rally, we will begin marching at 2 p.m. and travel about a mile and a half, holding signs, singing songs, chanting, and just making a ruckus and getting our opposition out there.

Soooooo, you ask, how do I get to this protest thingamajig? Brandeis will be sending a (hopefully) big delegation, departing from the Brandeis/Roberts commuter rail station on the 10:19 a.m. train Saturday morning. Most likely, DFA and SDS will spearhead this effort, and we’ll probably have a sign-making party later this week. I’ll try to get some form of reimbursement available for train and T tickets for those who need it. We should be able to take the first Saturday shuttle back to campus. I’ll update the world with more information on this once we have the DFA meeting Tuesday and decide shit.

So, there will a protest. But some people I’ve talked to have asked, “Gee whiz Loki, what is the point of protesting anymore? Its just a bunch of angry hippies whose opinions are peed on by the government.” Well, while the government does have a good deal of urine, mass demonstration against the war is vital, now more than ever. Here’s why. Continue reading “Protest the War this Saturday! (and why it still matters…)”

Cool green program at IBS

I just happened upon this using my handy dandy google news-about-brandeis generator:

the Brandeis International Business School is rolling out a new MBA program centered around social and environmental responsibility in business.

The program is built on principles espoused by Justice Louis Brandeis a century ago. Brandeis advocated that businesses address broader social purposes beyond profits. The new MBA in Socially Responsible Business allows students to incorporate into their business study issues such as economic and social development, corporate governance, and environmental policy. They will do this in a uniquely global setting, with fellow students from over 60 countries and a curriculum rooted in international economics, finance, and business. Continue reading “Cool green program at IBS”

Kickass DFA Brandeis video

The very first DFA meeting of the year is occurring this Tuesday at 9 pm, in Pearlman 201 202. For those of you who don’t know, DFA is the sweetest activist group on campus among many sweet activist groups (and yes, I may be slightly biased).

Our very own Sahar made a short, kickass intro video highlighting our work last year and showing new people what’s up.


New commenting policy

All commenters must now provide valid email addresses (will not be publicly displayed), as well as a poster name that is either a.) a real name or b.) not something silly. This precludes names like “truth”, “ollie”, “brandeis”, etc. Who determines whether a name is silly, you ask? Sahar and I do.

This is to prevent the declining quality of discussion we have witnessed recently… maybe if people cannot hide behind the cloak of anonymity they will form more reasoned thoughts.

update: Sahar here. I suggest you guys register an account, using “dashboard” link. The reasoning here goes along the lines of “If you have something to say, be confident enough in what you have to say to put your name alongside it”

UPDATED (again): We’ve voted for a third weight room in the gym… fuck.

::::::UPDATE 2::::::

After much deliberation with the Student Union E-Board, I have been convinced that a run-off cannot happen. Apparently, at the top of the first ballot it explicitly stated that no run-off would be held and that the first would be the final vote. To change policy now would set a dangerous precedent for after-the-election rule changes.

For this reason and THIS REASON ALONE, I do not think we can call for a run-off any longer. However, the fact that so many students voted for the solar panels is great. This means we can show the administration that this is something many students care about and would spend even their own student activities money on.

::::::ORIGINAL POST::::::

So the votes have been recorded from yesterday’s election, and the weight room proposal has won by 0.7%. The results are posted below.

Special Funding Request:
– New Weight Room in Gosman Athletic Center: 496 (37.43%)
– Solar Panels for a Brandeis Building: 474 (36.77%)
– Renovation of Chums: 139 (10.49%)
– Brandeis 10-Member Delegation to Rwanda: 91 (6.87%)
– Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Free Testing: 46 (3.47%)
– Radio Transmitter for WBRS: 34 (2.57%)
– Peace and Social Justice Week: 26 (1.96%)
– One-Day Carnival: 19 (1.43%)

It disturbs me to see that more Brandeis students voted to build a new weight room than for such proposals as solar panel construction, a delegation to Rwanda or free STI testing. In large part, I think this can be attributed to the athletic community’s get-out-the-vote effort (who would’ve thought!).

Also, the weight room had no other proposals competing for its target audience. The socially-minded community, meanwhile, had 4 proposals to deal with, which certainly split the vote away from solar panels, the second-place finisher.

This is why we need a run-off election between the top two proposals. This would ensure that the winning proposal expresses the will of as much of the student body as possible. Unfortunately, there is almost no time left to hold such an election, and it seems unlikely that any will be held. So we need your help. We’re organizing a coalition and petition to push for a run-off, but we don’t have any time.

Join the facebook group. More to come.

BREAKING: UJ decides to hear Brooks’ case

I recieved an email from newly appointed Chief Justice Rachel Kagan early this morning. Basically, it says that the UJ will hear Brooks’ case before the end of the semester, probably tomorrow. It also names Kaamilla and Noam as defendants in addition to Nelson Rutrick in his capacity as elections commissioner.

Both Brooks’ original compaint and the UJ response are below.
Continue reading “BREAKING: UJ decides to hear Brooks’ case”

A few short snippets before Brooks vs. Noam is heard…

Sorry to be a hypocrite and add another post on this tired and beaten subject, but some clarifications on stuff people seem to be confused about…

From the Student Union Bylaws:

Should a candidate be disqualified during balloting, the election shall be voided and a new election for that position shall be held. Should a candidate be disqualified after balloting has been completed, a new election for that position shall be held if the disqualification affects the outcome of the ballot.

From the Union Constitution:

The Union Judiciary may order an election to be re-run if it finds that the Constitution or other elections rules have been violated so as to unfairly negatively impact the campaign of one or more candidates, or if an election rule itself is found to have unconstitutionally negatively impacted the campaign of one or more candidates. An order to re-run an election must be issued within five academic days of the original election.

So the best Andrew Brooks can hope for is a new election, which I would hope he recognizes will be exceedingly difficult for him to win (and which will be necessarily drawn out to next year?!?). Regardless of what the UJ decides, I find it difficult to believe many, if any, people’s vote was swayed by the statements he deems libel. SImply put, it seems like he just isn’t wanted by his constituency anymore…

But let him do as he will.

Rutgers Students Prosecuted for Anti-War Protest?!?

Three Rutgers students have been issued summons to appear in the illustrious courts of my home state of NJ because of their efforts in organizing a walk-out last month against the Iraq war. From the NJ Star Ledger:

Three Rutgers University students who participated last month in the annual walk-out against the Iraq War, where about 350 people marched along Route 18 in opposition, have been issued summons’ for disorderly conduct by city police. 

Suzan Sanal, 21, Erik Straub, 20, and Arwa Ibrahim, 21, were issued summons’ on April 10 for their behavior during the March 27 event. They will appear in New Brunswick municipal court this afternoon to request an adjournment until after the Rutgers semester ends next month, Straub said, and have received advice pro bono from the National Lawyers Guild.

By law, the charge could carry a 30-day prison sentence and a $500 fine.

This is ridiculous, an affront against student activists everywhere, and reminiscent of Vietnam-era efforts to stop protests. Sign the petition decrying the activities or check out this blog for more info.