Lawrence’s Letter

Happy New Year Brandeis!

I hope you have all had a wonderful and joyous start to your new year!

President Lawrence gave a warm greeting to the Brandeis community and a call to alumni to revisit the campus.

He also will be keeping a blog here starting next semester. I wanted to share his first post:

The Work We Will Do Together

Today marks the beginning of a new year, a new decade and a new era for Brandeis. For my family and me, it is the beginning of a new life. We embrace it to the fullest with commitment, dedication, gratitude and joy.

Since being named president five months ago, I have been privileged to spend time with many in the Brandeis community — students, faculty, staff, alumni and valued friends of this great university. Walking the campus and meeting diverse constituencies, I am inspired by your energy, creativity and faith in this institution.

I am also humbled when I reflect on those who preceded me in this office. Abram Sachar was a visionary and it is an honor to follow him and the six other presidents who achieved so much in the last 62 years to bring us to this place in time. I especially want to thank Jehuda Reinharz for his contributions to Brandeis, and for the assistance he gave me during the transition.

In the days, months and years ahead, I will look to all of you I have met and the many I look forward to meeting for what you personally can bring to our school. I have learned that the essence of Brandeis is the people who embody the spirit of this unique institution in so many ways.

There is much to be done and I am more excited than ever to begin my formal duties. Searches will soon be under way for a new provost, senior vice president for students and enrollment, and dean of arts and sciences. I will immerse myself in the finances of the university, strengthen my relationship with the many generous supporters of Brandeis, deepen my understanding of the academy and all of its rich offerings, and forge connections with undergraduate and graduate students across the university. I also want to promote communication across this community; this blog is one of my early contributions to that effort. I plan to post regularly.

As I said in July, this is an awe-inspiring institution of learning and social commitment, an open and nonsectarian university with a unique position in the world. As we move forward to expand and strengthen our community — the humanities, the arts, the sciences and athletics — may the ideals of our founders find fulfillment through the work we will do together.

Happy New Year from me and my family to you and your family.

President Fred Lawrence

Say No To Marty (And Yes To Brandeis)

In 2009, Brandeis University awarded Marty Peretz its Alumni Achievement Award. He’s featured in the Alumni Snapshots section of our website, under a heading praising him for “Leading the Intellectual Inquiry”. He’s the editor-in-chief of the New Republic, and we use his name repeatedly to promote the university. So what has he done recently to justify this recognition?

But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.

Peretz published these vile words in a September 4th column about American attitudes towards Muslims. This is the most shocking passage, but the whole thing is worth reading, if you can stomach it. Basically, Peretz posits that, despite polling evidence to the contrary, there is a vast reservoir of anti-Muslim sentiment among Americans. Furthermore, this hatred is completely justifiable because Muslims apparently do not care about the terrorist actions carried out by the fanatical fringes of their faith community. The article is one of the most disgusting pieces of writing I’ve seen from a supposedly serious journalistic source.

Unfortunately, it’s also par for the course for Peretz, who has made bigotry a cornerstone of his career as a journalist. Earlier this year, he gave us this gem while writing about the War in Iraq:

Frankly, I couldn’t quite imagine any venture requiring trust with Arabs turning out especially well. This is, you will say, my prejudice. But some prejudices are built on real facts, and history generally proves me right. Go ahead, prove me wrong.

In another column, he informs us that:

…Palestine will be a wretched society, cruel, belligerent, intolerant, fearing, with no real justice (or justice system), and no internal peace.

To me, Peretz’s connection with Brandeis is an embarrassment, not a point of pride. Using his name to promote Brandeis is a betrayal of our values and can only serve to repel the type of student that we should be trying to attract. However, this bond also gives us the unique opportunity to call out Peretz from his home, to join together as a community and forcefully reject his brand of demagoguery. That’s why members of the Brandeis community are circulating a petition and calling for a public apology from Peretz. Visit and add your voice; if we get 500 signatures, we’ll send it to the New Republic and demand that Peretz retract his call to hate.

Our university was founded to combat persecution against an underpowered religious minority. Marty Peretz may not appreciate what that responsibility means, but most of us do. Sign the petition; say no to Marty, and yes to Brandeis.


Marty Peretz, class of ’59, is kind of a big deal.

He’s the owner and editor-in-chief of The New Republic, a prominent magazine with a proud legacy. Brandeis certainly thinks highly of him: he keeps popping up on the website, and we just gave him the Alumni Achievement Award in 2009.

Problem is, he just wrote this:

But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.

Shame! What a horrible, cruel, ignorant thing to say.

I am so excited for Wednesday

I’m really busy so I have to keep this short.

Something really amazing is going to happen on Wednesday.

On Wednesday and Thursday Professor Cunningham is inviting a bunch of amazing Brandeis alumni for a panel on social action. It’ll be great. Noon, Brown auditorium (thats in the building near Pearlman and Usdan). Go!
But furthermore  Wednesday night, the Justice League (a project of the Activist Resource Center) is hosting them for a “chill with students thing”.

And Thursday night, the SJSP minors are bringing them to their event:

The Social Justice and Social Policy (SJSP) Meet the Minors and Alumni
Panel will be on Thursday April 8th from 2:00 to 3:30 pm in Ridgewood

This event will feature Brandeis alums who have since Brandeis pursued
careers in social policy and social justice and if given the chance
probably would have been a part of the SJSP minor program.

Now,  I’m still waiting on who is coming, and when/where the Justice League thing will be. As I learn more I’ll update you.

This has been over a semester in the making. Get excited. And come!

Building a Wider Donor Base

It’s no secret that Brandeis’s fundraising is much too slow right now and that the Madoff scheme is a big reason why.  The failing economy would be a huge handicap on it’s own, but dealing with the greatest theft in history targeted mostly toward our greatest donor base has made our situation critical.  We know that the University already has an excellent fundraising department — it was only last August that we were hearing about the record amounts of money we were taking in.  Yet the obvious questions are being asked.  Is Brandeis too reliant on the wealthy Jewish community for fundraising, and if so, how can we diversify our base of support?

Jewish sponsorship has always been fundamental to Brandeis’s identity.  It is one of our four pillars, and it connects us to the Jewish community in a way that I deeply appreciate, even as someone with no Jewish background.  Thus, any steps we would take to diversification should never come at the expense of our Jewish connection.  Indeed, it is just as important to ask ourselves how we can ensure this connection stays strong.  I’ve heard that many more conservative Jewish groups have grown somewhat suspicious of Brandeis for various reasons (most notably for Jimmy Carter’s visit), and we cannot afford to lose them as supporters and donors.  Obviously, we have to balance our Jewish sponsorship with our non-sectarianism, and I’m certainly not suggesting that Carter should not have been allowed to come.  However, we must always be clear that our goal is to expand and not to replace our current base of support.

Honestly, all of these questions are far beyond my level of expertise, and I assume that any suggestions I could offer have already been thoroughly explored.  In fact, I think it’s very possible that we’re doing everything we can to expand and that the only way to grow a larger donor base is through the passage of time.  As the University matures, more families and organizations will develop personal connections with Brandeis through our alumni.  Targeted campaigns might draw donations for people or groups who want to further specific missions, but overall I imagine that it’s difficult to find communities willing to donate to a college to which they have no personal connections.

The biggest immediate concern might be the waves of negative press coming from the Rose decision.  Many alumni seem to have rallied for the Rose, and let’s hope that they still view us as worth their donations.  Still, if you subscribe to the view that any publicity is good publicity, perhaps we can use this as an opportunity in a very public forum to ask for help from donors.  We don’t want to scare off new recruits by appearing too desperate (if it’s not too late for that already), but hopefully the Rose will prove to potential donors that the stakes we are facing are very high.  I don’t think we can construct a fundraising campaign around the Rose without looking bad; people won’t like the idea of art used as cajolery any more than art used as a slush fund.  Still, it’s not every day that Brandeis draws so much national attention, and if we can use it to point out all that we have worth giving to, perhaps we can find a silver lining.