Reinharz Response to Harper’s Article

Below is the text of Jehuda Reinharz’s response to the Brandeis article in the November issue of Harper’s magazine.

Dear Colleagues,

In their November 2009 issue, Harper’s Magazine published a story entitled Voodoo Academics: Brandeis University’s hard lesson in the real economy. In addition to being factually inaccurate, the article is insulting to all members of the Brandeis community as its assumptions about Brandeis and the higher education sector involve gross mischaracterizations.  There is a story behind their story and I want to share that with you firsthand.

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Infamous Harper’s Article About Brandeis Finances

The latest issue of Harper’s magazine (November 2009) has a two-page article on Brandeis’s finances written by Christopher Beha, which is highly critical of the University. It’s sparked a great deal of controversy among the faculty and administrators, and Pres. Reinharz has personally responded to it. Below is the article in its entirety. I’m not that impressed with it, not because I don’t agree that the University mishandled its finances, but because it is poorly-written and views Brandeis as unique among private universities when it is not. He seems to think it is unusual for a non-Ivy League school to charge a fortune for tuition, when this is the norm nationwide. But I’ll let you form your own reactions to it.

“Voodoo Academics: Brandeis University’s hard lesson in the real economy”

by Christopher R. Beha
Harper’s Magazine
November 2009

In January, Brandeis University, in Waltham,
Massachusetts, announced plans to close its on-campus
Rose Art Museum and sell much of the $350 million
permanent collection. Brandeis’s financial situation
was grim: its $85 million reserve fund could be spent
by 2011; there were $80 million in projected operating
deficits over the next five years; and the sixty-one-
year-old institution was $250 million in debt. How
could a school with an endowment that had in June 2008
been worth $712 million be forced to liquidate such a
prized resource? Over the past decade, Brandeis, like
many of its peer institutions, adopted the American
corporate principles of fiscal shortsightedness and
growth for- growth’s sake that provoked the current
economic fiasco. This map of Brandeis’s campus-
expansion projects since 1999 demonstrates what happens
when unbridled capitalism turns the marketplace of
ideas into a higher-educational superstore.

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