Thoughts on the Provost’s Decisions

Earlier today, Provost Marty Krauss released her decisions regarding the 18 proposals that the Brandeis 2020 Committe submitted to narrow Brandeis’s projected operating deficit.  With one minor alteration, she chose to accept them all, meaning that they all will go to the Board of Trustees for approval later this month.

I imagine that there are a lot of disappointed students and faculty members at Brandeis today, and I can completely understand why.  If you’ve devoted your life to a specific program, or if your job security is incumbent on a program’s existence, the last thing you want to hear is that the program has been deemed unworthy of the money that Brandeis has put into it.  Each of these 18 cuts will affect some future students or current faculty members in serious ways, and the ramifications could be felt sooner than we might expect.  Can we really trust the administration to properly prioritize departments they’ve already singled out for termination?

Still, I have to say that I support the decision that Provost Krauss released today.  The Committee recommendations are the result of a exhaustively researched and debated process that incorporated a wide range of Brandeis community members.  The Committee took every effort to understand completely the ramifications of each of its proposals.  Yes, all of these cuts hurt, but Brandeis has already cut all of the easy stuff, and we’re truly out of options.  I find it stunning that Brandeis 2020 was able to reach its financial goals while leaving almost the entire undergraduate experience intact and preserving so much that is central to the Brandeis mission.  Faced with a bunch of bad options, I feel that the Committee members did the best job they could possibly do.

The strongest reaction against the Brandeis 2020 recommendations came from the Theater community in protest against the proposed phasing out of the Graduate School Theater Design program.  Their organization was quick and effective, and their Facebook group currently has over 2,000 members.  This decision was much closer to me than most others; I’ve worked on a Department show before, and I had an opportunity to interview two students from the Design program for a Brandeis Hoot podcast.  I think they have some very strong arguments for preserving their program, and it’s sad to think that the resources that led to the amazing design of the recent Funnyhouse of a Negro production will no longer be available.  But I also think that the Committee knew what it was doing when it recommended scaling back on this very expensive program.  One of the signatories of the Brandeis 2020 report is Theater Arts Department Chair Susan Dibble; do you really think she would have put her name on a report that unfairly and irreparably weakened her department?

The members of the Brandeis 2020 Committee should be recognized for work they put in over the past two months.  Every one of them had to bite the bullet on a very personal sacrifice, and they know they face condemnation for the cuts they made but no commendation for the programs they saved.  In the upcoming years, Brandeis will have to tighten its belt to the point of discomfort, but we will be left with a university finally able to see beyond its darkest hour to a future with its core principles firmly intact.