At last week’s open forum, President Reinharz promised that the dialogue between the administration and the students was just beginning, and tomorrow at 5 in the Levin Ballroom, he will keep his word.  The main complaint that most students had with the first forum was the inconvenient timing; 11 o’clock on a Wednesday is impossible for many students to make.  Thankfully, it looks like that was just a necessity of the schedule rather than an attempt to minimize turnout.  In fact, by holding a similar forum shortly afterwards, President Reinharz is proving that he wants to engage as many of us as possible.

The forum will be structured the same way as the last one, with the same presentation being shown for those who haven’t had a chance to see it yet.  However, the forum should still be productive for those who have, since this will be the first opportunity to ask the administration about the sustained bad press from the Rose Art Museum and about the reexamining of the study abroad decisions.  Provost Marty Krauss will probably have a lot to say about the new Committee on Academic Restructuring (CARS).

The follow-up forum, to be held at 6:30 in the Shaprio Campus Center, should prove to be just as interesting.  Jason Gray has put it together explicitly for the students, and it should help pull in students beyond those currently involved in BBCC, whose core is still weighted towards the established campus activists.  The entire student body faces the threat of deep cuts, and now is a great time to involve underrepresented members of the campus community.  In the e-mail announcing these forums, Jason made it clear that he hopes to encourage activism on the community level, saying “Our greatness lies in a Student Body that speaks up to be heard in the process of determining the future of our University… As Union President, it gives me great joy to speak for you, but even greater joy to speak with you.”  I expect many new ideas for action moving forward to come out of this meeting,

One other interesting statement from the e-mail promises that the forum “will be the predecessor to a series of academic forums that will be held for the entire Brandeis community to discuss proposed curriculum changes.”  From what I hear, these forums will actually be held by the subcommittees of CARS.  That means they will be far more than just Q&A sessions.  Instead, they represent a real opportunity to influence the decision-making bodies that will determine Brandeis’s academic future.  We have moved beyond merely asking for transparency.  Instead of just listening, we will be listened to.

Jason’s e-mail from Monday is below the fold.

February 2, 2009

To the Student Body,

It is no secret that Brandeis University is facing a difficult financial situation.  Talks of deficits and budget cuts have filled the media and campus conversations.  I have heard your concerns strongly expressed over the past couple weeks.  As a student, first and foremost, I feel them.  Together we face a future that is less certain than we would like.

However, this future does not rest solely on the twists and turns of the market.  Though we drift in rough economic tides, we are all securely anchored for success by the fact that we are still Brandeis University.  We have a world-class faculty.  We have a Student Body that is active, intelligent, passionate, and engaged.  We have the founding principles that brought us together and continue to make us who we are.  No matter the ups and downs, these will persevere.

It has always been my pledge to do all I can to work for student involvement and community engagement, both as President of the Union and as a student myself, one who wants answers and a voice.

To this end, I have worked with President Reinharz to set up another open forum for those who were unable to attend last week’s presentation. President Reinharz, Executive Vice President Peter French, and Provost Marty Krauss will present to students on the budget situation that Brandeis is facing and answer questions from the audience.  It will be held this Thursday at 5:00pm in the Levin Ballroom. I promise to continue working to secure additional forums in the future as well.

After the presentation, there will be a meeting for students that I will host at 6:30pm to openly discuss any issues with your peers.  I will answer any questions you have about the Union’s role in solving problems and will listen to your concerns.  We can share an open dialogue as a Student Body, united in our desire for the strongest University possible.  This will be the predecessor to a series of academic forums that will be held for the entire Brandeis community to discuss proposed curriculum changes.

The administration has had to make many difficult decisions regarding the budget and will have to make more in the future.  Some decisions have been applauded and others have drawn strong objection. At times, some have suggested that the University may be drifting away from the founding mission that makes it great.  I have never felt that way, even as I have vocally criticized certain decisions. What makes our University great exists outside any decision that is made, as painful as they may sometimes be.

The greatness lies in the professor who goes the extra mile.  It is in the class discussion that inspires new ways of thought.  It is in the cheering crowd at the basketball game, in late-night hall discussions, in engaging our world in service.  Our greatness lies in a Student Body that speaks up to be heard in the process of determining the future of our University.

As Union President, it gives me great joy to speak for you, but even greater joy to speak with you.  Please attend the forum with President Reinharz this Thursday in Levin Ballroom, and the student meeting following the forum at 6:30PM in the same place. I hope to see you there.

Yours in Service,

Jason Gray ‘10
Student Union President

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