Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends
Liebowitz Inaugurated as Brandeis’ Ninth President
November 7, 2016
Ronald D. Liebowitz, former president of Middlebury College, was inaugurated the ninth president of Brandeis University on Thursday November 3, 2016. His inaugural address emphasized Brandeis’ Jewish roots and openness to all, as well as its commitment to academic excellence in the liberal arts and world class knowledge-creation from its outstanding faculty. And Liebowitz called for a new era of transparency, decisiveness, and accountability in governance and administration.
“Brandeis is a young institution, boldly conceived, intent on carrying on the great traditions of learning at the highest levels of rigor and meaning, with a moral conviction for inclusion and justice,” Liebowitz said. “In a world challenged by intolerance and ignorance, and burdened by disregard and disdain for learnedness, reason, and inquiry, this university has a special role to play, just as it did when it was founded 68 years ago.”
“As it did for Jewish students in 1948,” Liebowitz asserted, “Brandeis should expand educational opportunities to gifted students from groups that have long faced prejudice in American society and ensure an environment in which all students feel respected and supported in their educational pursuits.” Likewise, he emphasized that “students from around the world who identify as Jewish in myriad ways should be able, indeed encouraged, to study, socialize, and thrive at Brandeis no matter their particular ties to Judaism.”
While lauding Brandeis for its exceptional strengths, Liebowitz noted its past administrative and governance challenges. “It is time to declare the university’s 'start-up phase' over and done," he announced, and called for instituting “sustainable operating principles to what is now a complex enterprise."
Calling upon all its constituencies to rally together, Liebowitz spoke of the need to “reevaluate ourselves with a fresh set of eyes and the confidence to be self-critical.” The protests on campus last year, Liebowitz observed, “revealed a deep sense of exclusion and alienation among some students,” and “we must take that sense of disconnectedness seriously. The protest signaled, implicitly, if not explicitly, the need for a review of how we teach, mentor, and advise our students.” While acknowledging that the challenge applies to all of American higher education, Liebowitz summoned the professoriate to “rethink how it does its job” if Brandeis “is to remain committed to creating an inclusive learning environment where students from different backgrounds thrive.”
Liebowitz concluded: “We have a great opportunity before us – an enormous opportunity – to get out in front of some of the big challenges facing higher education and lead, as we did in fighting anti-Semitism in 1948. It is our charge, our opportunity now, to reignite the flame of our mission for a new generation. I ask each of you today to join me in the big task ahead of us and our university.”