By Leonard Saxe and Theodore Sasson
Our focus in “All Together Separate: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion on the Brandeis campus” was a single campus. It happens to be our home institution and, as the report acknowledges, has a unique history as the first and only nonsectarian Jewish-sponsored university in the country. Conducting research about one’s own environment has advantages and disadvantages. The obvious advantage is that we have abundant contextual information. But it is also a disadvantage—in Bayesian statistical terms, we have “priors.” In developing, analyzing, and reporting the study we tried to use our contextual information to create a more nuanced study, while also working hard to be as objective as possible.
A number of unanticipated findings shaped the report. First, the concern of our respondents, across racial and ethnic groups, about race and diversity issues on campus had not been fully appreciated. The negotiated end to recent student protests (#FordHall2015) did not settle the issues and, instead, seems to have brought them to the fore. A second significant finding was the notable increase in the diversity of Brandeis’s student population. Nearly half are now students of color and a large number are international students. Brandeis, which in the 1970s had an undergraduate student population of mostly Jewish students, now has a student body with about one third identifying as Jewish.