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Recent Demonstrations at Al-Quds University

Dear Members of the Brandeis Community,

We have been asked to comment on the recent demonstrations that took place at Al-Quds University.

The Brandeis University community abhors the actions that took place on the Al-Quds University campus and condemns all acts that incite or encourage senseless violence.

We have been told that the events of November 5 at Al-Quds University were led from people outside the university and this was an unauthorized demonstration. The administration of Al-Quds University assures us that threat of violence implied by the demonstration are not acceptable on their campus and the University administration is conducting a full investigation.

I know that you share my outrage that demonstrations of this nature occur in any part of the world and particularly on a university campus, where they have no place whatsoever.

Confronting Higher Education’s Big Issues: Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence

From time to time, I will be addressing some of higher education’s big issues on this blog. Today, my choice of issue is the result of significant events at Brandeis. Six weeks into our fall semester, Brandeis has marked two milestones in our efforts to recognize, discuss and address the issue of sexual and domestic violence in the higher education setting.

Sadly, no institution, no matter how much we love and trust our community, is immune from the stain of sexual violence. We are all challenged by a pervasive culture that often can embolden those who would do harm to others, and can undermine the right of our students to feel safe on our campus. Brandeis should, must, and will be a leader in changing this culture.

This is why I am so pleased with the hire of Sheila McMahon as sexual assault services and prevention specialist for our campus. In this role, she will coordinate advocacy services for survivors of sexual assault, relationship violence and stalking, conduct outreach and education to promote a healthy campus environment, and serve as a liaison to student organizations.

Ms. McMahon is not just a leader for our campus; she is positioned to be a leader at the national level on these issues. She brings a deep background in research, theory and practice in the arena of sexual assault prevention and education to Brandeis and this is where we want to be in this important area.

Second, thanks to the leadership of Professor Bernadette Brooten, our students and alumni, we hosted a statewide conference on sexual and domestic violence, called Massachusetts Steps Up. More than 300 educational leaders came to Brandeis to discuss the common challenges we face in higher education:

  • How to respond to the Department of Education’s “Dear Colleague” letter with a consistent process that protects the rights of survivors of assault and violence to receive an education.
  • How to create an open and honest environment for discussion of difficult issues in a way that is consistent with our values and educational goals.
  • How to be an ultimate catalyst for change in our society by raising awareness of issues of sexual and domestic violence.

For me, as a leader who has spent my career in the arena of civil rights, these issues are particularly pressing because I know firsthand the challenges posed by putting theory into practice. Sometimes we face situations where the letter and the spirit of the law or our guidelines may be in conflict and I know that there is complexity inherent in how we prevent and respond to sexual and domestic violence on our campuses.

I want our entire community to know that the health and safety of our community is paramount. We take great pride in the fact that at Brandeis, in ensuring that we have a healthy community, we are not afraid to discuss and confront difficult issues. I hope that you will all join me in welcoming Ms. McMahon to our campus and support her efforts to do just that.

Admissions and the Brandeis Classes of the Future

Thanks to the Brandeis Alumni Association for the opportunity to do a live webcast with Andrew Flagel, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment.

We answered questions from the live viewers about what differentiates Brandeis, our score-optional admissions pilot, what we are looking for in the classes of the future, and how alumni can support our efforts.

Watch the archived video.

New Ethical Inquiry: ‘The Ethics of Hate Crimes Legislation’

Thanks to the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life for featuring my comments in its “Ethical Inquiry” series.

This Inquiry was researched and written by Hailey Magee ’15.

Waltham City Officials and Stroum Scholars Reception

President Fred Lawrence with Waltham Mayor Jeanette McCarthy, Kathy Lawrence and Brandeis Stroum Scholars.

It was a pleasure to meet with Waltham Mayor Jeanette McCarthy (second from left) and other elected officials, along with our Stroum Family Waltham scholars, at a reception at our home. As our students and faculty return to Waltham, we are grateful to be at a great university in a great city.

Independence Week in Philadelphia


Deborah Lauter, director of civil rights for the Anti-Defamation League; Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean and distinguished professor of law and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law; Frederick M. Lawrence, president of Brandeis University; and Lyle Denniston, adviser on Constitutional Literacy for the National Constitution Center.

This year was one of the most dramatic conclusions of a United States Supreme Court term. In one week, the Court decided crucial questions of same-sex marriage, voting rights and affirmative action, decisions that enter into the lives of millions of Americans in direct and intimate ways.

Yesterday, at the National Constitution Center (NCC) in Philadelphia under the auspices of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), I once again had the honor and privilege of presenting an analysis of these landmark decisions with my friend Erwin Chemerinsky, the founding dean of the UC-Irvine Law School. Erwin and I have led this program together for well over a decade, previously as a national conference call.

This year, celebrating the ADL’s 100th anniversary, we were joined by distinguished Supreme Court commentator Lyle Denniston and the NCC’s new president and CEO, Jeffrey Rosen, my friend and former GW Law colleague, in presenting live at the Constitution Center, with an audience of thousands following the live-stream. There could be no better way to celebrate Independence week than to engage in a careful study of American Constitutional Law in the making, at the very place where in all began.

Watch the video of the panel on the ADL’s website.

Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center; Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean and distinguished professor of law and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law; Frederick M. Lawrence, president of Brandeis University; Lyle Denniston, National Constitution Center's adviser on Constitutional literacy.

Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center; Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean and distinguished professor of law and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law; Frederick M. Lawrence, president of Brandeis University; Lyle Denniston, adviser on Constitutional literacy for the National Constitution Center.


Affirmative Action in College Admissions: The Brandeis Perspective

The Supreme Court of the United States, in a much-awaited decision, vacated a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that had upheld the race-conscious admissions policy at the University of Texas at Austin.

In a 7 to 1 decision, the Supreme Court held that the Fifth Circuit should not have presumed that the university had made a good-faith effort to consider alternative admissions policies that do not consider race. In the words of Justice Kennedy, “Strict scrutiny does not permit a court to accept a school’s assertion that its admissions process uses race in a permissible way without a court giving close analysis to the evidence of how the process works in practice.”

What does the decision mean for Brandeis University, an institution founded on principles of diversity and inclusion and committed to social justice?

We believe that Brandeis has a compelling interest in admitting and educating a diverse student body. Race and ethnicity, religion and culture, gender and socioeconomic background are important threads that contribute depth and richness to the tapestry of a Brandeis education. The educational benefits of learning from and along with a diverse set of your peers are increasingly important to producing the skills needed to succeed in our increasingly global and multiethnic society.

For now, the Supreme Court’s decision means that we are confident that our approach to seeking diversity in our classes is fully consistent with the principles outlined in the 2003 ruling on Grutter v. Bollinger. That ruling upheld consideration of race as one factor in a holistic consideration of individual applicants.

This is not a final answer. We will watch the progress of this case with great attention and interest, but for now Brandeis will proceed with the exacting and careful admissions policies and practices that produce the splendid student body we are proud to have.

Facing Tomorrow: The Case for Higher Education

Fred Lawrence speaks on the panel “Education: The Test of Tomorrow”

From left to right: Daphne Koller, Dan Shechtman, Wendy Kopp, Jeannette Wing and President Frederick Lawrence

For many Brandeis University students, summer is a time for traveling, working and learning in a different context from that of the school year. They come back to campus in the fall energized about their experiences and ready to take on new challenges.

I am following their example and, last week, I attended and served on a panel at Facing Tomorrow:  The Israeli Presidential Conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This year, the focus of the conference was the human factor and its role in facing tomorrow.

I was privileged to serve on a distinguished panel titled “Education: The Test of Tomorrow” with Daphne Koller, professor of computer science at Stanford University and co-founder of Coursera, Dan Shechtman, professor of materials science at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and 2011 Nobel Prize winner, Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America, and Jeannette Wing, vice president at Microsoft, former professor and associate dean at Carnegie Mellon.

We had a fascinating discussion about the role of online teaching in higher education, how to ensure that the liberal arts remain affordable, and social justice as an integral part of education.

You can view the full video of my talk on the conference website.

Do you recognize the man in the portrait?

Brandeis alumni who were admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States

Justice Brandeis seems to be casting a proud eye on a group of 19 Brandeis alumni who were admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States on Monday, June 3, 2013. President Frederick Lawrence stands in the middle of the group.

I had the pleasure of moving the admission of our alumni to the Supreme Court bar, a program we began last year that I hope will now become a Brandeis tradition. We are the only university in the country without a law school that organizes the admission of alumni before the Supreme Court. We arrived at the Court Monday morning, after a short walk over in a bit of a rain shower. We were escorted to the Lawyer’s Lounge where we met with William Suter, who has served as clerk of the Supreme Court since 1991. He described the admissions process to the applicants and their gathered families. Bill is a great public servant who will be stepping down from his position as clerk this summer. I am grateful that he was present both last year and this year for our inaugural Brandeis Supreme Court admission events.

While we waited for the Court to begin, alumni heard a bit about the International Center for Ethics Justice and Public Life from Professor Dan Terris. We were escorted to the courtroom where — by custom — the spectators sit in silence to wait for the beginning of the session at 10 a.m. As many times as I have seen this, I still get a thrill when the clock strikes 10 and the nine Justices of the Supreme Court take their seats on the bench.

We were fortunate to hear the court read a rather historic opinion regarding the admissibility of DNA evidence taken involuntarily from a cheek swab of a person who has been arrested. Under the process, the DNA sample is used to determine if the defendant in that crime may have been involved in another unrelated crime for which DNA evidence is available. We heard Justice Anthony Kennedy read a summary of the majority opinion, upholding the process. Justice Antonin Scalia read a dissenting option (joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan), decrying this as a suspicionless search, previously deemed impermissible under the Fourth Amendment. I am sure that the case, Maryland v. King, will receive much attention for years to come. We will all remember being in the Courtroom when it was announced.

After the decisions were read, Bill Suter, as clerk of the Court, calls upon those making admission motions. I have to admit that it is quite an experience to be addressed as “President Lawrence” by Chief Justice John Roberts when called to present the motion for admission to the bar of our Brandeis University alumni. The real pleasure, however, is in seeing our distinguished graduates admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States.

After the session was adjourned, we were joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Ginsburg, who graciously answered questions and provided their perspective on the decision we just heard. After discussion, we headed outside to get a picture with the façade of the Supreme Court — impressive even when under renovation — in the background and were joined by our alumni for an informal luncheon and more lively discussion. Louis Brandeis would have been proud.

19 Brandeis alumni who were admitted to practice in the Supreme Court of the United States on Monday, June 3.

(Photo / Rod Lamkey Jr.)

2013 Stroum Family Waltham Scholars

The 2013 Stroum Family Waltham Scholars with President Fred Lawrence: Michael Humbert, Benjamin Humbert, President Lawrence, Hannah Bernstein and Sejal Kotecha

The 2013 Stroum Family Waltham Scholars with President Fred Lawrence: Michael Humbert, Benjamin Humbert, President Lawrence, Hannah Bernstein and Sejal Kotecha

This morning I had the great privilege to meet the students from Waltham High School who have been selected for Stroum Family Waltham Scholars awards. Leaders in the Waltham community, including Mayor Jeanette McCarthy, attended a breakfast to honor these accomplished young men and women.

With me in the photo above are Michael Humbert, Benjamin Humbert (in case you are wondering, they ARE twins), Hannah Bernstein and Sejal Kotecha.

My sincere congratulations to all of them!

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