Boston Globe: Brandeis president in the ‘eye of the storm’


The Boston Globe reports that the president of Brandeis is on the hot seat:

When Jehuda Reinharz took the helm of Brandeis University in 1994, it was, as one professor put it, a university with champagne ambitions operating on a beer budget. As president, Reinharz, whose charisma and personal story have charmed legions of donors, raised hundreds of millions of dollars and propelled the private Waltham school into one of the top colleges in the country.

But Reinharz now finds himself in the eye of the storm as he tries to steer Brandeis out of a financial crisis. His bungled announcement of a plan to close the Rose Art Museum – and subsequent backpedaling — have stirred anger among many faculty members and shaken their confidence in his leadership.

His critics say the museum debacle is just the latest in what they see as a pattern of rash decisions by Reinharz that have tarnished the university’s reputation. There was the negative publicity two years ago over his handling of Jimmy Carter’s visit to talk about Carter’s book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," as well as the sudden dismantling in 2006 of a Palestinian art exhibit from the university library, among other embarrassing controversies.

His detractors accuse Reinharz of ruling with an iron fist, failing to seek faculty input on key decisions, and not learning from previous missteps. While some professors say Reinharz appears to be chastened by their outcry in recent weeks and the board of trustees continues its staunch support of the president, some faculty wonder whether it’s time for Reinharz to go.

"We need new leadership, frankly," said Michael Rosbash, a biology professor. "There’s a growing segment of the faculty who believes that. Fifteen years is a long time. Every year for the last three or four years there’s been a crisis of some kind."

Reinharz said he values faculty opinions and has tried to be inclusive and accessible, personally answering every e-mail and holding office hours every two weeks. The second-longest-serving leader in Brandeis’s history after its founding president, Reinharz said he has no intention of leaving. Just last spring, the board extended his contract for five years.

"If some people think I have outlived my usefulness, there’s nothing I can do about it," Reinharz said in an interview last week. "But I think my record is clear. I’ve poured everything I have into this job."

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