Roger L. Simon

BREAKING: Embattled Brandeis U President Resigns

Brandeis University President Frederick M. Lawrence — who was caught in the crosshairs of controversy last May when the university reversed course and decided not to award an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali —  resigned today. In an email addressed to “Members of the Brandeis Community,” Lawrence announced he will step down at the end of the school year and return “to full-time scholarship and teaching as a senior research scholar Yale Law School.” Lisa Lynch, the provost, will take his place as interim president while a search is conducted.

Nowhere in the email is there mention of the fierce defender of women’s rights and critic of Islam Hirsi Ali, nor was there reference to another controversy surrounding Brandeis student Daniel Mael and his response to tweets by still another student calling the recent murder of two NYPD officers “hilarious.”

Brandeis, a secular Jewish university founded in 1948 in the wake of the Holocaust, has been under fire of late for anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic statements from students and faculty.

Here’s the full text of the email:

Dear Friend,

After careful consideration, and in close consultation with the Board of Trustees, I have decided to step down as President at the end of this, my fifth academic year. For the time being, I am looking forward to returning to full-time scholarship and teaching as a senior research scholar at Yale Law School.

I am tremendously proud of the ways Brandeis has grown and thrived during my time as president. Applications have surged to an all-time high, our endowment has grown to its highest point ever, and we have made significant progress in balancing the University’s budget. Together we were able to raise $225 million during my tenure, providing critical support for financial aid and scholarships. We re-opened and re-energized the Rose Art Museum, rebuilding its board, mounting critically acclaimed exhibitions and changing our campus landscape with the “Light of Reason” sculpture.

Addressing the critical issue of affordability of higher education, and conscious of our social justice mission, I was privileged to secure the viability of our Transitional Year Program with the naming gift in memory of Myra Kraft, and to increase scholarships and fellowships. We have also been able to recruit our top choice faculty, attracting to our ranks people of extraordinary ability as teachers and scholars. We improved our campus, and revitalized our buildings and grounds.

As a community, we stood together during times of celebration, tragedy, triumphs, and challenges — but always striving for a climate of respect for each other, and our hopes to make the world a better, more just place. I am particularly proud of programs like ‘Deis Impact, b-VIEW (Brandeis Visions of Israel in an Evolving World), and Brandeis Bridges that have been a source of dialogue on our campus, and models for discourse on campuses around the world.

I want to thank the Brandeis Board of Trustees for the opportunity to lead this strong, vital and dynamic institution and serve alongside so many extraordinary students, faculty, alumni, staff, parents and friends of the University. Every day our community exemplifies Brandeis’ legacy of social justice and repairing the world. Teaching the students who make Brandeis what it is has been a treasured opportunity. Living near campus allowed us to spend meaningful time with so many members of the Brandeis family. We will never forget those dinners and receptions in our home.

I am very glad that the Board has appointed Lisa Lynch, provost and the former Dean for the Heller School, as interim president while a search is conducted, and I have great confidence in her ability to continue the strong trajectory that we have set for Brandeis.

This is a special place, and one that has left an indelible mark on Kathy and me. We look forward to thanking many of you personally in the coming months for your support and to celebrating the achievements and successes of our time at Brandeis. My door remains open to you, and always will be.

With gratitude,

Fred Lawrence

President and Professor of Politics