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At Brandeis, dean's ideas put some on guard

Brandeis University is up in arms over an unusual cutback proposal put forward by Adam Jaffe, dean of arts and sciences. To free up money for new areas of study, Jaffe is proposing that Brandeis stop teaching ancient Greek, end its linguistics major, cut one of its music doctorate programs, and shrink the physics and the signature Near Eastern and Judaic studies departments. Jaffe says that as a relatively young and small institution, Brandeis needs to make strategic choices. ''The world of higher education is not growing the way it was in the '60s and the '70s," he said. ''You can't do new things by continually doing more things."

No one would get fired: Jaffe is looking at a long-term transition where about 15 professors would not be replaced when they retired. He says he picked programs to cut because they are either very small, or, in the case of physics and Judaic studies, particularly large compared with student interest. With the savings, he wants to boost faculty salaries and hire new people in such areas as East Asian studies, African-American literature, legal studies, and a program in health and society.

Students and professors quickly jumped to protect programs they see as critical to the school's mission. Students are circulating petitions, and the six professors who make up the school's humanities council signed a letter protesting the idea of cutting Greek. ''To not have anywhere on campus where ancient Greek can be accessed in my mind must diminish the value of the liberal arts at Brandeis," said Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, chairwoman of the classical studies department. ''The university has almost a social responsibility to protect these areas of knowledge."

DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? When Governor Mitt Romney named basketball legend Julius ''Dr. J" Erving to the University of Massachusetts board of trustees last month, the governor quickly acknowledged that Erving, who lives in Florida, would not be able to attend his first board meeting because of a prior commitment. He planned to participate by phone, Romney officials said -- but last week's trustee meeting came and went without input from the former UMass Minuteman-turned-legend, who failed to dial in from a retired players' meeting in Las Vegas. (An assistant to Erving declined to explain the missed connection, while a spokeswoman for Romney called the problem ''logistical" and said it raised no concern.) UMass need not feel neglected: Dr. J is due in town tomorrow to tour the Boston campus and meet with Romney, whom he first met when they served together on Sports Authority's board of directors. Four new UMass trustees appointed by Romney live out of state and are barred from voting by phone -- which could leave them out of the loop if a last-minute vote is called on the UMass law school proposal.

PUTTING HIS STAMP Always a busy man, Henry Louis Gates Jr. has a new and unusual responsibility -- helping choose what goes on American stamps. Gates has just been appointed to the Postmaster General's Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee. ''I've been fascinated with stamps ever since I saw George Washington Carver's face on a stamp when I was a little boy," Gates, chairman of African and African American Studies at Harvard, and reportedly a collector, said in a statement.

UMASS LOSING SENIORS Last winter, struggling to make ends meet, the administrators at UMass-Boston reluctantly stopped waiving fees for students over 60. One year later, the Columbia Point campus -- long celebrated as a home for older, so-called nontraditional students -- is enrolling fewer seniors, as administrators predicted. Last fall, before the fee waiver was scrapped, 218 students 61 and older were enrolled, according to data provided by UMass-Boston's Gerontology Institute. Last spring, senior enrollments dropped to 144; this fall, after an increase pushed fees for full-time students to $3,155, the 61-plus population has shrunk to 82. A university spokesman called the waiver repeal ''a difficult cut," but said there may be other factors contributing the dropoff. Meanwhile, some seniors have saved their pennies and persevered. Janice Benkert, 65, will earn her bachelor's degree in June, and plans to seek her master's. ''I couldn't let it go; it's been the most fabulous journey," she said. ''I do less traveling; I go out less. I'm dedicated to this." Tuition -- $857 this fall -- is still waived for seniors.

WELCOME WAIVER As universities fret about the first drop in foreign student enrollment in the United States in more than 30 years, Yale has become one of the few schools in the country to decide to pay Homeland Security's new $100 fee for international students applying for a visa. Yale decided to pay the fee for the 500 new international undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who arrive each year to show ''that Yale welcomes them with open arms," said spokesman Tom Conroy. The money pays for a federal tracking system to keep tabs on foreign students. Only Rice University and the University of Texas at Austin also waive the fee.

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