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Embattled Brandeis University president stepping down

By Paul Miller, originally published in JNS

Brandeis University President Frederick Lawrence, the leader of a Jewish-sponsored institution that has been at the center of several recent controversies, sent an email on Friday afternoon that announced he would be stepping down at the end of the current school year.

“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,” Lawrence wrote. “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.”

Lawrence, a highly regarded civil rights scholar, began his tenure in January 2011. The school has been riddled with controversy since last April, beginning with the withdrawal of an honorary degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a women’s rights advocate and a critic of Islam.

The Somalia-born Ali has spoken publicly about her life as a Muslim girl growing up in east Africa. She had undergone genital mutilation and has been an outspoken critic of the practice. Her experiences have led her to make controversial statements about Islam, which ultimately led to the degree revocation and concerns about free speech at Brandeis.

Last July, Brandeis student and blogger Daniel Mael exposed an official university faculty listserv with 92 subscribers, including professors from outside of the university, who had expressed their fear and disdain on issues ranging from U.S. foreign and domestic policy, the “American system,” the “Israelists,” “President Obomber,” and “Hillary ‘Obliterate Iran!’ Clinton.”

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