I’m happy to report that Brandeis has backed off of its scheme to close the Rose Art Museum and sell its art, which I talked about here recently. From President Jehuda Reinharz to the Brandeis community:
Dear Members of the Brandeis community:
The past ten days have been extremely difficult for all of us. I have
heard from many of you and listened carefully to your criticisms and
constructive suggestions. I have read every message on the faculty
list serve, and the thoughtful letter sent to me by a group of
faculty last night. I have also heard from students, staff, alumni,
university presidents and complete strangers about my statements
regarding the vote by the Board of Trustees concerning the Rose Art
In retrospect, I wish I had handled the initial statements I made in
a far more direct way. Unfortunately, those statements did not
accurately reflect the Board’s decision authorizing the
administration to conduct “an orderly sale or other disposition of
works from the university’s collection.” The statements gave the
misleading impression that we were selling the entire collection
immediately, which is not true. The University may have the option,
subject to applicable legal requirements and procedures, to sell some
artworks if necessary, but I assure you that other options will also
be considered. The Museum will remain open, but in accordance with
the Board’s vote, it will be more fully integrated into the
University’s central educational mission. We will meet with all
affected University constituencies to explore together how this can
best be done.
I regret as well that I did not find a more inclusive and open way to
engage the Brandeis community in the deliberations that led to the
I take full responsibility for causing pain and embarrassment in both
of these matters. To quote President Obama, “I screwed up.”
Having learned from this experience, I will do my best, as will the
entire administration, to work together with all of you in a
collaborative manner. We must cooperate as we move forward to
confront our financial crisis. But we also have to take bold steps.
Obviously, we have many tasks ahead of us regarding the curriculum
and the budget.
In meetings with members of the faculty and with students in the past
few days, I have been heartened by the enormous reservoir of good
will, imagination and willingness to work hard to guarantee that
Brandeis will continue to thrive as a first-rate institution of
Translation: whoops. Nothing to see here. Please disperse. I’m glad that President Reinharz apologized for messing up the rollout of this plan, specifically by not including others in the decision, and that he says he will learn from the mistake in the future. We’ll see; I hope so. But what needs to be pointed out here is that this is not the original plan Brandeis rolled out, which absolutely called for the Rose to be closed and the art sold (whether now, next week or next decade is immaterial); this is a frantic walk-back of an ill-considered and badly communicated scheme. I’d like to take credit, but I suspect this had much more to do with the furious reaction from the majority of alumni and donors who made clear how universities who sell priceless collections don’t usually get more, you know, stuff to collect, art or otherwise.
So good for you, Brandeis. Next time, a bit more looking before you leap, please.