Yesterday, we were greeted with a suite of niceties – a student press conference, an email assuring us the Rose would remain open, an open forum with Pres. Reinharz, 10% pay cuts for Pres. Reinharz and COO French, and a spiffy new website for The Steering Committee. In terms of process, these measures are a long-overdue move towards transparency and community inv0lvement. The message the Administration wants to send is clear – we made a big mistake to ostracize everyone, but hey, better late than never. As Pres. Reinharz wrote yesterday in his email to the Brandeis community,

“To quote President Obama, ‘I screwed up.’ “

These are clear reversals from the earlier policy of last week, when Pres. Reinharz and others told us, with finality, that the Rose Museum would be closed. His initial email stated

The Board of Trustees met today and voted to close the Rose Art Museum.

Yesterday, 9 days later, Pres. Reinharz sent another email, stating,

The Museum will remain open.

He tells us this new idea is a clarifying correction to the earlier stance, and that the Board resolution’s real mandate merely gave the President the authority to conduct “an orderly sale or other disposition of works from the university’s collection.”

Disregarding this mandate’s parallel to the Iraq War Resolution, the initial Administrative position was nonetheless clear: The University had been authorized to sell the Rose’s artwork, and fully planned to close the museum and do so (at least the Warhols, Lichtensteins, Rauschenbergs, and other really valuable pieces).

Now, we have some softer, vaguer language. Today’s email said,

“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.” (emphasis on vague-ifying words added by me).

But as was pointed out in a comment on an earlier post, nothing concrete has really changed. Even if the building is still called the Rose and remains open to the public, the museum will be turned from a museum into a teaching space. The Rose’s staff had been given leave of notice for June, and there is no indication that plan has been altered. As the Rose is financially self-sufficient, there is no reason for the museum to be closed this summer unless the Administration is planning on dismantling the “museum” part of the Rose museum.

I wish we could trust Pres. Reinharz at face value. If he says “I’m not closing the Rose,” I’d like to believe that without reading behind his words. But such trust has to be earned, and until a few days ago the modus operandi of the University administration had been to make big decisions behind closed doors and try to slip them past the community with little discussion and no fuss. I hope the University administration really has turned over a new leaf, but we cannot be naive enough to be placated so easily. For now, this new reframing of the decision looks like little substance and a lot of PR spin concocted by our new friends at Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

One comment on “A real chance for the Rose, or is it all PR spin?”

  1. sf karel Says:

    See the article in the Globe from this morning. Two paragraphs quoted below.

    In reality, the Rose will eventually cease to operate as a public art museum. While the facility will remain open, it will over time become an educational center for Brandeis students and faculty members, Reinharz told the Globe Wednesday. It will include more student and faculty exhibits, and the public will still be allowed to visit.
    […]

    “This does not change the future of the Rose Art Museum, as far as I can see,” said [Michael Rush, museum director], whose contract expires in June. “I think the university is to be praised for apologizing for the lack of openness in the process, but the apology is for the process, not the content.”