It seems the Brandeis Administration has turned full-circle from its original, seemingly set-in-stone decision to liquidate the Rose Art Museum (though its still a possiblity).
During his student press conference today, President Reinharz began by firmly stating that the Board of Trustees Resolution did not call for the closing of the Rose, nor did it mandate the selling of the collection. This had been a misunderstanding, continued Reinharz, precipitated by a hastily worded and somewhat innacurate press release. This original press release said,
“Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees today voted unanimously to close the Rose Art Museum.”
But this morning, Pres. Reinharz told us that was an error. Instead, he went on to state,
“I’m not closing the Rose… had I said that originally, that would have saved us a lot of pain, aggravation, and the rest. I take full responsibility.”
“The arts have always been one of the four schools at Brandeis. They have been as important as the sciences or the social sciences or the humanities. We have always been supporters of the Rose. I have raised most of the money for the Rose… So I want you to understand, this decision has been painful. It has been very painful to everyone – to the trustees, to the administrators, to the faculty, to the students, and it has not been taken lightly.”
“I take responsibility for at least two things. One is the way [the decision] has been communicated, and the other is the process that led up to that vote of the Board of Trustees. If I could turn the clock back, I would do it differently.”
Earlier, the Administration had hedged on when and how much art would be sold. But to my knowledge, this is the first time that the University has backed off its decision to actually close the Museum. Such a move is almost certainly a reaction to the bad press, student protest, and alumni shock following the announcement that the Museum would be closed. Indeed, Pres. Reinharz seems to have entirely accepted the request in the faculty letter sent yesterday to his office. That letter asked Reinharz,
We would like to ask you to consider suspending any final decision about the fate of the Rose Art Museum, pending a full airing of possible alternatives by the Brandeis community.
Today, Reinharz will hold a discussion with faculty, students, and other community members whose fates intertwine with that of the museum. And, in the press conference, he told us,
“We have a faculty committee thinking right now on what and how the Rose should function on this campus.”
This is great news. Our outcries have worked. It should have been done earlier, but the unilateral Administrative decision has been reversed.
More to come.
update: (Sahar here) Jehuda just sent an email to the University Community. Full text:
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 Museum.
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 Board’s decision.
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 higher learning.
There’s a bit of a debate over whether this the really a change in policy for the University. Commenter Andy responds:
I think things have definitely changed. The fact that the museum is not closing in June is a HUGE thing thats changing. The Board authorized the closing and as of this morning the Administration is not utilizing that authorization.