Breaking: Reinharz backs waaay off from Rose decision

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.


Jehuda Reinharz

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.


11 thoughts on “Breaking: Reinharz backs waaay off from Rose decision”

  1. It’s time for Jehuda Reinharz to return to the faculty. He is a wonderful professor. He is not the man to lead Brandeis into the future.

  2. I fear that the damage that Reinharz did in the last 2 weeks to the University’s reputation and to the Rose Museum’s ability to remain financially self-sustaining, might be too grave to be undone by this mild contrition.

    Until Reinharz completely repudiates anything he has previously said about closing the Rose or selling art to raise funds for the University, or until he resigns, this will be a black cloud over the University’s reputation as a steward of donors’ gifts, and as a serious and thoughtful liberal arts institution. I didn’t have anything against Reinharz before this whole Rose fiasco, but I do fear that he has dug himself a pretty deep hole here, and may have to resign to redeem Brandeis’s honor on these issues. When the New York Times editorial board bothers to comment on how bad your management decisions are, it’s probably time to go.

  3. I think the recent announcement by President Reinharz demonstrates the amount of attention being paid to the situation facing Brandeis and that to assert that our senior administration is not concerned with the school’s image goes against the multitude of information that has appeared today. I think if one considers the process behind many of an administration’s actions one will realize the many conflicting desires they deal with and the difficult decsions they face. I think this aspect could be better understood by the Brandeis community as a whole.

  4. I don’t think the faculty committee has actually formed yet. I talked to Prof. Plotz, the guy who introduced the resolution to create such a committee, and he said he definitely wanted students on it. Its not really in his power, but the creators of the potential committee certainly are on board.

  5. “We have a faculty committee thinking right now on what and how the Rose should function on this campus.”

    Next step: How do we gets students on this committee?

  6. Those who fought back last week’s hurried decision to shutter the Rose and treat the collection like a rainy-day fund should be proud of this accomplishment. But whether this represents an overall change in the university’s leaders’ approach to this financial crisis remains to be seen.

    What it does, however, is offer further proof that Brandeis is as rudderless as ever. It is comforting that Mr. Reinharz has walked back this latest error in judgment with his statement today, but it is just the latest in a legacy of bad planning and rushed decisions by Brandeis’ leadership over the past five or six years.

    It was not so long ago that the “integrated planning” agenda threatened the very existence of the classical studies department and other academic programs. At the height of the pushback from students and professors alike, I attended an incredibly tense faculty meeting in which Dean Adam Jaffe, Provost Marty Krauss and Mr. Reinharz were moved to change their plans. Of course, the integrated planning fiasco was not without its casualties, as the linguistics program was severely crippled by the loss of Ray Jackendoff and other instructors.

    Returning to the present, no one can deny that times are bleak for Brandeis and that some extraordinary measures need to be taken to preserve the university. But this incident with the Rose Art Museum quickly unraveled into a public-relations nightmare, leaving Brandeis with a tarnished reputation among academic institutions. Whether or not the Rose survives, Michael Rush is correct in his assessment: What art collector would contribute to Brandeis now?

    Over the past week, Brandeis’ administration has revealed its impulsiveness and lack of consideration toward the school’s lasting image, with the bumbling Mr. Reinharz at the helm of this folly. In the face of Brandeis’ current situation, it needs thoughtful, stable leadership. Right now, the university is effectively leaderless and adrift, and I fear under the current situation, it will not emerge from this financial crisis as the excellent academic institution it still claims to be.

    To be brief, Jehuda Reinharz needs to go.

  7. The good: The Rose stays open for another year

    The ok (or the bad, depending on your position): Some of the artwork is still going to be sold.

    The bad: As Michael Rush has pointed out, no one is going to donate to the Rose anymore.

    Its not that big of a difference, the plan they were pitching last week was basically. The Rose closes, some of the paintings are sold, the rest are still occasionally displayed in the building.

    Not that much has changed.

  8. No, 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.

  9. Hey, so what dd we learn here? That Jehuda says that he “might” close the Rose if “he has to” in the future?

    He’s said that all along.

    Nothing has changed except that they’re indirectly acknowledging that public pressure is working.

  10. Actually, that is something that is generally misunderstood. The paintings can legally be sold, and funds can go back to the University. We are part of a code of ethics which says we should not sell paintings for profit, but they are not legally binding.

  11. Interesting.

    The Administration can’t legally sell any of the paintings until the museum is closed. If the museum is open, any paintings they sell have to be used to buy more art (which is not their intention).

    The fact that they aren’t closing the museum essentially means they aren’t selling paintings! At least not for a few years anyway… which I suppose was the plan anyway.

    I’m not sure what this announcement means. It might just be to stop bad press/student demonstrations.

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