Adam Won!!

Well, it’s official: The next Junior Representative to the Board of Trustees is our very own Adam Hughes!! We’re all thrilled to know that for the next two years, one of the most powerful positions to which a student can be elected will be upheld with distinction by an experienced candidate whose compassion and dedication to Brandeis will serve him well.

If you didn’t vote for him, I recommend you check him out and get to know him, or email him directly at With the problematic Endowment and Financial Aid proposals in the works, as well as the student-propelled Cage Free Eggs campaign underway, he’ll be an excellent champion and voice for our Brandeis Values, and a person behind whom we as students can rally. We’ve filled the seat, so the fighting amongst ourselves is over; now it’s time to get active, and to take our concerns, whatever they may be, directly to the Board of Trustees. That’s where Adam comes in, and we at Innnermost Parts couldn’t be happier about that.

Stay tuned for the release of the full results, appearing shortly.

More Info on the Rose’s Future: Art for Auction, but Not for Sale (Yet)

Two days ago, I wrote about the exciting news that the Rose Art Museum was named one of 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts.  That, however, will be cold comfort if the Museum is later disbanded or if its collection is devalued by the sale of some of its major works.  Unfortunately, the latest updates in the Rose saga show that such an outcome is still very possible.

The Boston Herald reports that Brandeis has just signed a contract with Sotheby’s, a famous auction house, to explore options for raising funds by leasing artwork from the Rose.  Does that mean we’ve finally dodged the bullet of selling off the collection it took us decades to acquire?

The vote by Reinharz and Brandeis trustees Jan. 26, 2009, to sell the art remains in force. Asked whether selling the art remains a possibility for the Waltham-based university, [Brandeis spokesman Andrew] Gully said: “Yes, because the vote remains. But the intent is clearly at this point to explore nonsale options. Clearly you wouldn’t be selling anything while we were exploring those options.”

Why are we still considering selling artwork?  Didn’t we hear in March that the University had already developed a plan to balance its operating budget by 2014?  Board of Trustees Chair Malcolm Sherman certainly seems to think so.  In a letter to the Herald published on July 19th, Sherman reaffirms the 2014 plan and assigns a different purpose to the potential art transactions:

Now we are exploring options we hope will allow the university to retain ownership of the Rose collection while generating funds for: financial aid; state-of-the-art academic, research and residential facilities; faculty compensation that long ensure excellence in teaching.

Sherman’s letter is disingenuous from the beginning.  He claims that the original Herald story “presents an unfair picture of the university’s fiscal situation”, then goes on to recite the exact same facts that the article mentioned.  The question that Sherman needs to answer is: Has the value of artwork from the Rose been calculated as part of our plan to balance our operating budget or relieve our structural deficit?  If the answer is yes, than Brandeis’s financial solvency is based on leases or sales in an uncertain market that may be illegal anyway.  Our financial future is much more shaky than the administration or Board of Trustees would have us believe, and it is really Sherman and Jehuda Reinharz who are guilty of stretching the truth, not only to the Herald but to the entire Brandeis community.  If the answer is no, then our continued attempts to seek profit from art prove that we’re just as poor caretakers as we’ve been accused of, and no rational art aficionado should have any reason to give us so much as a preschool watercolor painting ever again.

Art expert Raymond Liddell sure isn’t buying what Sherman and Gully are selling.  In his letter to the Herald from July 21st, the former museum administrator and university professor raises some tough questions:

The Rose Art Museum story gets curiouser and curiouser (“Thorny situation for Rose Museum,” July 11). It’s clear that Brandeis has not disavowed its decision to sell the Rose collection which has made it a pariah. It’s clear that Brandeis is trying to buy time and hoping the story will go away. It won’t. It’s not clear why Sotheby’s, whose primary business is selling art, is involved. It’s not clear what sort of museum Brandeis envisions for the future without a director. If it walks and talks like a duck . . .

Liddell has the credentials to know what he’s talking about (and not only because he borrows the language I used to describe Brandeis last week).  He clearly believes that Brandeis is already planning on selling artwork or even completely getting rid of the Rose, and I have to admit he makes a persuasive case.  The worst part for Brandeis is that the people who are suing us think so too:

“Lending art is something museum directors do, and Brandeis fired theirs,” said Jonathan Lee, chairman of the Rose Board of Overseers, who filed suit July 27, 2009, to block the initial sell-off plan. “So it seems a little wacky to have a sales agent do this for you. The kind of revenue expected for lending art is quite small.”

Meryl Rose, representing the Rose family in the lawsuit, said: “Well, it’s ridiculous. It’s just obfuscation so people will think they’re not selling art. But they haven’t taken that off the table.”

Maybe if we sell enough art, we’ll eventually be able to recoup our legal fees!

Last year, a report from a university committee prompted me to write the following:

“BRANDEIS IS NOT CLOSING THE ROSE AND SELLING ALL THE ARTWORK.” Words and italics from them, bold and caps from yours truly.  If you’re going to take anything from the interim report of the Future of the Rose Committee, make it that.  We’ve sat and listened as the Rose first was closed, then open for the semester, then for part of the summer, then the whole summer, then open indefinitely.  Finally, we have an absolutely definitive statement from a body that’s spent lots of time researching this very issue that the Rose is not going anywhere, and, in fact, that we’re bound by donor agreements to keep the Rose Art Museum open by that very name.

After hearing so much spin and backtracking over the course of just that one semester, I now realize I was naive to take any statement on the future of the Rose at face value.  I’d say that it’s time for the University to be completely forthright with us, with the donors, and with the public on the future of the Museum, but even if they did tell the full truth, how could we believe them?  We’ve spent such a long time with last week’s innuendo becoming next week’s policy that I’m not even sure it’s worth trying to ask for answers anymore.  My only advice those concerned about the Rose’s future is to visit the Museum and to do it as soon as possible.  You don’t know when your last chance will come.

Brandeis — Pariah of the Art World

The American Association of Museums has just entirely revamped their standards for accreditation.  Why did this national organization decide that sweeping changes were needed?

The announcement last year that Brandeis University planned to sell its noted, 6,000-piece collection of modern art stunned and angered museum officials around the world. The university said it needed money for its other operations. But to the art world, the plan represented a rejection of the idea that nonprofit institutions do not sell art from their museums except as a means to expand their collections.

As if you really had to ask…

Now, museums will need evidence of greater levels of commitment from their parent organizations to gain accreditation, particularly when it comes to withholding artwork from their pool of disposable assets.  This really puts into perspective what the Board of Trustees did: not just a major faux pas, but something so uniquely terrible in the art community that the rules have to be changed to account for it.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Cultural Productions

At today’s meeting, the Board of Trustees will make the final vote on the Brandeis 2020 Committee proposals that Provost Marty Krauss approved earlier this month.  So far, I think the process has gone as well as we could hope for, and I generally approve of the decisions that the Committee made.  However, one program in particular has suffered from particularly unfair treatment at the hands of the administration, and regardless of what happens at today’s meeting, I think its participants deserves a better explanation and an apology.

If you haven’t read Ariel Wittenberg’s piece on the Cultural Productions Masters’ program from the March 5th Hoot, check it out right now.  It’s a great piece of campus journalism, thoroughly researched and well-constructed, and the narrative is very important in understanding the administration’s relationship with the rest of the university.  Basically, Adam Jaffe, the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the chair of the Brandeis 2020 Committee, justified the decision to cut the program by saying “the overall costs of the program exceed the revenues” despite the fact that “the program generates revenue that exceeds its direct costs”.

The problem is that someone forgot to tell the program’s head, Professor Mark Auslander:

When asked what the overall costs were, Jaffe wrote, “I prefer not to share those numbers.”

This secrecy is “dumbfounding” to Auslander, who said, “I’m baffled at what these ‘hidden costs’ could be.” Auslander also said that his knowledge of the program’s revenue comes from conversations with Jaffe himself.

“Up until they wanted to cut our program, the Dean has said we are revenue positive,” Auslander said. “To cut us would be foolhardy.”

While Jaffe wrote in his e-mail that “the ‘direct costs’ do not include the time of any faculty other than the director,” Auslander said the Cultural Productions Program does not employ any faculty other than him.

So Jaffe misled Auslander about his program’s cost, basically lied to the Hoot about the program’s faculty, and made absolutely no effort to justify cutting the whole program to its director, let alone to the Brandeis community.  Three days later, Marty Krauss released her report, and Jaffe was contradicted again:

I have heard the argument that this program produces net revenue for GSAS, and while that is true, I am convinced that the University would have to make additional fiscal commitments in the long run to ensure that this program  achieves and maintains a level of excellence that we would expect for any master’s program.

Is the program currently revenue-positive?  Everyone seems to think so but Adam Jaffe, and he doesn’t seem willing to share whatever facts he has.

Making these academic cuts is a very difficult process, and I appreciate the fact that the motivations for cutting the Cultural Productions Program might be more complex than a straightforward cost-benefit analysis.  However, any cuts that are made will be painful to a portion of the Brandeis community, and the faculty and students within the programs deserve an explanation.  Withholding information and offering lies and half-truths only increases their pain.  We need complete faith in our administration as Brandeis makes these tough decisions, and Dean Jaffe has harmed that trust.

Thoughts on the Provost’s Decisions

Earlier today, Provost Marty Krauss released her decisions regarding the 18 proposals that the Brandeis 2020 Committe submitted to narrow Brandeis’s projected operating deficit.  With one minor alteration, she chose to accept them all, meaning that they all will go to the Board of Trustees for approval later this month.

I imagine that there are a lot of disappointed students and faculty members at Brandeis today, and I can completely understand why.  If you’ve devoted your life to a specific program, or if your job security is incumbent on a program’s existence, the last thing you want to hear is that the program has been deemed unworthy of the money that Brandeis has put into it.  Each of these 18 cuts will affect some future students or current faculty members in serious ways, and the ramifications could be felt sooner than we might expect.  Can we really trust the administration to properly prioritize departments they’ve already singled out for termination?

Still, I have to say that I support the decision that Provost Krauss released today.  The Committee recommendations are the result of a exhaustively researched and debated process that incorporated a wide range of Brandeis community members.  The Committee took every effort to understand completely the ramifications of each of its proposals.  Yes, all of these cuts hurt, but Brandeis has already cut all of the easy stuff, and we’re truly out of options.  I find it stunning that Brandeis 2020 was able to reach its financial goals while leaving almost the entire undergraduate experience intact and preserving so much that is central to the Brandeis mission.  Faced with a bunch of bad options, I feel that the Committee members did the best job they could possibly do.

The strongest reaction against the Brandeis 2020 recommendations came from the Theater community in protest against the proposed phasing out of the Graduate School Theater Design program.  Their organization was quick and effective, and their Facebook group currently has over 2,000 members.  This decision was much closer to me than most others; I’ve worked on a Department show before, and I had an opportunity to interview two students from the Design program for a Brandeis Hoot podcast.  I think they have some very strong arguments for preserving their program, and it’s sad to think that the resources that led to the amazing design of the recent Funnyhouse of a Negro production will no longer be available.  But I also think that the Committee knew what it was doing when it recommended scaling back on this very expensive program.  One of the signatories of the Brandeis 2020 report is Theater Arts Department Chair Susan Dibble; do you really think she would have put her name on a report that unfairly and irreparably weakened her department?

The members of the Brandeis 2020 Committee should be recognized for work they put in over the past two months.  Every one of them had to bite the bullet on a very personal sacrifice, and they know they face condemnation for the cuts they made but no commendation for the programs they saved.  In the upcoming years, Brandeis will have to tighten its belt to the point of discomfort, but we will be left with a university finally able to see beyond its darkest hour to a future with its core principles firmly intact.


I just got around to reading the Justice’s article about the State of the Union today, and one thing in particular really jumped out at me:

“I think his speech was one of the most outstanding you can imagine from a student leader,” said Rena Olshansky ’56, a member of the Board of Trustees’ Students and Enrollment Committee, who said that it was her first State of the Union address. Commenting on the Union Rena said, “I think the [students] set their agenda, and that’s important.”

University Provost Marty Krauss, who attended the speech, said in an interview with the Justice, “[Gray] has a tremendous amount of respect among the members of the administration because he’s a mature person; he’s diplomatic; he thinks about the perspectives of many constituencies; he’s smart; and he makes really good recommendations, and he gets things done.”

Senior Vice President of Communications Lorna Miles, who also attended, added that Gray “has been incredibly vital; his legacy is having created a consciousness in the University among the administration and the faculty that students are part of the day-to-day governance of this community.”

That’s an incredible amount of respect for Jason Gray coming from the administrators and trustees who attended the speech.  We’ve already heard the great praise that Jason gets from the student body, and it’s really satisfying to know that the other members of the Brandeis community feel the same way.

This kind of universal acclaim is impressive enough on its own, but I find it even more impressive when viewed in the context of the content of Jason’s address.  The speech was not tailor-made to draw praise from the administrators.  Several times, Jason challenged the University to meet goals that he set, and he wasn’t afraid to call the administration out on several mistakes.  Most notably, he directly stated, “[T]here is no doubt that the Rose Art Museum has become a case study in what not to do procedurally.”  Isn’t that hard-hitting?

So what does all this mean?  First, it says something very positive about our administrators.  By praising the speech so effusively, they’re letting us know that student participation is not incumbent on our complete deference to their decisions.  They are willing to have a dialogue with us, allow our disagreement, and even to admit mistakes and work towards changing them.

But it also says so much about Jason himself.  He has the rare ability to say exactly what needs to be said while striking the right chord for every party involved.  This didn’t just happen overnight; it is the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work, determined advocacy, and appreciation for everyone’s point of view, and it shows what big shoes our next Union leaders will have to fill.  Ultimately, Jason’s greatest success might be that he was able to treat every single Brandeisian with respect, and it should be no suprise that he has received so much respect in return.