The Rose: Education for the Pursuit of Knowledge

This is a piece written by Julia Sferlazzo, a senior here at Brandeis majoring in Studio Arts. Like most of us, she is devastated by the seemingly imminent loss of the Rose. Here are her thoughts. I hope you find them as moving as I do. ~Loki

The Rose Art Museum is not only a core part of Brandeis University, but an important American institution. It houses some of the most important works of our time, many of them directly tied to our history. Amongst other works, the collection houses a portrait by Salvador Dali of Louis Sachar, our founding President’s brother, and a portrait by Andy Warhol of Louis Brandeis. These works are a symbol of our University’s heritage and a reminder of what we are about to lose forever. Each piece was donated with the promise that they would educate our minds and enrich our culture. In closing the museum and selling these works, they will not only leave our campus but the public world, as they move to private collections.

The Museum’s beginning is symbolic of the creation of our university. Both were innovative and daring. Just as the Rose took a chance on lesser-known contemporary artists, Brandeis University opened its doors to all people without regard to gender, race, or religion. It is in this tradition that both have thrived.On our campus, the Rose Art Museum is the symbol of education for the sake of knowledge, and its worth to this community is far greater than its price tag. The Rose’s educational value to the Fine Arts Department is immeasurable, and its presence enriches academia, culture, and social life for all students. While these times call upon us to make sacrifices, we must aim to maintain our core values. We must realize that losing the Rose is not only an incalculable loss to the Fine Arts Program and the university as a whole, but to the community. It implies a reshaping of the founding ideals of this university. While the vault may not always be open, and foot traffic may go down at times, we are always surrounded by the museum’s art and its history permeates our culture. To close a museum is to close a library, and the very fact that we can consider a museum in an academic setting as a monetary asset suggests that we have strayed from our liberal arts mission.

Our school is in a dire economic situation right now, but the loss of the Rose is one that will damage our history, legacy, and standing in the public view forever. While it is certain that changes need to be made and programs may be cut, we must urge the Administration and the Board of Trustees to have confidence that the students can be trusted to take part in these hard decisions. They should know that this institution has made us too intelligent to be fooled by press releases and evasive answers. We have each been taught to inquire and debate. We have learned never to accept an answer without proof. Our voice on this issue and our unity in demanding transparency is a testament to the very motto of this university, “truth even unto its innermost parts.” I ask the administration to honor that motto, to give us the hard answers to some very hard questions, and to trust that our time at Brandeis has educated us to understand. If the administration makes the situation clear, we will not feel as if they are doing something to us, but as if we are all working together to solve an incredibly difficult situation. We must each attempt to understand another perspective and examine what is best both now and for the future.

While we examine the problems that exist and those sure to arise, each of us should remember Barack Obama’s words at his inaugural address –  “Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience sake”. If we each still believe in the ideal of a liberal arts education in a research university, and the pursuit of a broad spectrum of knowledge, we must not allow the Rose Art Museum to be a quick fix for our financial problems. It is one of the only changes that can be made that can never be undone. We cannot be expected to simply accept the Rose’s closing until we are shown that it is the only possible option. Thus, I still hope that this integral collection will not be sold and implore the Board of Trustees and the Administration to reconsider its move.

Julia Sferlazzo, Class of 2009.