The War of the Rose: An Allegory of Transparency

The scope and reach of the (so-far announced) budget cuts have riled student opinion, but perhaps none so much as the closure of the Rose Art Museum. This should strike us as perplexing; the need to cut a full tenth of faculty, or vastly simplify our academic structure, would seem to be far more worrying and unacceptable changes. If what we are witnessing is the wholesale reorganization of our campus, imposed on our community with little student or faculty consent, why has the Rose become a flashpoint?

There is no single answer, but there are many contributing factors. Clearly, the marginalization of the arts on campus has long been a problem, and this move is seen by many as an appalling blow. Alumni are up in arms because the closure indicates that the administration has a callous attitude towards donors, viewing them less as partners in an ongoing project and more as non-renewable resources.

But perhaps the reaction can best be understood in the light of ongoing administration opaqueness, a secretiveness almost designed to breed student paranoia and rumor-mongering. It is utterly inexcusable that this decision was announced so suddenly and with so little input – the fact that this even caught museum director by surprise shows a marked disrespect on the part of the administration, even a reckless mentality, one I thought we could have left behind with the Bush administration.

This is not to say that this might not be a good decision, one carefully considered by Jehuda and the trustees. There is every possibility that this quick cash infusion may allow Brandeis to stay afloat through the financial crisis, through the restructuring process and the resulting academic scrambling. I could even be tempted to say that this was an inspired move, a bold decision that will ensure that we have a university in the years to come.

However, I am no position to make such a judgment. The complete lack of openness on the part of the administration means that nobody – none of the students, and precious few faculty and donors – can truly judge the merits of the decision.

The administration deigns to treat us as children. We are given but a poor mirror in which to grasp these shocking, unforeseen changes, and the cloudy images we see do nothing to alleviate our confusion and anger.


One thought on “The War of the Rose: An Allegory of Transparency”

  1. We must remember that this is no quick cash infusion – any sale of the art will take place several years from now. The University will have to go through legal battles, appraisals, and all sorts of rigmarole before it even begins to see any cash.

    The Rose is not a solution to our short-term crisis, but the long-term one anticipated by the sudden loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in value from our endowment. The sale of the collection has to be intended to recapitalize our endowment to its previous level – we are selling our art so that we can obtain interest on its value.

    The reason the museum’s liquidation was announced now was probably to build up anticipation in the art world for the sale, so that a few years from now, when the art market recovers, buyers will be itching to get their hands on the priceless works in the museum’s collection.

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