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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Save the Rose Art Museum

Published: January 30, 2009
Section: Opinions

The Rose Art Museum is a core part of Brandeis University. 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 will likely move to private collections.

The Rose Art 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. In addition, we cannot forget the credibility that a young institution gains through housing such a remarkable museum.

On our campus, the Rose Art Museum is a symbol of education for the sake of knowledge. Its educational value to the Fine Arts Department is immeasurable while its presence enriches academia, culture, and social life for all students. The Rose is a testament to Brandeis’s commitment to the arts and to a liberal arts education. While nearly every school we compare ourselves to has a museum on its campus, the Rose is distinctive. Housing the largest contemporary arts collection in New England, it is impressive not just as a university museum, but also as a museum in its own right. 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, but to the university as a whole. It implies a reshaping of the original ideals of this university. Without the Rose, the contemporary architecture around campus loses its meaning, many of the beautiful works in the library will disappear, and the president’s house becomes just a home.

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. Closing the Rose implies that we are losing a part of this university’s history and embarking on a new path and a new set of ideals. The Rose Art Museum is valuable, but its worth to this community is far greater than its price tag. 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.

While our school is in a dire economic situation, the loss of the Rose is one that will damage our history, legacy, and the public view. Moreover, we cannot be expected to accept the Rose’s closing until we are shown it is the only possible option. 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 make hard decisions.

Unfortunately, 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 give us the hard answers to some very hard questions, with the trust that they have 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 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; “ Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience sake”. If we each still believe in the ideals of a liberal arts education amidst 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 a financial crisis. It is one of the only changes that can be made that can never be undone. Thus, I still hope that this integral collection will not be sold and implore the Board of Trustees and the Administration to reconsider.