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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Board of Trustees votes to close Rose Art Museum

Published: January 30, 2009
Section: Front Page

The university will close the Rose Art Museum this June as part of an effort to minimize the effects of a nation-wide economic recession on the University, according to a press release sent out by President Reinharz Monday night.

Reinharz announced the decision after the university’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted in favor of the move.

The decision came as a shock to most members of the Brandeis community.

“The board decided to keep this under wraps because we didn’t want the discussion to take place of the pages of the newspapers,” Reinharz said to an audience of 500 students at a forum organized to answer questions about the decision this afternoon.

“As you can see, it’s a bad public relations time for us.”

The decision to close the Rose Art Museum has been in the focus of the national media, beginning with the Boston Globe who’s headline read “Ailing Brandeis will close museum, sell treasured art.”

Student Representative to the Board of Trustees Jacob Bockelmann ’09 said that while some members of the Board had known that closing the Rose was on the table for the emergency meeting Monday, neither he, nor his fellow student representative Jon Kane ’09 knew until two hours prior to the meeting.

Faculty representative to the Prof. Board Stephen Burg (POL) said that the trustees discussed closing the museum for more than an hour before unanimously voting to close it.

In an e-mail to The Hoot, Burg wrote that closing the Museum was deemed the best possible option for solving the university’s financial crisis. However, he warned;

“This is NOT a simple trade-off of paintings for faculty. It is an effort to monetize a valuble resource so it can support the larger effort to preserve what is most important….it does not obviate the need to find greater efficiencies in operations and improvements to our educational ‘product.’”

Burg continued to say that he, personally, does value the arts.

“I don’t like at all what we have to do,” he said.

“But I am first and foremost a teacher and a scholar, and I—we all—need to keep our eyes on the ball.”

The administration had also told members of the faculty senate council about the plan to sell the Rose Art Museum about two weeks ago, according to an e-mail sent by Prof. William Flesch (ENG) to the faculty listserv.

Members of the faculty council were told to keep the move confidential until the Board of Trustees had voted on the decision.

In the e-mail Flesch wrote that he accepts that “this was the Board of Trustees’ decision to make.”

Prof. Peter Kalb (FA), however, said he wished that the Fine Arts department had been informed of the decision beforehand.

“It’s very devastating and very upsetting to lose and amazing collection,” Kalb said.

“I did not at all see this coming. We did not know that this was on the table, nor did the museum itself.”

Kalb, along with the rest of the Fine Arts Departmant and the employees of the Rose were informed about the Trustee’s decision an hour before President Reinharz issued his press release.

“I was in total shock,” the museum’s Director Michael Rush said.

Still in discussion is how the university will go about selling the Rose’ collection, which consists of over 7,000 pieces.

The collection was estimated to be worth between $300 and $350 million in 2007 by Christies Auction House.

Both Kalb and Rush speculated that the university will turn to Christies when it is ready to sell the collection.

Sung-Hee Park, who works for Christies’ Public Relations office said he was “unable to confirm or deny” the reports.

Further questions have been raised by both the Brandeis and national art community about the legality of selling artwork donated to the university.