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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Faculty vote to revisit Rose Art decision

Motion garners near unanimous support

Published: January 30, 2009
Section: Front Page

Faculty overwhelmingly approved a motion to create a committee that would revisit the decision to close the Rose Art Museum at yesterday’s faculty meeting. The motion, which was introduced by Professors Elizabeth Ferry (ANTH) and John Plotz (ENG), passed with a vote count of 103 faculty for, 11 against, and 12 abstaining.

The vote came at President Jehuda Reinharz’s first open presentation to the faculty about the decision to close the museum. While Reinharz explained that, according to financial forecasts, “after 2010, we have no reserves,” most faculty members remained unsympathetic to the unilateral decision, which was made without prior faculty input.

The motion, then, calls for revisiting the issue of the closing of the Rose:

“Whereas the decision made to close the Rose Museum was taken without consultation of the relevant stakeholders in the university community; and whereas the CARC’s [Curriculum and Academic Restructuring Committee] mandate does not include the status of the Rose, we call on the Senate to create a committee that includes representatives from the relevant stakeholders in the university to explore various actions that may be taken with regard to the Rose Art Museum.”

At the meeting, aside from passing the motion, faculty also expressed concerns about the process taken by the administration and the Board of Trustees in deciding to close the museum, which was announced on Monday in an electronic letter sent to the community by Reinharz.

Of particular interest was the discrepancy between Reinharz’s current assertion that the university is “not mandated to sell the collection at any given time,” when his initial letter stated that the university had a “long-term plan to sell the art collection.” Reinharz explained the miscommunication by saying, “I admit [the letter] was written in haste.”

The official press release also stated, “In a special session on Jan. 22, the Brandeis faculty voted unanimously to support the president and trustees as they combat the effects of the economic recession and work to make Brandeis stronger academically and fiscally for the 21st century.” Although none addressed this statement directly, faculty questioned how what was characterized as a positive and open meeting last week did not address the issue of closing the Rose.

Faculty also questioned why the decision to close the museum was portrayed in a poor light by the media. This sentiment could be epitomized by the gasp in the meeting when Reinharz candidly noted, “no one [on the board] anticipated that we would get that kind of reaction.”

Later in the meeting, referring to that gasp, Prof. Jerry Cohen (AMST) asked Prof. Steven Burg (POL), “did no one raise this as a possibility in the conversation?” Unlike Reinharz, Burg, who is a representative to the Board of Trustees, explained, “There was an explicit discussion about the consequences of the decision in the outside world. [There was] clear acknowledgement that there would be a clear public negative reaction.”

Of final concern to the faculty as a whole was the timing of the decision, which comes when high school seniors are visiting prospective schools. Reinharz addressed this issue by explaining that while he regrets the timing, “when we look at the options, we don’t have options.”

In light of these uncertainties, some faculty expressed confidence in Reinharz and the Board, including Prof. Jonathon Sarna (NEJS), who said optimistically, “We need to resolve as a faculty to restore the university’s fiscal and academic strength.”

Reinharz also remained optimistic. “I believe we are ahead of the curve because we do have a plan,” he said.