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Editorial: Backpedaling doesn’t get you anywhere

Published: February 6, 2009
Section: Opinions


In an e-mail to the entire campus community, university President Jehuda Reinharz expressed regret over not finding a more “inclusive and open way to engage the Brandeis community in the deliberations that led to the Board [of Trustees’] decision” regarding the Rose Art Museum. And for this message, Reinharz should be commended.

However, in the same e-mail message, Reinharz attempted to practice revisionist history. His statements regarding the Rose, he wrote, “did not accurately reflect the Board’s decision authorizing the administration to conduct ‘an orderly sale or other disposition of works from the university’s collection.’ The statements gave the misleading impression that we were selling the entire collection immediately, which is not true.”

Indeed, in a press conference with student journalists yesterday, Reinharz said that he wished to clear up a couple of misconceptions – namely that the Board of Trustees resolution did not in fact mandate the closing of the Rose Art Museum. And according to his e-mail, the museum will “remain open.”

While Reinharz’s description of the Board’s resolution is accurate, to characterize the interpretation of the statement released Jan. 26 as a misunderstanding is nothing more than an affront to pure and simple human logic. The release reads as follows: “Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees today voted unanimously to close the Rose Art Museum as part of a campus-wide effort to preserve the university’s educational mission in the face of the historic economic recession and financial crisis.”

The student body, faculty, alumni, donors, Rose Art Museum Director and Board of Overseers, the student press, and the national press did not misunderstand Reinharz’s press release and e-mail.

Either he and the Board of Trustees changed their minds after a week of anger and bad press, or he garbled his words beyond repair.

Regardless, Reinharz should offer either an honest ‘it’s my prerogative’ or ‘mea culpa’ instead of pretending that ‘closed’ has another meaning.