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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

University Admin consults PR firm about media woes

“I screwed up,” Reinharz says of media handling

Published: February 6, 2009
Section: Front Page

Image Gallery: Reinharz meets with student press to discuss rose

MEET THE PRESS: President Reinharz reflects on his handling of the media in the wake of the Board of Trustee’s authorization of the closing of the Rose Art Museum.<br /><br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

MEET THE PRESS: President Reinharz reflects on his handling of the media in the wake of the Board of Trustee’s authorization of the closing of the Rose Art Museum.

PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

University President Reinharz clarified what he called “misperceptions picked up by the press” at a student press conference yesterday, saying that the university’s Board of Trustees never voted to close the Rose Art Museum and sell its collection.

Reinharz said that while the trustees authorized the administration to close the Rose in order to transition it into an art teaching and exhibition center, “the Board of Trustees resolution did not speak about the closing of the rose. The resolution said that we ought to find a way to integrate the roes more closely into the education mission of the university.”

“The board resolution never talked about selling the collection,” he continued. “They gave us the option to sell.”

This announcement marks a change in Reinharz’s message about the Rose Art Museum to both the Brandeis community and the nation.

Reinharz announced the Board’s vote on the Rose in a Jan. 26 press release. The beginning of the press release reads:

“Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees today voted unanimously to close the Rose Art Museum…after necessary legal approvals and working with a top auction house, the university will publicly sell the art collection.”

However, the actual text of the resolution that the Board passed reads:

“That the University administration is authorized to take the necessary steps to transition the University’s Rose Art Museum to a teaching center and exhibition gallery. These steps shall include, to the extent appropriate…an orderly sale or other disposition of works from the University’s collection.”

Reinharz, who as late as last Thursday told a Brandeis faculty meeting that “the museum cannot sell the art without closing,” said that the “the press release and the initial statements misrepresented what the Board actually said.”

“I take full responsibility for the confusion,” he added. “This process has not been a good process…if I had to turn the clock back I would do it differently and I regret that I did it this way.”

While last Wednesday, Reinharz told The Hoot that “we have no media strategy,” he said yesterday that the university has temporarily hired public relations firm Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications Inc. in order to “correct misstatements that are now floating all over the world about the rose.”

The President would not specify as to how long the university would employ the public relations firm. He also said that the firm has already helped the university in dealing with the Boston Globe this week when they convinced the Globe to hold a story a day so that Reinharz could clarify some of the details of the piece.

Rasky Baerlein’s vice president Melissa Monahan told The Hoot in a phone interview that the administration has been working directly with both her and the President of Rasky Baerlein. Other clients of Rasky Baerlein include the Boston Red Sox, North Eastern University and Toyota.

Neither Reinharz nor Monahan would comment on how much the university is paying the public relations firm for their services.

Monahan did say, however that the firm is helping the administration deal both with the national press and with the student press and Brandeis community.

Yesterday evening Reinharz sent an e-mail to the Brandeis community apologizing for the way in which he handled the Board’s vote last week.

“I take full responsibility for causing pain and embarrassment in both of these matters,” he said. “To quote President Obama, ‘I screwed up.’”