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Taking Some Rose Blows: Brandeis President, in Apologetic Letter, Admits He “Screwed Up”

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Jehuda Reinharz

Art-lings, you really are not paying me enough (or, for that matter, anything) for four major posts in one day. But this “mea culpa” missive from Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz just hit my inbox, and I simply must share.

You might also be interested to know that in a Boston Globe podcast, Reinharz said he is NOT closing the Rose Museum (just repurposing it), again flip-flopping from the university’s unambiguous Jan. 26 statement that the “Board of Trustees today voted unanimously to close the Rose Art Museum.” He now also suggests that just a few works may be sold. (Still not good enough: They would almost certainly sell the gems to raise the big bucks.)

Here’s Reinharz’s semi-contrite letter to “Members of the Brandeis Community”:

The past ten days have been extremely difficult for all of us. I have
heard from many of you and listened carefully to your criticisms and
constructive suggestions. I have read every message on the faculty
list serve, and the thoughtful letter sent to me by a group of
faculty last night. I have also heard from students, staff, alumni,
university presidents and complete strangers about my statements
regarding the vote by the Board of Trustees concerning the Rose Art
Museum.

In retrospect, I wish I had handled the initial statements I made in
a far more direct way. Unfortunately, those statements 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.

The University may have the option,
subject to applicable legal requirements and procedures, to sell some
artworks if necessary, but I assure you that other options will also
be considered. The Museum will remain open, but in accordance with
the Board’s vote, it will be more fully integrated into the
University’s central educational mission. We will meet with all
affected University constituencies to explore together how this can
best be done.

I regret as well that I did not find a more inclusive and open way to
engage the Brandeis community in the deliberations that led to the
Board’s decision.
I take full responsibility for causing pain and embarrassment in both
of these matters. To quote President Obama, “I screwed up.”

Having learned from this experience, I will do my best, as will the
entire administration, to work together with all of you in a
collaborative manner. We must cooperate as we move forward to
confront our financial crisis. But we also have to take bold steps.
Obviously, we have many tasks ahead of us regarding the curriculum
and the budget.
In meetings with members of the faculty and with students in the past
few days, I have been heartened by the enormous reservoir of good
will, imagination and willingness to work hard to guarantee that
Brandeis will continue to thrive as a first-rate institution of
higher learning.

A little more backpedaling, and we may yet have the Rose (more or less) as we know it.

an ArtsJournal blog