10 replies on “Brandeis to sell school’s art collection”

  1. I honestly don’t know what they could be thinking, they must be on the verge of either insanity of bankruptcy to do something like this. I think they will regret it for a long time and it makes me exceptionally disappointed that they can’t find a way to get around this (not that I ever really liked the rose mind you, but just in principle)

  2. I’m curious why you feel this is such a bad thing (and you too, Jess). The Rose has always been on the margins of the academic experience at Brandeis, and I know many students never set foot inside during their entire four years. If Brandeis is going to make cuts, why is selecting something that is on the margins such a bad thing? I have trouble thinking of what could be done in its stead (eliminate athletics and close the gym? turn off the internet network and cable? Absurd suggestions, I know… just trying to think different).

  3. Dave, you’re completely right, as I said I’m actually not that attached to the Rose myself but it just shows a priority in place at Brandeis that saddens me. I’d rather they close part of the gym or something than sell off irreplaceable pieces of art that have been gifted to the university in good faith over the years. I think it’s a shame that they felt this was the best option – it just seems too easy – they can just auction them off, even though they will be getting well below the real value in this kind of market. It shows bad financial planning on their part that they can’t ride out the storm and they should be ashamed of themselves for not diversifying in a way that would have protected the endowment more (and yes, I do realise this is unprecedented loss in many ways, but when you have millions to invest you would hope you could weather the storm a bit better). Universities should be more forward thinking and protect things for the future – I want my kids to be able to see where we went to school and see the same well respected, well rounded university I remember, including a priceless collection of art work some of the pieces of which I loved and now will probably be sold off. (though lets not even get started on some of the other changes they are proposing for the organization of the faculty!)

  4. I think Jess said it very well. I’ll just add that, in terms of losses, the school where I work has sustained the same if not greater losses than Brandeis, and is making painful cuts, but nothing of the scale that Brandeis is proposing in terms of laying off large numbers of staff, dramatically reorganizing the curriculum, cutting back on services, and the like.

    At Harvard, we talk about belt-tightening, cutting back on projects, suggestions for how to make incremental changes, stopping faculty searches and losing staff through attrition. The Deans and President communicate their plans and talk about their processes. Vice presidents come to divisional meetings to explain how new budgets are being drawn up and what they are looking to change. In addition to just being the right thing to do, this very public process gives affected staff, faculty, and students some measure of hope and even optimism about the future of the school. Sure, hard decisions need to be made, but they are being made for the right reasons, and everyone is sacrificing a little for the good of the whole.

    If you read the Globe article, it sounds like Brandeis is circling the drain and is doing everything a dying company can do to eek out a last bit of profit. All of their changes are dramatic and driven purely for financial reasons. Completely changing the curriculum, destroying graduate programs, cutting out fine arts, demanding summer sessions of students not for any reason other than it would mean higher tuition revenues. If I were a donor, would I feel confident investing money in a school with such limited vision? If I had a great collection, how could I possibly gift it to an institution that is just as likely to first lock it in a basement for a decade and then turn around and sell it at auction?

    Maybe the choices the Brandeis executives and Board are making are the right ones, but they are doing very little to explain why. Maybe the massive staff cuts are necessary, but they are not doing anything to make them less painful. If an institutions most important asset is its human capital, ending up with a workforce that is demoralized and bleeding; a donor base that, already hit hard, has now lost all confidence in the institution; a faculty that, without any consultation, is being reorganized, departments slashed, graduate programs and research eliminated; a student body that has to pay more for less, where does it all lead? Nowhere good that I can see.

  5. Don’t forget, the Globe article is a bit sensationalist in the least.

    A couple of counter-points:

    – the University won’t be selling the art *today*. The process takes time, and a good auction house such as Christy’s already knows how to market art in terms of timing and audience. It will take years to sell the art and it will definitely be sold to the people who want it and will pay for it. Art has value because of a structured network of value-building – Brandeis won’t be ignoring that fact.

    – Brandeis is in a very different financial position from Harvard; any ‘newer’ school is. Massachusetts state law mandates that endowment gifts can be used by drawing from the interest and capital gains. Endowment gifts made in the past 10 years are much more likely to have declined below the original principle than endowment gifts made 100 years ago. Thus institutions with older pedigrees are structurally better able to weather the financial storm.

    As for the other cuts that you get into Danny, I cannot say I agree with them either. I am definitely one that understands the demoralizing impact that major changes can have on staff and the institutional structure as a whole. Change isn’t easy. Radical change is never comfortable. But what we’re seeing from the entire world around us is that things cannot progress as they have in the past – our actions exceeded the ability of reality to keep up. Our ‘flying high’ was more an elaborately interwoven delusion and we’ve woken from our collective stupor.

  6. Brandeis faculty meeting tomorrow might be exciting. The amount of furor over the Rose eclipses all the previous fusses over Study Abroad policies, talk of reducing the faculty size, summer sessions, etc.

    Last week I was telling people that the current situation seemed like May 1789 in France (autocratic administration having to enlist the help of the Third Estate to deal with major financial crisis, all kinds of major changes being proposed). I’m more convinced than ever that this could boil over.

    Oh, and I think there’s a sit-in planned at the Rose, and a big grad student meeting after the faculty meeting, and who knows what else…

  7. I think there are some steps that could be taken to raise money:
    1)Hold a benefit concert
    2)Loan the works for a special exhibit to the MFA or something and charge admission
    3)Get a famous speaker to come to campus and charge admission
    4)Ask the students for their roll over fund and maybe to take an SAF cut. They are flush with SAF money.

    Those ideas can raise a million or two. Not sure how to get another 8.

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