In financial trouble, Brandeis will close its art museum and considers other cuts

Hit hard by the financial meltdown, Brandeis University will close its Rose Art Museum, the school informed its board of trustees Monday via email. And it is considering a host of other initiatives to increase its revenue immediately, the Boston Globe is reporting.

From the Globe:

Rocked by a budget crisis, Brandeis University will close its Rose Art Museum and sell off a 6,000-object collection that includes work by such contemporary masters as Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Nam June Paik.

The move shocked local arts leaders and drew harsh criticism from the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries. Rose Art Museum director Michael Rush declined comment this evening, saying he had just learned of the decision.

Brandeis is also discussing a range of sweeping proposals to bridge a budget deficit that could be as high as $10 million, such as reducing the size of the faculty by 10 percent, increasing undergraduate enrollment by 12 percent to boost tuition revenue, and overhauling the undergraduate curriculum by eliminating individual academic programs in favor of larger, interdisciplinary divisions.

Other plans under consideration include requiring students to take one summer semester, allowing the university to expand its student body without overcrowding, and adding a business program. The changes would take place, at the earliest, in 2010.

The Brandeis student paper, The Justice, has more details about the school’s deficit and plans.

From the Justice on Jan. 23:

The faculty passed a motion yesterday to establish a committee to draft a proposal by March 1 to restructure the Arts and Sciences curriculum in the face of enormous budgetary constraints. The motion was passed at an emergency faculty meeting that was marked by student protests and was described by professors as the best-attended faculty meeting in years.

The emergency meeting was called after senior administrators and the Faculty Senate Council proposed several long-term changes to the undergraduate academic curriculum, including the replacement of the current 43 majors and 47 minors with fewer interdisciplinary meta-majors, the establishment of a summer semester, the increasing of the size of the undergraduate student body by 12 percent and the reduction of faculty by 10 percent.

Here is the letter Brandeis sent out to its board Monday evening:

January 26, 2009

Dear Friends,

The global financial crisis and deepening national economic recession require Brandeis to formulate and execute decisive plans that will position the university to emerge stronger for the benefit of our students. To this end, our response to the crisis is to focus and sustain our core academic mission. I am writing to tell you that the Board of Trustees met today and voted to close the Rose Art Museum. The decision was difficult and was reached after a painstaking assessment of the university’s need to mobilize for the future and initiate a strategy to replenish our financial assets.

The Rose has been a marvelous addition to the Fine Arts program, and we are grateful to everyone who expressed their love for art and admiration for Brandeis’s academic mission by helping to create, build, and support the museum. Choosing between and among important and valued university assets is terrible, but our priority in the face of hard choices will always be the university’s core teaching and research mission. Today’s decision will set in motion a long-term plan to sell the art collection and convert the professional art facility to a teaching, studio, and gallery space for undergraduate and graduate students and faculty.

The university’s official public statement can be found below. I will be writing to the community shortly to update you on other initiatives currently under discussion by the faculty and the administration.

Sincerely,

Jehuda Reinharz

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BRANDEIS UNIVERSITY NEWS

With vote to close art museum, Brandeis renews ‘unwavering’ commitment to students, research and academic mission

WALTHAM, Mass., Jan. 26, 2009 — 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. Board members stressed that the museum decision will not alter the university’s commitment to the arts and the
teaching of the arts.

"These are extraordinary times," said Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz. "We cannot control or fix the nation’s economic problems. We can only do what we have been entrusted to do — act responsibly with the best interests of our students and their futures foremost in mind."

Opened in 1961, the Rose Art Museum houses a large amount of modern and contemporary art. Plans call for the museum to close in late summer 2009, and transition into a fine-arts teaching center with studio space and an exhibition gallery.

After necessary legal approvals and working with a top auction house, the university will publicly sell the art collection. Proceeds from the sale will be reinvested in the university to combat the far-reaching effects of the economic crisis, and fortify the university’s position for the future.

Brandeis officials said the decision to close the museum is part of an emerging new vision for the university aimed at streamlining it for the future while bolstering its focus on undergraduates, the liberal arts and research.

In recent months, the university has been reviewing expenditures and discussing new initiatives to meet the serious economic challenges. Belt tightening has already brought substantial decreases in administrative budgets.

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. Faculty members agreed that the university should maintain the strengths that have helped position Brandeis among the nation’s top liberal arts and research institutions.

Brandeis officials have estimated that the economic recession will continue to adversely affect operating expenses, performance of the endowment, financial aid and scholarships. At Brandeis and schools around the country, fundraising revenue is declining and families are looking for more financial aid to help them cope with their own unenviable economic straits.

Reinharz said the Rose Museum decision was very difficult. But he characterized it as an important step in the ongoing resource management and allocation process on the school’s campus. "I am satisfied that our commitment is unwavering; that someday we will look back and say that when the quality of education and student services was at stake, we made hard choices so that Brandeis could emerge even stronger."
 

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