Graduate Students

Upset Brandeis U. Donors Look for Ways to Keep Art Museum Open

January 28, 2009

Donors angry at Brandeis University over its decision to close its Rose Art Museum and sell its art collection to cover losses suffered in the economic crisis are exploring how they might stop the shuttering of the museum and the sale of the artworks, The Boston Globe reported today.

The decision has raised complicated legal questions over donor intent and the university’s use of money given to the museum and of the donated artwork, especially restricted donations that require the art to be publicly shown.

“Had I had any idea when I donated work that there was a chance they would be sold to benefit the university, I never would have donated them,” Jonathan Novak, a museum overseer and Brandeis graduate who has donated money and art to the museum, told the newspaper.

The museum, known for its collection of contemporary art, contains more than 7,000 works, of which 84 percent were gifts, the museum registrar said.

The university said it had heard from donors and alumni who support the decision, which it says is necessary to strengthen the university’s financial position.

Other tough cost-cutting choices are also on the table for Brandeis, which faces a $10-million deficit and the loss of donations from supporters hurt in the Bernard Madoff scandal. The university is considering cutting staff and faculty positions, increasing its enrollment to raise tuition revenue, and revamping the undergraduate curriculum, the Globe reported. Some students and professors are complaining that the university is leaving them out of the discussions about what to cut. —Kathryn Masterson