I shall now break from the usual blotter I produce for something far more striking.
As a recent graduate of Brandeis University, I’ve entered the workforce in an especially harsh time of economic crisis. This is news is nothing new.
However, as I exited my undergraduate bubble, it turns out that the safe place I once knew is in as much a decline as the world I recently entered. The impact of the recession has been harsh on numerous universities worldwide, with endowements shrinking and donors holding back because of the financial difficulties of these times. Brandeis has been hit especially hard because of the Bernard Madoff scandal wherein a number of the school’s biggest supporters were involved in the ponzi scheme and lost a large amount of money. Consdering Brandeis is a relatively young institution as far as top-ranking universities go, its endowement is small, and the administration has been scrambling to try and make ends meet.
Although sacrifices must be made, I cannot say I foresaw what was announced last evening. In a letter to the Brandeis community, University President Jehuda Reinharz had this to say:
“January 26, 2009
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.
The Rose Art Museum – an institution among the art world of New England, a gallery that holds the largest collection of modern art in the Northeast, and an icon of Brandeis University – will close its doors in order for the school to move forward financially. I’ve heard of cutting off a foot to save the leg, but this feels more like an involuntary (although who ever heard of a voluntary) lobotomy in order to save some semblance of humanity. The Rose Art Museum is often the go-to selling point for Brandeis as a cultural institution. It’s not just a structure, but an embodyment of the values of the school as a welcoming community to people of all interests; with the Rose having gone, there’s something of a lack of balance within what is supposed to be a well-rounded, inclusive institution.
A petition has been created for all alumni to sign – check it out here.
Also, a number of alumni have created a Save The Rose Art website, which would be great to check out for those who are curious.
On another note of the financial crisis and its affect on my alma mater, its impact on academics – the main reason that students (one should hope) attend an institute of higher learning – has created a grim outlook. Many professors have taken a pay cut in order to defer the loss of any faculty, there is a university-wide course restructuring in the works, and a hiring freeze has been declared across the board for all staff. This means that many adjunct faculty may not have a job at Brandeis come the 2009 Fall Semester.
Wayne Marshall is one of these professors. Wayne arrived at Brandeis in the Fall of 2007 as the Florence Levy Kay Fellow in Ethnomusicology, a two-year fellowship that ends this semester. Although Wayne has had a dramatic impact on the academic life of numerous students (myself included), there is the possibility that he may not be hired as a full time professor due to the financial crunch that Brandeis faces. It would be devastating if Wayne were to leave the school for budgetary reasons; he is an excellent and engaging instructor, one of a handful of professors who has engaged in experiential learning (an area that Brandeis has worked hard on improving upon) and succeeded in doing so in the classroom, and is producing the kind of academic research countless individuals dream of creating. And he is one of the most knowledgable intellectual on hip-hop and globalism – a hot-button topic of study that many university’s could only hope to profess as passionately and accurately as Wayne.
Needless to say, when Wayne announced on his wildly-popular blog that his future at Brandeis was unclear, I was shocked. I soon began to develop a plan of action, a petition, to submit to the University administration. Although the announcement of the Rose is equally shocking, relevant, and important to the campus, I will not defer from working on this petition as well. The decision concerning the Rose’s future has already been made and all forms of protest are trying to reverse it; the Save Wayne Campaign will be one of convincing the administration to act on something they haven’t made a complete decision upon (ie: Wayne’s future at Brandeis).
More information about this campagin will be made available in the future on this blog. For now, you can check the Innermost Parts blog entry for more detailed information on the petition. If you would like to sign the online petition, send an email to:
savewayne (at) gmail (dot) com
1) Your name
2) Your connection to Brandeis (alum, current student, parent, staff, etc) or to Wayne
3) At least one piece of contact information (be it your email address, phone number, mailing address, etc)
4) Any comments you have about Wayne
A full proposal, with a letter and a five-ten page argument, will be created and made available to people within a few weeks. Until then, spread the word about both these campaigns if you are concerned about the state of the arts at universities across the world or just the state at which administrative bodies react to times of crises.