Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Hard times dictate hard choices"

Roanoke Times columnist Joe Kennedy had a piece yesterday on the latest front in the deaccession wars -- the Maier Museum of Art at Randolph-Macon Woman's College, which recently announced that it was considering selling off part of its collection. Here's how he tells it:

"There is a story behind the passions, and it is not a pretty one. Attempting to preserve its mission as a college for women, the school spent too much of its endowment annually, in part by granting too many tuition discounts, [interim president, Virginia Hill] Worden said. The goal was to attract quality female students and continue operating without making cuts that might affect its academic programs. The problem, Worden said, is that the college fought the good fight for too long. It stayed one-sex while many others went coed. As a result, 'We are grappling with issues in the marketplace. ....' On July 1, the school's name will become Randolph College. In September, it will admit its first male students -- 57 of them. Those two changes hurt and angered many alumnae and others. The uproar, including opponents' charges of financial malfeasance, prompted the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to include a financial review in a 2006 review of two new graduate programs. The review uncovered 'absolutely no evidence' of financial malfeasance, Worden said, but it found a spending rate that was too high and an operating deficit of $4.5 million last year, plus other shortcomings. ... The college was placed on warning. It has two years to improve the picture or face probation or possibly even lose its accreditation. 'We now have to make some tough decisions,' the president said. Auction houses and other entities have visited the Maier to make appraisals. The attorney general's office has been kept abreast of developments."

Speaking of the attorney general, Lee Rosenbaum got a statement from his office:

"Traditionally, the role of this office in such situations is limited. In Virginia the Office of the Attorney General has two basic functions when it comes to charitable trusts. We ensure that they are handled legally, and that any proceeds from properly conducted transactions remain in the Commonwealth. This is quite different from the role that attorneys general in a small number of other states (New York, for example) play in charitable trusts, which is far more active."