Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"The very legitimacy of Randolph College is at issue"

The Charlottesville Daily Progress has an editorial on the temporarily-stalled Randolph College art sale today:

"[T]wo pieces of artwork proposed for sale were donated without restrictions. Two more weren’t donated at all - they were purchased.

"Critics of the sale say that doesn’t matter.

"Oh, yes, it does matter.

"At least, as owner, the school ought to be able to sell the paintings it bought.

"As for the two paintings donated without restrictions, sale critics say the donors would have restricted their gifts if they had guessed the paintings would ever be up for sale.

"But business decisions like this cannot rely on would have/might have/could have. Decisions cannot fairly be based on guesses - in this case not just on donor intent, but guesses about donor intent.

"Donors can rightly restrict the use of gifts, through contractual arrangements."

It goes on to point out that "the museum is not a stand-alone entity. It is part of the college. And the college is fighting for its life. Museum supporters say its educational mission would be compromised by the sale; college leaders say that without the sale, the entire college is at risk of going under. Which is more important?"

Still, despite all that, the paper thinks the Virginia Supreme Court was right to enjoin the sale. Why?

"Other lawsuits are pending against Randolph for having switched from an all-female school to a co-ed institution. ... While those lawsuits are pending, the very legitimacy of Randolph College is at issue.

"If the school had no right to remake itself, then its current incarnation is illegitimate - and it therefore has no authority to dispose of the school’s assets.

"It would seem that the courts must first answer the question of whether the new co-ed version of the college may even be permitted to exist. Then the question of the art sale can be settled.

"Of course, by then the question may be moot. Randolph College may cease to exist because it has run out of money."