Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Fisk Arguments This Week

The Tennessee Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments this week in the Fisk University-O'Keeffe Museum case. The AP has a summary:

"Fisk is appealing the Nashville Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle's decision in March that the school broke the terms of O'Keeffe's donation by not keeping the collection on display and by trying to sell parts of it. But Lyle also ruled the school shouldn't have to forfeit the collection to the New Mexico museum as long as it keeps it on display. Lyle had also rejected a $30 million arrangement for Fisk to share the collection with the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Ark."

Meanwhile, BusinessTN has a lengthy story on Fisk's chronic financial struggles:

"By 1977, Fisk's endowment had fallen to about $3 million, and by 1983 --a year best remembered as the one during which the Nashville Gas Co. turned off the heat because of an unpaid balance of $170,000 -- the university's overall debt had climbed to a reported $2.8 million. Narrowly averting a shutdown, Fisk ultimately persevered under the leadership of president Henry Ponder, who began his tenure in July 1984. ... When [current president Hazel] O'Leary arrived on campus in 2004, the university's finances were so tenuous that she didn't know whether she would be able to keep the doors open. ... [S]he discovered the previous administration had raided the endowment for a total of $7.5 million to meet operating shortfalls. At the conclusion of the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004, the university reported an operating deficit of more than $796,000, according to Fisk's IRS tax form 990. By the conclusion of fiscal year 2006-2007, the deficit had climbed to more than $3.8 million."

I guess some would say "let them fail," but personally I'd rather see them share (share for chrissakes!) their collection with Crystal Bridges.