Saturday, February 07, 2009

To the Editor

The New York Times runs a bunch of letters to the editor today on the Rose story. A sampling:

"My wife, my two sons, several of my closest friends and I graduated from Brandeis University. We are upset that Brandeis may sell some or all of its wonderful art collection. But we would be a great deal more upset if Brandeis were to lose top faculty, allowed gifted students to drop out, ignored infrastructure problems or closed down. In a meeting with alumni leaders in the fall, Jehuda Reinharz, president of Brandeis, stated that he would not allow a student to drop out because his or her parents could no longer afford tuition. I thought that was a wonderful position, and it made me prouder of my university than any work by Jasper Johns or Andy Warhol ever did. In these difficult times, Mr. Reinharz may not be able to keep his commitment. But I applaud his sentiment, and wish you would not make it more difficult for my university to try to do something wonderful. No one thinks selling art is desirable. But allowing students to have to leave school is not an acceptable alternative."

"[The decision] is a fundamental failure of understanding that a university museum and its art are ... an essential tool for learning ...." (This one is from Steven Henry Madoff, a senior critic at Yale University School of Art.)

As a Brandeis student and a three-year employee of the Rose Art Museum, I am heartbroken by the decision by Brandeis University to close the museum. But I have yet to hear any other feasible plan for saving Brandeis from fiscal ruin. Brandeis has already planned cuts across all departments, including a 10 percent faculty reduction .... Should we fire half of our professors? Close half our buildings? ... I hope Brandeis can find another way to survive this crisis. I love the art, and I love the museum. But I would rather have Brandeis without the Rose than no Brandeis at all."

"As a Brandeis student, I am saddened by the decision to close the Rose Art Museum. It is an invaluable treasure on this campus. After each discussion I’ve had on the issue, I’ve come to the same conclusion: I’d rather graduate from a university without an art museum than one without an art department."

"Of the university that ignited my intellectual curiosity and helped to instill in me a lifelong love of the arts, I ask: If you do not stand for the arts when it would be easier not to, did you ever really stand for them at all?"

"[A]rt is no less dispensable to the life of the mind than are books and microscopes. As a Brandeis alumnus, I fear that Brandeis will now be known as a second-class institution. Having ripped off their students and alumni by devaluing their degrees, Brandeis administrators and trustees have provided cover for other institutions to do the same."