February 5, 2009
A story in the Boston Globe describes a number of problems that led to the decision at Brandeis to close the Rose Art Museum. Brandeis relies heavily on current donations - $14 million of its operating budget comes from current donations - and those donations are nearly nonexistent this year. President Reinharz returned recently from his annual fundraising trip to Florida where he heard stories of financial losses and got little in the way of funds for the school. Brandeis's endowment, young by university standards, has dropped from $712 million to $549 million. Because the endowment is relatively new, nearly all the appreciation over the historic dollar value of the endowment is gone. Under Massachusett's version of UMIFA, Brandeis can spend little from its endowment until the market rebounds. In addition to these problems, Brandeis has overextended itself in recent years, increasing its debt with building projects and more financial aid for students. The way out will be difficult.
Although Brandeis turned to the Rose Art Museum as a way to save itself, President Reinharz has begun to step back from the initial announcements that sounded like the school would sell the entire collection. Reinharz now talks about selling "a minute number" of the 7,180 pieces of art and only "if and when it is necessary."
As Reinharz says, "We're not unaware of the fact that the art market is depressed. It's not like we were born yesterday. Everything is depressed. Housing is depressed. The arts is depressed. Everyone is depressed."
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