Thursday, December 8, 2011

Should Public Institutions Be Named After Private Donors?

A recent dispute in Miami highlights this issue.  The NY Times reports that board members of the Miami Art Museum are split over whether the museum should be renamed the Jorge M. Pérez Art Museum of Miami-Dade County in recognition of a $35 million in cash and art from Mr. Pérez.  Four board members felt so strongly about the issue that they resigned, others are threatening to rescind their contributions, and now the public is protesting the naming plan via email.  According to a Miami-Herald article, the former President of the museum went so far as to take out a full-page newspaper ad opposing the plan.  While speculation is rife regarding why this naming proposal has drawn such criticism when other public owned institutions have been re-named with hardly a ripple of concern, it may be a combination of the Occupy Wall Street movement's focus on the wealthy and the negative perception of real estate developers, such as Mr. Pérez, in the Miami-Dade area.  That said, the dispute provides an opportunity to consider whether there should be any limits to the naming trend when it comes to public and, perhaps, nonprofit organizations.  (I once joked with my wife that we should offer to name our next child MS Mayer if Microsoft would be willing to pay his or her college tuition; she was not amused.)


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