University, plaintiffs reach settlement in Rose lawsuit
Published: Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 01:08
The 2-year-old lawsuit that was brought against the University by four Rose Art Museum overseers concerning its management of the museum during the 2009 financial crisis has been settled, according to a BrandeisNOW press release.
"The settlement agreement, which brings to an end all claims concerning management of the Rose and the potential sale of artwork, states that the Rose is, and will remain a university art museum open to the public and that Brandeis has no plan to sell artwork," the press release stated.
In an interview with the Justice, University President Frederick Lawrence said that the University will now focus on the museum's upcoming 50th anniversary by exposing the Rose to the outside world through traveling exhibitions of artwork typically on display at the Rose.
According to the settlement agreement provided to the Justice by Senior Vice President for Communications and External Affairs Andrew Gully, Lawrence and the plaintiffs "engaged in a series of constructive and collegial conversations" about the museum and its future. They settled the dispute on the terms that the museum will remain open to the public; professionally staffed and committed to "collecting, preserving, studying and exhibiting fine art"; hire a director with expertise in modern and contemporary art; and that the University will have no plans or intent to sell any of the artwork.
Then-University President Jehuda Reinharz formed a search committee to recruit a new director for the Rose on Sept. 16, 2010, according to a Sept. 21 Justice article. Now that the lawsuit is settled, Lawrence said that the University is able to truly move forward and "focus on the selection of a top-tier ... director."
In addition, the settlement agreement does not require Brandeis to make monetary payments to any of the plaintiffs; it must only uphold the agreement and act in the best interests of the museum and its future.
The plaintiffs in the suit were members of the Rose Board of Overseers Meryl Rose, Jonathan Lee, Lois Foster and Gerald Fineberg. Their claims against the University have been dismissed by the Suffolk Probate and Family Court in Boston, and the Massachusetts Office of the Attorney General terminated its review of the University on June 20.
All of the plaintiffs agreed in the settlement to "release and relinquish their claims in the Action," meaning that they will no longer pursue legal action against Brandeis. In the case of Fineberg and his wife Sandra, who are funding current renovations to the museum aimed at making the building more energy efficient and aesthetically pleasing, the University agreed to double the size of a plaque that recognizes the Finebergs' donation and display the plaque more prominently in the museum.
In an interview with the Justice, Lee said that he was happy with the settlement. "I would certainly say I am getting what I want, which is the assurance that the University is not going to sell its art," said Lee.
According to Lee, Lawrence was directly involved in the settlement decision.
"He's agreed not to sell any of the art and he wants to get an appropriate museum director hired and he wants to restore the Rose to its glory, if you will," said Lee. "So all of this is good news to my ears."
The dispute began in January 2009, when the Board of Trustees voted to authorize the sale of artwork from the museum if necessary, according to the press release.
The Justice reported in an Oct. 20, 2009 article that "the lawsuit ... seeks to maintain the Rose collection by stating that the University's decision to close it and sell its paintings would violate museum ethical codes. ... [It] also states that the University's decision violates its commitment to the Rose family to maintain the museum solely as a public museum."
This authorization was made in an effort to help Brandeis cope with an endowment that had been severely diminished during the financial crisis, according to The New York Times. The Board's 2009 decision drew national attention and criticism, and the University ultimately sold no artwork.
In March, Brandeis announced widespread renovations to the Museum, funded by the Finebergs.
In an email to the Justice, Prof. Ellen Schattschneider (ANTH) wrote, "I am enormously relieved to learn of the settlement between Brandeis … and the plaintiffs in the Rose lawsuit. ... Many of us on the faculty are looking forward to a close working relationship with the Museum, which is so vital to the special intellectual and cultural missions of Brandeis."
About the financial situation that led to the decision to sell artwork and the resulting lawsuit, Lee said, "It was an unfortunate road that we all had to go down. I'm just pleased that it's over and that it's come out the way that it has. You don't want museums to be at risk of losing the stuff that reminds us of where we've been and what we are as a society because of a short term financial problem. This lawsuit has established that for a wider audience."
—Emily Kraus and Sara Dejene contributed reporting.
Editor's note: This is an updated version of the article originally posted online June 30.