Madoff – Lurking in the Background at Brandeis

Colleges and universities in America are big business – and big recipients of fundraising dollars. Despite this, it is unusual for the day to day business of these institutions to make the front page of major newspapers, let alone the major philanthropy trade press.

Two recently concluded and public cases involved Princeton University and Fisk University.

Princeton’s multi-year and very public legal dispute with a donors family, heirs to the A & P Supermarket chain, over control of an endowment was recently settled out of court. Fisk’s fight with the Georgia O’Keefe Museum over their art collection was closely followed in both the general media and the art and philanthropy trade press.

Whether either of these institutions expected the public interest is difficult to know. But I do suspect, that when Brandeis University’s Board of Trustees met two days ago they did not anticipate the public and prominent outcry over their announcement to close the University’s Rose Art Museum. From the front page of The New York Times to The Boston Globe, to The Chronicle of Philanthropy and many others, this is a story that doesn’t seem to be going away. And it appears now the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is looking into the decision.

Having observed first hand the decade long legal battle over moving the Barnes Foundation from suburban Philadelphia to Center City, Brandeis might be wise to not plan on closing the Rose on their currently stated timetable.

Two links from the extensive reports in the general media – first from the Boston Globe:

Crisis raises questions on Brandeis campus

For Brandeis University, the financial damage came fast, and the fallout has cut deep.

This fall, the private liberal arts college watched its endowment plummet and its fund-raising drop off sharply, as many of the school’s most reliable and deep-pocketed donors suffered heavy losses in the Bernard Madoff investment scandal.

from The New York Times:

Outcry Over a Plan to Sell Museum’s Holdings

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office said on Tuesday that it planned to conduct a detailed review of Brandeis University’s surprise decision to sell off the entire holdings of its Rose Art Museum, one of the most important collections of postwar art in New England.