There are certain universities – Southern Illinois, Brandeis – where the students are smarter and more mature than the administrators.

The administrators are childish, impulsive, absurd. The students, as expressed in their newspapers’ editorials, are constantly hushing and calming them.

And so it is again at Brandeis University, whose hot-tempered president — most recently seen shutting down its museum for no good reason and creating an ongoing scandal — has exploded with rage at a Harpers magazine article that says his university hasn’t handled money well lately. He’s threatening to sue.

Of course it’s true that Brandeis, like many other American universities, has fucked up its endowment this way and that way and this way and that way. But Harvard bleeds a billion every minute, and do you see Harvard suing people?

University President Jehuda Reinharz recently sent an e-mail to the faculty listserv in response to the November 2009 Harper’s Magazine article “Voodoo Academics: Brandeis University’s hard lesson in the real economy.” In this e-mail, Mr. Reinharz explained the problems he had with the article and claimed that the article’s financial figures were inaccurate or, at times, completely false. Additionally, Mr. Reinharz explained that the article’s author, Christopher R. Beha, was motivated to write an article casting Brandeis’ finances in a negative light because his aunt Ann Beha’s architectural firm was rejected by the University in its bid for a 2004 building project. [This is so embarrassing. Look at the world view the president of a major university harbors. The aunt did it!] In response, says the e-mail, Brandeis is considering taking legal action against Harper’s. While this editorial board believes that the University should take action to correct any incorrect facts Harper’s published, we do not believe legal action is the correct choice.

While Harper’s Magazine’s descriptions of the University’s economic woes may be exaggerated, there is no denying that Brandeis’ financial status is less than ideal; thus, another lawsuit is the last thing the Brandeis community needs straining its pocketbook. The University is currently playing defendant in two high-profile lawsuits – one involving the Rose Art Museum-and recently reached a settlement on a third involving the demolition of the Kalman Science Building, and we imagine these lawsuits are coming at a hefty cost to the University, win or lose. At a time when Brandeis is looking to cut funding to nearly every one of its departments, Brandeis simply does not have the resources to spend on a lawsuit that Mr. Reinharz admitted in his e-mail “is an arduous task and one that is difficult to prove.”

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3 Responses to ““These are grounds for being upset, but not for filing a lawsuit.””

  1. Bill Gleason Says:

    Lawsuits cost money, even at public institutions.

    At our public university the administration has initiated a lawsuit to try to stop light rail through campus. The administration is suing other government agencies. Earlier they tried to lobby in DC (with paid lobbyists) against the project. Of course all of this was done while claiming to be big supporters of light rail…

    Childish, impulsive, and absurd is a good description of this kind of behavior.

    To which I add: expensive and unnecessary.

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