- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Randolph College is moving forward to ensure a bright future and to honor the historic vitality and academic excellence of its founding as Randolph-Macon Woman’s College.

We are committed to enrolling talented students who are eager to engage in all aspects of the educational experience. We owe these students an excellent faculty, up-to-date resources and facilities, and a thriving campus community. To this end, it is essential that the college act to maintain financial stability for future generations of students.

The board of trustees decided in October 2007 to sell four paintings from the college’s collection to augment our endowment. For seven months, we dealt with litigation brought by critics of the sale. In February, these critics let the injunction lapse, and in March, they abandoned their lawsuit before we could proceed to trial.

After consulting with our art advisers, the college determined the time is right to place Rufino Tamayo’s “Troubadour” in the May 28 Latin American auction at Christie’s in New York. Otherwise, we would be forced to wait until the next auction in the fall, thus delaying the benefits we will enjoy from the infusion of this capital into our endowment. The other three paintings must also be sold, but when the timing is most advantageous for the college.

There is never an ideal time, emotionally, to sell an item such as “Troubadour,” or the other three paintings, but since we are free from any legal encumbrances, we must now move forward with our plans. We must do what is necessary to ensure the long-term viability of an institution that has a huge economic and cultural impact on this community.

The auction date for the Tamayo has nothing to do with the timing of the Virginia Supreme Court decision. In fact, the appeals recently argued before the Virginia Supreme Court are not about our ability to sell artwork; they are about the college’s decision to become a coeducational institution.

The Tamayo and the other three paintings will be sold, not to fund coeducation, but to help a college that spent decades doing everything possible to remain single-sex. Single-sex or coed, this artwork would still have to be sold.

We are fortunate to have a large endowment, but for decades we struggled to remain single-sex in a dwindling market, and we have drawn on the endowment too heavily. The sale of art is just one piece of a long-term financial plan that will bring the college’s expenses and revenues in line over a period of years.

We must remember that even with the eventual sale of four paintings, Randolph College still owns a wonderful art collection. This collection will remain a vital part of an educational experience that has at its core an excellent academic program and a close-knit, diverse community.

Some say the sale of the college’s art is a question of ethics. We could not agree more. The real question of ethics would arise if our board of trustees were willing to waste not just the future, but the proud past of this institution by allowing it to wither rather than change to fit the current educational and financial circumstances. Our board is not willing to let this happen.

Our board, like the governing board of every other college, has a right and a responsibility to do what is necessary to put this institution on solid financial footing. Change is hard, and these types of decisions are never easy. But they have been made. The college can now embrace its future confident that it has made the right choices.

Our challenges are decades in the making, and they cannot be addressed fully overnight. However, we are already seeing progress, and the litigation end is now in sight.

Amidst the changes has come a sense of brightness and renewed hope for the future. We have seen a surge in both our applications and donations. We have experienced a renewed vibrancy on campus. Especially important, we are seeing our community move forward together.

Randolph College remains committed to ensuring not only that it continues with a bright future, but that this future remains worthy of its past.

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