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Museum Employees Leave Today

Controversy Surrounding Report, Institution Deficit Remains

By Alessandra M. Galloni

Today, 10 members of the Harvard community are leaving the University after an accumulated 150 years of service to the Semitic Museum.

The staff members lost their jobs after an advisory committee recommended a restructuring of the museum to curb the seven-year cumulative deficit of $1 million.

Yesterday, the museum began a new search for an assistant director and an assistant curator. "There is nothing that precludes them from applying for these jobs," said the museum's director Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel Lawrence E. Stager '65.

But as the staff members exit the museum, they leave Harvard on a bitter note.

Since the committee report was released on November 2, the staffers and many of their supporters have been at the center of a heated debate about the reasons for the cuts and the future of the Semitic Museum.

The staff members have strongly criticized the report's provisions to reduce some of the museum's public programs and to relocate the ethnographic and photographic collections to other museums.

Staffers have said that despite the report's indications to continue public exhibitions, the suggested reductions are paramount to closing the museum.

"Even if they manage to keep it open, it is certainly not going to have the exhibitions it had in the past," said Curator for Exhibits Nitza Rosovsky. "The doors will be open, but I don't know where they will haveexhibitions if there is no staff."

Although the report says that 90 percent of themuseum's deficit was incurred by the photo archiveand the public exhibits program, staffers saidthat during the last year, the museum was close toraising the much-needed funds.

Staffers and other museum supporters said thefundraising restrictions implemented during lastyear's committee review thwarted efforts to elicitthe money.

"We were forbidden to raise funds so that wecould close for lack of funds," Curator andExecutive Director Carney Gavin said last month."

Critics say that possible donors who hadexpressed interest in supporting the museum werediscouraged from coming through with their pledgeswhile the future of the museum was yet to bedetermined.

Joseph Peeples, a museum contributor who wasreached in Bogota, Colombia, yesterday said he wasplanning to give the royalties from his upcomingbook to the museum.

"But I certainly wasn't going to do that if the[public] facet of the museum is going to change,"Peeples said.

"Many people were planning to contribute,"Peeples said. "But who would give money into asituation which was going to be changed to theextent that the intent of those contributionswould be altered?"

And critics have attributed much of the deficitto what they characterize as Stager's lack ofinterest in the museum since his arrival in 1986.

"Part of the responsibility for the deficit,surely, lies with the director who raised no moneyand then exploited the scarcity of funds as areason to strangle the museum completely," wroteLecturer of Social Studies Martin Peretz in acommentary published in The Crimson two weeks ago.

Stager has said that when he came to the museumin 1986 he was hopeful about curing the musuem'sfinancial woes, but the museum's deficit datedback even further. The museum's deficit has beengrowing steadily since 1985.

"All you need to do is look at the progressivecumulative deficit," said Stager. "One doesn'thave to look at the last year to see a continualmove upward."

In fiscal year 1992, the Semitic Museum was theonly Harvard-affiliated department that had notbalanced its budget.

Knowles said that as soon as he became dean ofthe Faculty, he scrutinized all Harvarddepartments and units. He said he was concernedwith any that were running a deficit.

Knowles and Stager have also defended theyear-long restrictions placed on fundraisingduring the committee's review on the grounds thatthey were necessary to avoid soliciting funds forprojects that might be reduced.

"Fundraising was put on hold to avoid newinsufficiently funded projects from beingstarted," Knowles said yesterday.

And some defenders of the committee's reporthave attributed the rising deficit to fiscalmismanagement by the museum's public sector andexcessive spending on exhibits.

Stager said last night that the three mainsectors of the museum--public exhibitions,photographic archives, and excavationprograms--have traditionally divided fundraisingresponsibilities for the museum.

"In my sector, we have raised $4 million,"Stager said. "They [the other two sectors] didn'traise enough money...Funds that were anticipateddidn't come through," Stager said.

Staff members have also said the makeup of thecommittee--which includes only facultymembers--belies a preliminary bias in favor of theacademic rather than the public facets of themuseum. And staffers say they were not given thechance to participate in the committee'sdeliberations.

"If a year ago, we had been called and told,`we can't support you,' it would have been easierto understand and accept," said curator forexhibits Nitza Rosovsky. "All of a sudden there'sa committee that says `goodbye.'"

But Stager and Knowles have defended themakeup, the process and the suggestions of thecommittee.

"It was a careful, thoughtful, open process,"Knowles said yesteday. "It is an impropersuggestion to say it was not consultative anddeliberative."

In the last month, the controversies havebrought to light an uncomfortable atmosphere atthe museum, said some museum staffers.

"I've lived in an atmosphere of hostility andsurveillance," said Elizabeth Carella, curator forthe history of photography.

"It has been a house divided," said assistantto the director Eileen Caves, who herself has beenembroiled in the controversy.

Stager put it more diplomatically in aninterview last night: "It's been a verybusinesslike atmosphere."

As they prepare to leave, the staff isemphasizing the role of the museum in acquaintingthe public about the history and culture of theMiddle East.

"We have these public exhibits with the ideathat we can educate people by making them aware ofthe cultural heritage of the ancient Middle East,"said Coordinator for Public Programs ElizabethThyne.

And visitors of the museum have praised theirprojects and exhibits. Since 1992, when the musuemreopened to the public, the museum has hostedexhibits such as "Crossings of the Ancient World,""Ashkelon by the Sea," "The Jewish Experience atHarvard and Radcliffe" and "Harvard's ArabianNights."

"The Semitic Museum is a place where Arab andJewish people of all temperaments can cometogether," said Florence Wolsky, a museumcontributor. "It's unique."

Despite the museum's popular exhibits, thegrowing deficit forced Knowles and the advisorycommittee to choose between the public aspects andthe academic interests of the students.

"The report has prioritized the activities ofthe museum and has said that the support...forstudents and faculty comes ahead of the prioritiesof public programs," Knowles said yesterday.Crimson File PhotoDean of the Faculty JEREMY R. KNOWLES

Although the report says that 90 percent of themuseum's deficit was incurred by the photo archiveand the public exhibits program, staffers saidthat during the last year, the museum was close toraising the much-needed funds.

Staffers and other museum supporters said thefundraising restrictions implemented during lastyear's committee review thwarted efforts to elicitthe money.

"We were forbidden to raise funds so that wecould close for lack of funds," Curator andExecutive Director Carney Gavin said last month."

Critics say that possible donors who hadexpressed interest in supporting the museum werediscouraged from coming through with their pledgeswhile the future of the museum was yet to bedetermined.

Joseph Peeples, a museum contributor who wasreached in Bogota, Colombia, yesterday said he wasplanning to give the royalties from his upcomingbook to the museum.

"But I certainly wasn't going to do that if the[public] facet of the museum is going to change,"Peeples said.

"Many people were planning to contribute,"Peeples said. "But who would give money into asituation which was going to be changed to theextent that the intent of those contributionswould be altered?"

And critics have attributed much of the deficitto what they characterize as Stager's lack ofinterest in the museum since his arrival in 1986.

"Part of the responsibility for the deficit,surely, lies with the director who raised no moneyand then exploited the scarcity of funds as areason to strangle the museum completely," wroteLecturer of Social Studies Martin Peretz in acommentary published in The Crimson two weeks ago.

Stager has said that when he came to the museumin 1986 he was hopeful about curing the musuem'sfinancial woes, but the museum's deficit datedback even further. The museum's deficit has beengrowing steadily since 1985.

"All you need to do is look at the progressivecumulative deficit," said Stager. "One doesn'thave to look at the last year to see a continualmove upward."

In fiscal year 1992, the Semitic Museum was theonly Harvard-affiliated department that had notbalanced its budget.

Knowles said that as soon as he became dean ofthe Faculty, he scrutinized all Harvarddepartments and units. He said he was concernedwith any that were running a deficit.

Knowles and Stager have also defended theyear-long restrictions placed on fundraisingduring the committee's review on the grounds thatthey were necessary to avoid soliciting funds forprojects that might be reduced.

"Fundraising was put on hold to avoid newinsufficiently funded projects from beingstarted," Knowles said yesterday.

And some defenders of the committee's reporthave attributed the rising deficit to fiscalmismanagement by the museum's public sector andexcessive spending on exhibits.

Stager said last night that the three mainsectors of the museum--public exhibitions,photographic archives, and excavationprograms--have traditionally divided fundraisingresponsibilities for the museum.

"In my sector, we have raised $4 million,"Stager said. "They [the other two sectors] didn'traise enough money...Funds that were anticipateddidn't come through," Stager said.

Staff members have also said the makeup of thecommittee--which includes only facultymembers--belies a preliminary bias in favor of theacademic rather than the public facets of themuseum. And staffers say they were not given thechance to participate in the committee'sdeliberations.

"If a year ago, we had been called and told,`we can't support you,' it would have been easierto understand and accept," said curator forexhibits Nitza Rosovsky. "All of a sudden there'sa committee that says `goodbye.'"

But Stager and Knowles have defended themakeup, the process and the suggestions of thecommittee.

"It was a careful, thoughtful, open process,"Knowles said yesteday. "It is an impropersuggestion to say it was not consultative anddeliberative."

In the last month, the controversies havebrought to light an uncomfortable atmosphere atthe museum, said some museum staffers.

"I've lived in an atmosphere of hostility andsurveillance," said Elizabeth Carella, curator forthe history of photography.

"It has been a house divided," said assistantto the director Eileen Caves, who herself has beenembroiled in the controversy.

Stager put it more diplomatically in aninterview last night: "It's been a verybusinesslike atmosphere."

As they prepare to leave, the staff isemphasizing the role of the museum in acquaintingthe public about the history and culture of theMiddle East.

"We have these public exhibits with the ideathat we can educate people by making them aware ofthe cultural heritage of the ancient Middle East,"said Coordinator for Public Programs ElizabethThyne.

And visitors of the museum have praised theirprojects and exhibits. Since 1992, when the musuemreopened to the public, the museum has hostedexhibits such as "Crossings of the Ancient World,""Ashkelon by the Sea," "The Jewish Experience atHarvard and Radcliffe" and "Harvard's ArabianNights."

"The Semitic Museum is a place where Arab andJewish people of all temperaments can cometogether," said Florence Wolsky, a museumcontributor. "It's unique."

Despite the museum's popular exhibits, thegrowing deficit forced Knowles and the advisorycommittee to choose between the public aspects andthe academic interests of the students.

"The report has prioritized the activities ofthe museum and has said that the support...forstudents and faculty comes ahead of the prioritiesof public programs," Knowles said yesterday.Crimson File PhotoDean of the Faculty JEREMY R. KNOWLES

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