For Immediate Release
October 23, 2007
MOTION FOR INJUNCTION FILED TO STOP AUCTION OF RANDOLPH-MACON WOMAN'S COLLEGE ART UNTIL RELATED LAWSUITS DECIDED
Group Hoping for Action from Attorney General Bob McDonnell
July-from auctioning four irreplaceable paintings to increase an
Already generous $153 million endowment, a motion for temporary injunction
and a complaint requesting a temporary and permanent injunction has been
filed before the Lynchburg Circuit Court, Preserve Educational Choice announced
"Judging by how hastily and secretively
away the art, it is clear that the college fears a ruling from the
Supreme Court against their actions and is moving to sell the pieces of
art as quickly as possible," said Anne Yastremski, Executive Director of
Preserve Educational Choice, the alumnae group supporting the lawsuits.
"This motion for injunction seeks to stop the College from irreparably
harming their reputation and their world-class American art collection
until these lawsuits against
General Bob McDonnell to take action to stop the College, but since we
Know of no action thus far, the plaintiffs in this injunction suit and
Thousands of other alumnae, donors to the College and the Maier, and
The plaintiffs that have filed the request for an injunction include
all of the students, alumnae and donors of R-MWC involved in the
charitable trust and breach of contract lawsuits that currently are
being considered on appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia, as well
as the eleven potential "intervenors" who have asked
Circuit Court to stop
purchased with funds from the Trust of Louise Jordan Smith.
Just last month, the Supreme Court of Virginia decided to hear appeals
Of two lawsuits challenging the College's fall 2006 decision to become
co-educational. The first suit, which involves "donor intent,"
challenges the college on charitable trust grounds, arguing that the
college should have to prove it cannot continue as a woman's college
before it can use the assets accumulated under the original charitable
purpose - to "educate women in the liberal arts" - for the benefit of a
coed college. The second suit, filed by a group of students, alleges breach
of contract, saying that they had been promised four years of single-sex
education. Both suits pending before the Supreme Court of Virginia include
allegations that the protection of the art collection is vital to providing
the relief sought by the student and donor plaintiffs.
In the Circuit Court case filed by the College, the College asked the
courts for permission to break the Trust of Louise Jordan Smith.
Relatives of Louise Jordan Smith, students, alumnae, former faculty and
Leave to Intervene in the suit, alleging that the money from Smith's trust
was used to purchase a large number of the most valuable paintings in
entire art collection must be protected in order to honor the intentions
of Smith, both through her trust and her efforts during her lifetime.
A hearing on that motion to intervene is scheduled for November 15.
"The Court's decisions in these cases could affect whether or not the
College can or needs to sell the paintings now at Christie's," says
Yastremski. "If the College is allowed to go forward with the
Christie's auction before our cases are finalized, the art-pieces like
George Wesley Bellow's 1912 "Men of the Docks" which constitute the
cornerstone of the Maier-will be lost forever."
Yastremski, pointing to the college's $153 million endowment (one of
the largest in
paintings are "due to greed, not need."
While the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has put
The College on financial warning, it was not due to the size of the
endowment. The specific issues that SACS cited the college for -
astronomical tuition discounting (nearly twice the national average),
excessive deferred maintenance, and operating deficits - are all signs
of fiscal mismanagement, not a too-small endowment.
out-of-control spending and poor management, neither of which will be
Fixed by selling portions of the school's treasured art collection," said
Yastremski. "This collection was not assembled as a financial
Investment for future 'hard times,' but rather from public donations and
funds allocated to benefit the college's educational mission and to create
a cultural resource for the community. Two of the four paintings in question
were donations from private individuals to the permanent collection, one was
purchased with fees paid by students (at their request) specifically for
the purpose of buying art and supporting artistic events on campus, and the
most valuable one - "Men of the Docks" - was purchased by a Lynchburg-based
community group with the express purpose of forming a permanent collection for
the benefit of the students and the citizens of
Even if an infusion of capital was necessary, which thousands of Alumnae and
donors don't believe, the national art community has strict Standards against
the sale of art for general fund purposes. Nearly every major Virginia and national
art association has condemned the College's plans to sell the four paintings,
including the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Association of Art Museum Curators,
the College Art Association, the Association of College and
"It is obvious that the current
nothing for ethics or their donor's wishes. Hopefully the Attorney
General and the Commonwealth's Courts will realize this, and act
accordingly," said Yastremski. "If not, donors may need to think twice
about investing their hard earned resources with the state's many nonprofits."
Sr. Director of Preservation, Programs & Properties
The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation