Many interesting and poignant news articles have been published regarding leadership, fundraising efforts and the subsequent selling off of real estate by the Corcoran. Here, we have compiled those stories.

Judge Robert Okun grants Cy Prés relief to the Trustees of the Corcoran

Read the full court briefing.

 

The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The LA Times agree break-up plan should be rejected!

Washington Post, Style
“The Corcoran Should Remain Intact. Here’s why.”
by Philip Kennicott

LA Times, Arts & Entertainment
“Claims of retaliation for faculty dissent at Corcoran Gallery of Art”
by Christopher Knight

The Wall Street Journal, Life & Culture
“Isn’t There a Better Way? A Hearing to decide the fate of the Corcoran Gallery of Art”
by Lee Rosenbaum

 

A Small College is Rescued, and its Professors End Up Undemployed

Via The Chronicle of Higher Education
by Scott Smallwood
March 23, 2001

Mount Vernon faculty members sue over a takeover by George Washington U.

This story has a hint of fairy tale to it. There’s a handsome knight, George Washington University. There’s a fair maiden, Mount Vernon College, a little college for women in the nation’s capital. And once upon a time, back in 1996, the knight galloped to the rescue of the maiden, who was drowning in a sea of red ink.

Here, Mount Vernon faculty members thought, is our savior. Their benefactor talked of creating a world-class women’s college. In their daydreams, they saw new programs, new money, maybe even new carpeting. But the fine print of the deal didn’t cover such niceties. Instead, it called for the maiden to surrender her independence if she wished to be saved. The agreement gave George Washington control of Mount Vernon — control of the board, control of the finances, and, ultimately, control over whether the faculty members had anyplace left to work.

Fairy tales aren’t supposed to end up in a District of Columbia courtroom, but that’s where this story is headed. On April 2, a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by 13 faculty members against George Washington and the soon-to-be-history Mount Vernon is slated to go to trial. The professors argue that Mount Vernon violated their tenure contracts, and that G.W. didn’t give the college a fair shot at survival. They describe the deal as more of a corporate takeover.

On the other hand, what good is tenure at a college that was likely to shut down anyway?

Since they were let go, the professors say, their lives have changed drastically. James Burford, a professor of art at Mount Vernon for 20 years, now travels the Beltway each week, teaching part-time at three local colleges. He’s hoping to crack the $30,000 barrier this year, still considerably less than the $41,000 he made in his last year at Mount Vernon. James Hull, who after 20 years as an English professor at Mount Vernon still made less than $40,000 a year, now wakes up at 5 a.m. to drive to a high-school teaching job more than an hour away. “My lifestyle is certainly very different,” he says. “I didn’t know how good I had it as a college professor.”

Whether the deal is called a merger, an affiliation, or a takeover, professors at any small college swallowed up by a larger institution fear losing their jobs. In this case, George Washington says, it never merged with Mount Vernon. Instead, the two — as G.W. puts it — “affiliated,” whereupon arrangements for the closing of Mount Vernon began taking shape, while the college’s Board of Trustees was led by a G.W. administrator. “Mount Vernon as it was known is gone,” says Grae Baxter, G.W.’s executive dean of the college’s campus. “It’s not anybody’s fault. It’s just evolution, institutional evolution.”

The agreement led to a strange year on the Mount Vernon campus in 1999, as professors stuck around teaching the last seniors in what one faculty member called a “funeral-like” setting. The college, where 400 students once studied, was down to 100 or so by the end.

G.W. professors, meanwhile, were setting up shop. Rosemary Bolig, a human-development professor, says Mount Vernon faculty members were subjected to daily indignities. While they sweltered in steamy offices, air conditioners were installed nearby. As paint peeled from their walls, they say, offices being used by the G.W. professors were freshened up. And as they were teaching Mount Vernon’s last students, construction workers shuffled in to measure for that new carpeting.

Today, a women’s-leadership center remains on the campus, but most everything else about the formerly all-women’s college has changed. Most classes there already include men, and next fall, the final gender barrier will be shattered: The Mount Vernon campus will simply be an extension of G.W., a few miles away, and both men and women will live in the dormitories. What happened to the white knight from 1996?

“What have they saved?” says Patricia Ortman, one of the professors in the lawsuit. “Nothing. Just the land.”

Yes, the land. For while Mount Vernon never had that many students, wasn’t terribly competitive, and didn’t make the jump from junior college to four-year institution until the 1970′s, it did have 23 acres of choice real estate in a prime Washington neighborhood. George Washington, on the other hand, occupies an urban campus in Foggy Bottom, an area near the White House that offers the university no room for growth, and is known better for diplomats and K Street lawyers than green quadrangles. The Mount Vernon professors, as they watch George Washington invest millions of dollars in their old campus, say the deal looks less like an academic endeavor than a real-estate scam.

In 1875, Elizabeth J. Somers founded the Mount Vernon Seminary — a “family and day school for young ladies” — in her Washington home. The school provided six years of study, including two beyond high school. The junior college was established as a separate unit 50 years later, and the school moved to its current campus just after World War II. Most of the buildings surrounding a small quadrangle and fountain at the center of the campus were built in the late 1940′s.

Then, after nearly a century of existence, the college made two decisions that would define its final 25 years. First, Mount Vernon closed the high school, alienating many of the wealthiest alumnae from a college that would desperately need an endowment to finance its next big shift: becoming a four-year institution. That second decision could hardly have been more ill-timed.

In 1960, there were about 300 women’s colleges around the country. By 1998, the number had dropped to 80. In the mid-1970′s, as women’s colleges struggled to find students and money, Mount Vernon attempted the jump to a more competitive level.

For a while, the college seemed to be on solid ground. But administrators kept faculty members in the dark on the financial health of the institution, says Milton Eisner, a former mathematics professor.

Problems with the balance sheets became clear in 1993, when Lucyann Geiselman, then president of the college, started shopping around for help. Georgetown University, located just down the road, lent Mount Vernon $6.5-million; the college put up its 26-acre campus as security. The deal forestalled bankruptcy, but would lead eventually to the closing of the college.

Before long, realizing that the college couldn’t continue making the payments on the loan, Ms. Geiselman sought a partnership arrangement. But Georgetown wasn’t interested, and by the summer of 1996, the situation had become dire. A group of deans met at an administrator’s apartment that August, asking whether the college would even open that fall. Professors had been bringing in their own chalk. Whispers of nearly missed payrolls circulated among staff members.

Then, in October 1996, Mount Vernon and George Washington struck their “affiliation” deal. G.W. would pay off the $6.5-million loan and extend Mount Vernon a line of credit. The college’s trustees agreed to resign, allowing the university to appoint new ones. The new board, led by a G.W. vice president, stripped the Mount Vernon president of the power to spend more than $5,000 without prior approval. Most important, the agreement gave George Washington an option to shut Mount Vernon if the college failed to meet financial benchmarks in the next two years.

Just over a year later, in December 1997, the bleeding had stopped — bills were getting paid, and worries about missing paychecks were gone, says Monica Heppel, a former anthropology professor who is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. But it was clear that the college would fall far short of the financial goals set forth in the agreement. Mount Vernon announced that it would close in the spring of 1999, and that all faculty members — about 50 full-time professors, almost half of them with tenure — would be terminated. The tenured professors were given 17 months’ notice and $1,000 each to help with their job searches. Mount Vernon declared a financial exigency to justify the layoffs, but the faculty members don’t buy that explanation.

“I would assert that Mount Vernon was in financial exigency only if George Washington was in financial exigency,” says Mr. Eisner, the former math professor. “It’s as if I have an account A, and a million dollars in account B, and then declare financial exigency because I run out of money in account A. It’s just another accounting line.”

In December 1998, a group of professors — 11 with tenure and two who would have come up for tenure were it not for the affiliation agreement — sued Mount Vernon and George Washington, arguing, among other things, that the institutions had broken their contracts by not following the faculty handbook in establishing a bona fide financial exigency. They also argued that the college had failed to act in good faith by not seriously trying to stay afloat economically. They pointed out that the college had ended its student-recruiting efforts and had failed to consider cost-cutting moves. Mr. Burford, one of the professors, remembers seeing George Washington logos, not Mount Vernon ones, in the admissions office that year. He asked one of the staff members there if she had any Mount Vernon stationery. “I’m not sure,” she said. “I think we may have a box in the back room.”

In responding to the suit, G.W.’s lawyers painted the situation as a simple contract case, not a complicated tenure battle. “Plaintiffs lost their jobs because their employer, Mount Vernon College, was insolvent and went out of the teaching business,” the lawyers wrote in a brief.

George Washington also argued that the affiliation agreement meant that Mount Vernon, not George Washington, would continue to employ the professors under the terms of their contracts. “If personnel actions impacted Mount Vernon College faculty, those actions were not taken by George Washington University,” Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, the university’s president, said in a deposition. “They didn’t work for me.”

Last May, Judge Rhonda Reid Winston agreed, awarding George Washington summary judgment on several parts of the case and effectively leaving the hollow shell of Mount Vernon College as the sole defendant in the lawsuit. While it no longer exists as an educational institution, Mount Vernon College as a corporate entity, devoid of any real assets, remains. And although G.W. is no longer officially part of the suit, the university’s lawyers are still working on the case.

Shortly before the judge’s order, the professors had written to Mount Vernon’s alumnae, explaining what had happened and asking for money to pay legal bills. That prompted a rebuttal from the Mount Vernon alumnae association.

The professors argue that G.W. wants it both ways — pronouncing Mount Vernon dead and closed in order to terminate professors, but calling the Mount Vernon “legacy” alive and well to encourage donations. “The only place where Mount Vernon seems to exist is in letters to the alumnae,” says Ms. Heppel, the former anthropology professor.

She points to a recent fund-raising letter in which Ms. Baxter, G.W.’s executive dean, wrote: “Only with your support … can we ensure that the Mount Vernon of the future is the same Mount Vernon that changed and shaped our alumnae.”

Ms. Baxter says George Washington never meant to deceive Mount Vernon’s alumnae and simply wanted to preserve a place to which they could feel connected. “We didn’t want them to be orphaned,” she says.

For their part, the alumnae are realistic about Mount Vernon, says Barbara Jean Martin Long, the association’s president. “Mount Vernon was going to close. We consider ourselves lucky that G.W. had a vision and wants to keep it alive.”

Younger, more mobile Mount Vernon faculty members found other jobs, but those who sued — most of them in their late 40′s or early 50′s — had established lives and families in Washington, and balked at the idea of starting over elsewhere. Of the 13 who filed the lawsuit, few have found full-time teaching jobs, and none has another tenured position.

“I knew in my gut that my academic career was over,” says Ms. Ortman, a former human-development professor. She’s now splitting time between research and painting murals in children’s bedrooms. Ms. Bolig has a one-year visiting professorship at the University of the District Columbia. Mr. Eisner, who started at Mount Vernon in 1980, is now a statistician for the National Institutes of Health.

The Mount Vernon story points out a peculiarity of higher education. When a phone company or a hardware store buys out a bankrupt business, lots of people may lose their jobs. But those phone operators didn’t have tenure. The professors suing G.W. say colleges shouldn’t be run like companies. “For G.W., it’s all business,” says Sharon Ahern Fechter, a former professor of Spanish and English as a second language. “Why did they do it? Because they thought they could. But sometimes you stand up to the bully.” Then she admits, “The bully may bulldoze us.”

George Washington certainly has the heavy machinery. Mount Vernon’s campus is now filled with construction workers, trucks, and cranes, fulfilling a $30-million construction project.

In 1996, when Ms. Baxter arrived at Mount Vernon as a consultant, she found science labs no better than those in 1950′s high schools, and below-standard athletics fields, she says. According to an affidavit filed as part of the court case, she saw “an old and neglected facility” that was home to a “a sparse, unhappy, and demoralized student body.”

Now she’s excited each morning to come to the campus and watch a phoenix rise from the ashes. From her office window, she can see the muddy lacrosse field take shape and the rising concrete platforms that will form the parking garage. She can point to the location of the 12 new tennis courts (six of them covered). Architectural plans rest on the wall below the window, foretelling a day when the building she’s sitting in won’t exist, when new dormitories will replace the old.

As she walks around the campus, Ms. Baxter greets many of the students by name. Mount Vernon is a small, collegial place, now nestled inside a giant research university. The atmosphere, she says, has attracted G.W. professors who enjoy teaching and love the small classes — few of the classrooms are large enough to have more than 20 students. “It’s closer to sitting under the tree and discussing the great works,” she says.

The faculty members who lost their jobs want to paint G.W. as the villain, but if so, it’s a villain that has poured money into a campus nearing collapse. Try telling Ms. Baxter — as she looks out on the new softball field or points to a dorm addition — that she’s the villain. “We as an institution exist for students,” she says. “We don’t exist to keep people employed.”

The former professors don’t believe that covered tennis courts and a new swimming pool absolve George Washington of its sins.

“Anytime someone plants a daffodil, does the place look better physically? Yes,” says Ms. Fechter. “Is education about physical looks? I don’t think so. To be a higher-education institution and lie yourself into the property, or, at best, mislead your way into that property, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. It’s morally bankrupt.”

 

http://chronicle.com Section: The Faculty Page: A10

 

 

 

Court Update

After two weeks of court hearings, Judge Okun will make a ruling on the case on or before August 20th.  We will keep the public informed on any and all developments.

 

Court Hearing Dates and Times, Week 2

(Updated on Monday, August 4, 2014)

Please join us for the continuation of the evidentiary hearing. It is open to the public.

Where:
Courtroom 317, Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Ave. NW, Washington D.C. 20001

When:
Monday, August 4, 2014 at 2:00pm to 4:45pm
Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at 9:30am to 1:00pm
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 10:00am until closing arguments conclude.

At this time we do not know when to expect the judge’s ruling.

 

Court Update

Should Judge Okun rule in our favor early next week, Save The Corcoran will immediately issue an outline for a short-term bridge plan to preserve jobs, start the school year, and reconstitute the Board of Trustees.

Court Hearing Dates and Times

Please join us for the evidentiary hearing. It is open to the public.

Where:
Courtroom 317, Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Ave. NW, Washington D.C. 20001

When:
Monday, July 28, 2014 at 2pm to 4:45pm
Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 10am to 4:45pm
Wednesday, July 30, 2014 at 10am to 4:45pm
Thursday, July 31, 2014 at 10am to 3:00pm

 

Good News

Washington Post
“Judge allows Corcoran Gallery critics to present case against breakup deal in court”
by David Montgomery

July 21, 2014

Opponents of the deal to reorganize the Corcoran Gallery of Art won a major procedural victory in D.C. Superior Court on Monday afternoon, setting up a four-day hearing next week where clashing visions of what should become of Washington’s oldest art museum will be tested through witness testimony and documentary evidence.

Reading his opinion from the bench to a packed courtroom for 20 minutes, Judge Robert Okun ruled that nine members of the advocacy group Save the Corcoran must be admitted as intervening parties in a proceeding launched by the Corcoran last month to revise its 1869 charter.

The nine include seven current students of the Corcoran College of Art and Design, one anonymous faculty member, and one anonymous member of the staff of the gallery. The two “John Doe” parties do not want to be identified for fear of “retaliation,” according to their written declarations submitted by the opponents’ attorney, Drew Tulumello, a partner with Gibson Dunn & Crutcher.

Okun accepted Tulumello’s argument that the nine have a “special interest” in the proceeding and could be affected by the outcome. The Corcoran is seeking court approval to turn over the college to George Washington University and to give most of the gallery’s art to the National Gallery of Art.

The ruling means that after two years of advocating their cause through demonstrations, speeches and media interviews, strong skeptics of the Corcoran’s leadership will have a chance to prove their case in a courtroom.

After court adjourned, smiling members of Save the Corcoran embraced one another.

“It means everything,” said Miguel Perez, 24, a fine arts photography major entering his junior year and one of the students admitted into the case. “An active voice in this is what the students have wanted all along.”

“It’s the right thing to happen, before you can dissolve an institution like the Corcoran — all of these questions should be answered,” said Jayme McLellan, an organizer of Save the Corcoran.

The opponents insist that the Corcoran can continue as an independent gallery and college and claim that Corcoran leaders have not demonstrated that dissolving the institution is the only way forward.

Corcoran executives counter that in­trac­table financial problems leave no alternative and that pairing with the National Gallery and GWU is best way to carry on the Corcoran’s legacy of art education and art exhibition.

Corcoran attorney Charles Patrizia, a partner with Paul Hastings, warned the court that if the deal with the National Gallery and GWU is derailed, the gallery may have to close and the college’s future would be uncertain.

The arrangement between the Corcoran, the National Gallery and GWU is not set to close before Aug. 12. It is contingent on the court’s approval of the new arrangement.

Okun scheduled an evidentiary hearing to begin next Monday afternoon and continue through Thursday if necessary.

What’s Next

There’s been a lot of talk and worry, sharing of speculation, half-truths, untruths, some facts, and a lot fear about what will come next for the Corcoran.

Only two things are known for sure: First, that on July 18th, 2014, there will be a court hearing about breaking the historic Corcoran Deed and Charter with a judge, where the Save the Corcoran coalition (STC) will get time at the podium. This court hearing was asked for by the current Corcoran trustees. Save the Corcoran has asked to be a part of it. Anyone can attend this hearing on July 18th.

Please attend:

When:  July 18, 2014  2:30 pm

Where:  Courtroom 317, Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Ave. NW, Washington D.C. 20001

Second, that July 18th will determine if a judge rules to allow STC to articulate its case in court. If a judge rules that STC cannot be part of the suit, the trustees plan to dissolve the Corcoran into GWU, and the NGA moves forward. Until then, Save the Corcoran continues to add more plaintiffs to the suit and encourages anyone to contact the Office of the Attorney General.

A critically important note:  Save the Corcoran’s work, for the past two years, has ONLY been done to work toward a vibrant future for the college, the museum, and all of the people affected by such, including its students, alumni and staff. This work is not done to cause more damage. It is done in the hopes of creating a secure, thriving future for the Corcoran—as a whole—led by capable leaders with proven track records; and guided by its founding documents, as established so long ago to encourage the American Genius. We do not envision a lop-sided Corcoran with the museum or the college having greater importance. Both are needed – they are interdependent – and they can be led to thrive.

Save the Corcoran cannot negotiate a partnership or move in any other direction except toward the court date on July 18th. This date decides everything.  As one faculty member pointed out, if STC loses, at least we took a stand and told the public some of what the board has done to undermine the Corcoran, including damaging the health and futures of real people – staff, faculty, and students.

There is no way to predict if Save the Corcoran will get standing in court on July 18th. While we are optimistic about our chances, the Trustees will strongly oppose our efforts.  If Save the Corcoran does not get standing, the trustees plan goes forward. None of the work we have done thus far slows down the process of the trustees’ current plan. It does not delay their work with GW, or use extra funds that the  Corcoran doesn’t have. They are already paying their lawyers to do this deal.

Clearly, we have a “Which came first: The chicken or the egg?” deal here. Staff, faculty, curators, members, donors, past trustees, alumni – so many people—want the board held accountable for squandering the Corcoran’s assets, hiring unqualified leaders, and so much more. But staff, faculty, and curators also need their jobs; even if they are just one-year contracts, with no guarantee that they will get anything more from GW or NGA.

And those who have already lost their jobs are counting on severance packages to carry them through until they find work. Joining a lawsuit, at this time for any of the above, is risky. Yet some have joined, and they will be protected.

Finally, if STC gets standing, faculty and staff want and deserve a sound plan to keep the Corcoran running while the court decides what is to come next. However, a solid plan cannot truly unfold in great detail until the current board leaves the Corcoran. This will happen only if they are forced out by their own past wrongdoing, as decided by the courts.

Despite firing everyone else, the trustees aren’t going to fire themselves.  They are not going to leave, nor are they going to ask us to join them in partnership. We’ve tried for over two years to have a meaningful dialogue with the board. They have brushed aside our repeated offers to help, and have done as they wished, while not being truthful to the people fighting so hard every day to make the Corcoran work. And we know this has not been in the best interest of the Corcoran.

In the words of one faculty member, “Everyone is totally tapped out, overworked, disrespected, and aware of their insecure future at GW or NGA. Not to mention the worries about what the students will face once that GW takes over.”

Save the Corcoran knows, intimately, that the faculty’s position has been extremely difficult in all of this. If they do not get renewed contracts after their one-year GW contracts, what is left of the college as an internal mechanism of GW from 2015 onward? Further, some of the members of this lawsuit are faculty hoping to work in September. Save the Corcoran is not the opposition to the Corcoran – we are also the Corcoran. We are its students, faculty, alumni, donors, staff, former staff, members, and people in the art community. Not all names are public, in order to protect those who want to speak out about what has happened over the past two years but fear for their jobs or severance.

There is a great concern that if the institution is split –through the Trustee-initiated GW/NGA deal—and the collection is distributed across the nation, it will be easy to challenge the original Corcoran intent since the institution won’t exist anymore. We very much feel that this lawsuit is the last chance to save the Corcoran.

All of this said, it would be irresponsible for any intervening party—STC included—to not be concerned about 550 currently enrolled students who plan to work toward their degrees this September, as well as the faculty and staff who will make this happen. Students have not only paid for their education and are entitled to one; they are the future of any new Corcoran, and faculty is its life-blood. This goes for the museum staff as well.

No one left inside of the Corcoran thinks the Board has the capacity to put a contingency plan together. In short, trustees tried to “bake the cake,” making any option other than the dissolution of the institution impossible.

We’ve learned that well before STC announced our complaint, faculty were already dreading the next school year under any circumstances; there will be only a few, extremely dedicated staff members left, and twenty-two ranked faculty to educate students through what promises to be an extremely disorganized and rough year, after which faculty might get fired anyway.

This was the feeling BEFORE Save the Corcoran launched the suit last week. We did not create this terrible reality – the Corcoran trustees did. They are calling all of the shots; 13 people who have little experience running museums or schools are making all of this happen.

If Save the Corcoran gets standing on July 18th, new leadership will need to work with the Attorney General, the faculty, and the staff to get through this school year while a new plan or leadership group works on a powerful plan for the future.  Save the Corcoran will not support any deal that shuts down the school. Since Trustees have not planned a museum season, this will need to be addressed. An emergency plan will need to be created.

Wayne Reynolds, who was courted by the Corcoran – by Harry Hopper himself— in November 2012 to become the Board Chair, still wants to be the Board Chair. Wayne didn’t become Board Chair then because he did not approve of the Board’s course of action, and he told them so. But his last stint was in reviving and invigorating Ford’s Theater, growing the endowment from $0 to $50 million. He renovated the theater and the museum. He can do this here; he can save the Corcoran with our help. But we’ve got to give him the chance, and then we all have to help him.

As always, if you have questions or if you would like to talk to anyone at Save the Corcoran, email savethecorcoran@gmail.com

Lawyers for Save the Corcoran Coalition File Formal Complaint, Seek to Intervene in Proceedings to Break the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s Historic Deed. Organization Requests for Board to Provide Full Financial Accounting.

If you are interested in joining or in other ways supporting our lawsuit, contact us at savethecorcoran@gmail.com.  If you have views about the Trustees’ plan for the Corcoran, please send your thoughtful comments to the Office of the Attorney General at this link.

WASHINGTON, D.C.– The legal team representing the Save the Corcoran Coalition, a D.C. non-profit corporation, has filed a complaint and petition in D.C. Superior Court to intervene in the Corcoran Gallery of Art Board of Trustees’ cy près proceedings. The complaint, filed today by Andrew Tulumello of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher LLP, charges the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art with financial mismanagement, corporate waste, and negligence in their duties. The suit is filed in response to the Trustees’ petition to the court for cy près to break the historic deed which established the Corcoran in 1869. Plaintiffs are students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors, and members of the Corcoran who believe that the Corcoran can be rebuilt, invigorated, and restored to new life.

“There are so many hard questions that need to be answered. We need to start there. If the Trustees want to dissolve a national, historic gem, we need to understand every wrong turn. We will never be able to get back our third oldest museum in the nation, and years of mismanagement is not a substantial explanation,” said Caroline Lacey, a Masters degree student currently enrolled at the Corcoran College of Art & Design, and a plaintiff on the suit. “We as the students have made very serious time and monetary commitments to the Corcoran, and we deserve full accountability.”

Representatives for Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, LLP, added that the Trustees have not adequately explained why the Corcoran must be dissolved and that the request for cy près represents a long overdue opportunity for the Trustees to fully account for the failed stewardship over Washington, D.C.’s oldest private art museum.

“The Trustees have proposed the radical step of destroying the very institution they are charged with protecting. This is not necessary, and it is wrong,” said Andrew Tulumello, lawyer for Save the Corcoran and Managing Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. “The public interest demands a more thoughtful approach.”

The suit states that the current deal to dissolve the Corcoran represents an expropriation of founder William Wilson Corcoran’s legacy, a dismantling of its key assets and features, and an abdication of the Trustees’ role as stewards of the Trust. “The Corcoran name, and the District of Columbia, deserve better,” said Jayme McLellan, a member of Save the Corcoran and adjunct faculty at the Corcoran. “At a minimum, we request that the Court not grant cy près relief until the Board provides a full financial accounting; and the complaint requests that the Court not reward the Trustees with such relief if their own unlawful actions have precipitated the Corcoran’s demise.”

Plaintiffs include students, faculty, staff, and donors at every level of the Corcoran. Together, they intend to intervene in the current cy près proceedings to ensure that they are transparent and reach an outcome that not only is in the best interests of the beneficiaries and potential beneficiaries of the Trust, but also is consistent with its original terms and purposes. Plaintiffs ask the Court to:

•    remove members of the current Board of Trustees,
•    ensure that the entire Corcoran collection remain together,
•    require that the Board submit to a full financial accounting, and
•    deny cy près relief if the Board’s own maladministration has caused the Corcoran trust to become impracticable.

The recently announced deal with George Washington University (GWU) and the National Gallery of Art is the latest step in the Trustees’ mismanagement of an historic institution. Under the terms of that deal, the famed Corcoran collection will be dismantled, and the College will be absorbed by GWU completely. Proceeds of the recent sales of artworks from the Corcoran collection, as well as prior deaccession income, will be handed over to underwrite GWU’s operations. The current deal will destroy the Corcoran forever.