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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 20, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 22
Villa Spelman In Need of Repairs; Krieger School Considering Options

By Dennis O'Shea

The Krieger School is considering options for the future of Villa Spelman, the school's property in Florence, Italy.

Given the need for millions of dollars in repairs to the 10-acre property and its annual operating budget of more than a half-million dollars, selling the villa is under consideration, Dean Adam Falk said. No definitive decision has been made and, contrary to rumors that circulated last week, no deal has been reached and no negotiations are under way, he said.

Villa Spelman has been owned by the university since 1971 and used since 1981 for programs for faculty, graduate students and undergraduates, primarily in the humanities.

The programs have a "proud history," but operating them at a large Renaissance-era villa has become "extremely expensive" at a time when dollars are needed for other critical priorities in the humanities, Falk said in an e-mail message to Arts and Sciences faculty.

"The school faces a situation in which graduate stipends and other graduate support in the humanities has fallen to an unacceptably uncompetitive level in comparison to our peer institutions," Falk said.

"It is imperative to find resources to address this problem," he said. "In such an environment, it is our responsibility to evaluate whether it is appropriate to contemplate spending millions of dollars on new and ongoing commitments to the Villa Spelman. The question therefore is, Are the school's limited resources best spent supporting the humanities in this way, or by responding to other needs?"

If a sale occurs, the budget that now goes toward operation of the villa would be used instead for stipends for graduate students in the humanities and for continuing support of the study of Italian and Renaissance art, history and culture, Falk said.

"The vitality of these programs does not depend on the use of the villa as a meeting place but rather on the excellence and dedication of the faculty who direct and teach in them," the dean wrote. "Alternatively, and in all likelihood, more comfortable venues for classes and programs can easily be found, at significantly less cost to the school."


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