The following is an editorial printed in The Lantern in 2000. At that time, the newspaper’s staff members were investigating what the university did with $50,000 it received by selling a valuable painting, and why officials were so secretive about the exchange. On the front page of today’s edition, we explore that transaction, but some of the questions remain. And they may stay unresolved, as one spokeswoman commented that nearly everyone involved in the transaction has left OSU.

Listen to this story, and see if you can figure it out… The oil painting, “Children at the Beach,” by Columbus artist Alice Schille, was given to Ohio State by the 1911 freshman class. It hung in the Ohio Union until about 1997. In 1997, a Union employee accepted an offer from a local art dealer to buy the painting.

This summer, after the deal was approved by an attorney at OSU’s Office of Legal Affairs and the Office of Business and Administration, the painting was finally sold for $50,000. But its value is estimated at $150,000. The whereabouts of that $50,000 is unknown. The art dealer who bought the painting then made several high-quality limited-edition prints from it, one of which was sold for $7,500 last September.

Today, the university says the painting is back at OSU as part of the Wexner Center for the Arts’ private collection. It was reportedly redonated by an “anonymous friend” of the university. Meanwhile, a book about Alice Schille is expected to be published within a year. Following this publication, the value of the painting is expected to increase dramatically.

Does this story sound fishy to anyone else?

Either OSU employees don’t know how to do business, or something is being hidden from us. So what is strange about this entire scenario? First off, since when is a general employee of Ohio State given the power to sell university property? If a employee of McDonald’s sold all those cool OSU pictures on the walls, that person would probably be arrested. Wouldn’t someone have to be notified for the contract signing to even take place?

Second, even if the employees were given the power to sell the painting, wouldn’t someone figure out what kind of mistake was being made? Two OSU offices approved the sale, and it has been labeled as a mistake. However, a mistake happens quickly and unknowingly. The contract that approved the sale took two years to make. During this time, isn’t it rational to believe that someone would have gotten the painting appraised to find out its real value? Or, perhaps, find out that it was a class gift that should not have been sold?

Third, how does OSU lose track of $50,000? Universities are required to keep records of things like this, yet no one knows what has happened to this money. According to the university, it went to the Ohio Union but no proof of that has been shown. Finally, why is everyone who knows something so ‘hush-hush?’ If you read the Lantern’s article on this issue, which was published Monday, you will see that half of the article is made up of phrases such as, “officials refused to provide the transaction documents,” “did not return phone calls,” “officials could not confirm” or “refused to comment.”

Obviously, the whole story has not been told. A historical part of OSU was sold for one-third its monetary value, and the best explanation the university can give is a bunch of no comments and half-truths. We have a right to know what really happened.


Original article published February 9, 2000