DMA and SMU: A Sweetheart Deal?

The Dallas Museum of Art was not the only institution to gain when former Art Institute of Chicago curator Richard Brettell took the reins of the museum on April 1. His wife, Caroline Brettell, who has a doctorate in anthropology from Brown University, will become a professor of anthropology at SMU in the fall.

Unfortunately this happy alliance was smudged somewhat by suspicions whispered throughout SMU that the appointment had come as a relocation perk for Rick Brettell. Conspiring minds wanted to know: was academic integrity being sacrificed to backroom nepotism?

Dr. Ben Wallace, who chairs SMU’s anthropology department, says he is aware of the rumors that he was pressured into hiring Brettell. But he says that the idea of some kind of “backdoor deal” is, “holy cow, the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. We’re looking forward to her joining the faculty and making a contribution to the intellectual community of Dallas. “

Both Wallace and university provost Ruth Morgan say that Bret-tell’s fields of interest-migration in Spain and Portugal and women’s studies-are of interest to the university, which apparently is short a migration-in-Spain specialist. Says Morgan, ’There was absolutely zero pressure on my part and I would certainly be aware if pressure had been placed on the university. “

But Vin Prothro, who led the museum’s search committee and is president-elect of the DMA board, says it was well known during interviews that “for Dallas to hire Rick Brettell [the unanimous first choice of the museum’s fifty trustees], Dallas would also hire Carol Brettell. ” Prothro says that in a casual meeting with SMU president A. Kenneth Pye, he mentioned that Carol would be in town and asked that Pye arrange for an interview.

SMU took it from there, Prothro says. “To the university’s great credit, they recognized how crucially important it was to the success of the museum, and its work with the Meadows Museum on campus, that they make a positive response. “

BretteU’s visiting associate professorship is an annually renewed contract, one that is, says Wallace, “theoretically renewable for the rest of her life. ” And Brettell, it seems, is certainly counting on her contract being renewed at least three times. “I had to have some level of security and I was cautious about accepting this, ” she says. ’ lI told them I would not come for just a year. They told me I have it guaranteed for four years. That was the compromise. “

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