BOSTON (AP) -- Jerry Fineberg donated art and $2.5 million to the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, never imagining the legacy he was helping build could quickly fade. Then he learned the school was planning to sell parts of its $350 million collection to help make up for its shrinking endowment. "I'm heartbroken. I feel betrayed," said Fineberg, a former member of the museum's board. "It was like a knife in the back." Art associations and Brandeis faculty have railed against the decision. On Thursday, after an emergency meeting, the museum's board issued a statement describing the move as "a breach of faith," and called on the school to revoke it. A "funeral" was planned for later Thursday, complete with a candlelit procession and coffin. An online petition to save the museum already has thousands of names, and donations on a newly created Web page were up to about $8,000 after a few days. The negative reaction was so swift and broad that it's given supporters hope. "I don't see how they can ignore it," said benefactor Lois Foster, who has a wing in the museum named for her. "They didn't realize what they were starting. It's wild." But Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz said Thursday that the decision has been misunderstood and misreported — including by the university itself. A news release Jan. 26 from the school said it would "close the museum" and "publicly sell the art collection." But Reinharz said the while the Rose may no longer be a public museum, it would remain open with a focus on serving the school's educational needs. He said it was absurd to think that the school would immediately sell off its entire collection, but it may sell pieces of it, which include paintings by Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. The decision — approved Jan. 26 by a vote of university trustees — came after Brandeis watched its endowment drop from $712 million to $549 million since June. By state law, the school can spend only the gains from its endowment, not the principal. Brandeis needs to consider selling some art if it wishes to remain a first-rate university with broad ambitions, a strong faculty and plentiful financial aid, Reinharz said. The museum, which opened in 1961, has about 7,000 objects of modern and contemporary art. Any art sale at Brandeis must be reviewed by the state attorney general, which must ensure that sales of donated artwork respect the wishes of its donor. Other schools have sold art to raise money to boost their endowments, including Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va., which last year sold a Rufino Tamayo painting for $7.2 million and plans to sell three more paintings. But David Alan Robertson, president of the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries, said people fear a huge sell- off at Brandeis. That could lead other schools to view their art as financial assets to be dumped in tough times, though they should be viewed as educational necessities, he said. Robertson added that some of art museum directors won't even discuss the value of their collections for fear that administrators will be tempted to put them on the market.