HMS Readies to Eliminate Jobs

Number of layoffs will depend on how many accept severance package

Harvard Medical School (HMS) employees who were offered a lucrative severance package filed their official decisions about accepting retirement on Friday, and the results—which include the departure of head librarian of the Countway Medical Library—may complicate the school’s mission.

Though numbers will not be released until tomorrow morning, at least 15 HMS administrative employees will vacate their positions by next December as part of the school’s ongoing cost-cutting efforts.

The push to cut jobs comes in the midst of an initiative by HMS administrators to close a projected budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2006, according to Executive Dean for Administration Eric Buehrens.

As part of the early retirement deal, employees with seven or more years of service under their belts were offered an attractive severance package in February with the hope that unnecessary positions might be cut painlessly, without the implementation of involuntary layoffs.

Administrators at HMS said that it will remain unclear whether these layoffs will be necessary until they calculate the amount of money saved through the severance program.

The final deadline for employees to accept the package was last Friday, and several “work review groups” will now begin scrutinizing the vacated positions before deciding whether to eliminate or refill them, Buehrens said.

“Are we going to lose some people that we absolutely don’t want to lose? Yes, it’s already happened,” said Buehrens, referring to employees in the expanding science department who have chosen to take the package. “We need to be thoughtful, effective and expeditious in replacing those people because we clearly don’t want to affect adversely the work of the science department.”

An HMS spokesperson said he could not comment until tomorrow as to how many people had elected to take the severance package.

But several high-profile decisions at the Countway Medical Library have already been made public.

Head librarian of Countway Judith Messerle wrote in an e-mail to all Countway staff that she would be retiring at the end of the calendar year.

“I made many lists of why I should and why I shouldn’t [retire early], and in the end decided that it was the best choice for me at this point in my life,” Messerle wrote.

In addition to Messerle, two other higher-ups at the financially troubled institution will also retire at the end of December, according to a Countway employee.

Messerle’s unofficial second-in-command, Associate Director for Administration and Finance Regina Corry, and the Associate Director for Technology Development and Services John Howard have both accepted the severance package, the Countway employee said.

In her e-mail, Messerle said that representatives from the work review groups had begun interviewing individuals at Countway in preparation for a preliminary report which is due later this week.

“I know that this is a tough time for everyone here (and around the Medical School), but I know that the Library will end up on its feet and will ultimately do well,” she wrote at the end of her e-mail.

WEIGHING THE OPTIONS