FAS Institutes Hiring Freeze

In a letter sent to faculty and select administrators Monday afternoon, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith announced an immediate hiring freeze on FAS staff positions, while still affirming his commitment to faculty searches.

All current and proposed staff searches and any creation of new administrative positions have been put on hold—except for “critical” positions that FAS is willing to fill and pay for with funds created by cuts in expenses elsewhere, according to an e-mailed statement from Smith.

Smith declined to specify how many open staff positions will be affected by the hiring freeze. A University database for job posts currently lists 102 open FAS staff positions.

Any searches begun for new faculty this fall will not be put on hold, and reviews for promotion within the tenure-track system will continue as scheduled, Smith wrote in the letter.

Despite these assurances, Smith repeated his request from last Tuesday’s Faculty meeting and asked departments to reevaluate any open search if “the priority of the search changes or the quality of the applicant pool is not truly extraordinary.”

In the next two weeks, Smith will appoint a priorities committee to facilitate discussion between Smith and faculty about budgetary planning until March.

Monday’s move did not come without warning. At last week’s Faculty meeting, Smith suggested his intention to reduce costs by “pushing off” pending administrative hires for the current fiscal year ending in June 2009—a move that could save $10 million, he said. But with the Dean’s estimate of the budget shortfall for next fiscal year hovering around $200 million if external estimates prove accurate, cuts beyond the administration freeze may be necessary.

Smith has based many of his projections on an estimate by Moody’s financial ratings agency that says college and university endowments may suffer a 30 percent decline during the current fiscal year.

Monday’s letter was sent to faculty and select administrators and directors, including senior administrative staff—but not all staff members.

“The hope was that these recipients could then share the message with their units with appropriate local context,” Smith said.

But the lack of direct communication between Smith and FAS staff has upset some staff members. Some have said the letter’s policy and means of distribution highlight the structural inequity of faculty-staff relation.

Faculty, however, said they are not surprised by nor disapproving of the freeze.

Planning for a 30 percent reduction in the endowment would be “impossible without the hiring freeze,” said mathematics professor Wilfried Schmid.

—Staff writer Esther I. Yi can be reached at estheryi@fas.harvard.edu.
—Christian B. Flow contributed to the reporting of this story.

Recommended Articles