Smith Considers Keeping ‘Mouth Shut’

For all the optimism surrounding Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith’s recent announcement about a windfall surplus in the school’s budget, some professors at yesterday’s Faculty meeting questioned the school’s health in light of the cutbacks that have occurred.

“There was and is some damage being done to FAS,” said James T. Engell ’73, chair of the English department, noting the staff cuts and cancelled faculty searches of the past year and referencing the contents of the Dean’s Annual Report, which was released on Friday.

“The beginning of the report says the crisis has done little to change our most important activities, but then later says the impact of the crisis on FAS has been immense,” Engell said. “It’s very hard to square the two in some ways.”

“I should probably keep my mouth shut, but I’ll respond anyway,” Smith said. “I guess I come from a slightly different personal approach to the world where I have aspirations that I wish to achieve each year, and if I have to adjust them, I adjust them.”

Smith said he would much rather be at Harvard—where administrators have bluntly addressed the economic downturn and reacted appropriately with cutbacks—than at other institutions that have yet to realize the reality of fiscal stringencies.

“So it’s not that I disagree with what you’re saying, Prof. Engell,” Smith said. “I very much agree that we are undergoing significant change—but I do believe that at the end this will be very good for us.”

A PRESIDENTIAL ABSENCE

Smith presented more details yesterday about a Faculty-wide mystery that had first come to the attention of professors last month.

At the Sept. meeting, Faculty Council member Harry R. Lewis ’68 directed eyes to a stark white space on the wall above University President Drew G. Faust’s head that had long been occupied by a portrait of former University President Charles W. Eliot, Class of 1853.

A bewildered Faust had asked, “Where is President Eliot? Where has he gone?” At yesterday’s Faculty meeting, Smith came armed with answers for his leader.

The portrait was removed so that it could be repaired for damage caused by condensation and a “minor altercation with a flagpole,” Smith said, referring to a flag situated near the space typically inhabited by the former president.

Eliot’s portrait will likely return to its usual post on the wall of the Faculty Room by the next Faculty meeting in November, when “President Eliot will be imbued with a non-reflective glazing that will shield him from further harm,” Smith said.

HYMAN MAKES HIS DEBUT

University Provost Steven E. Hyman, who chairs the task force charged with recommending changes for Harvard’s libraries, sat in the front row at the Faculty meeting and was forced at one point to take the microphone in a departure from his usual silence.

“I have spent years trying to never have to speak, but here goes,” Hyman said as he rose to respond to a question about the libraries.

“Is this your debut?” Faust asked.

“Perhaps,” Hyman said. “I have very little memory.”

—Staff writer Bonnie J. Kavoussi can be reached at kavoussi@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Esther I. Yi can be reached at estheryi@fas.harvard.edu.

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