Social Sciences Departments Share Staff

History and History of Science departments share staff to cut costs

As Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences struggles to reduce a $110 million deficit, two social science departments have merged some of their administrative staff in an attempt to cut costs.

Janet Hatch and Judith A. Lajoie, directors of administration for the history department and history of science department respectively, have initiated a two-year pilot program to reduce the overall number of staff by consolidating their departments’ administrative support. The merger reduced the departments’ total number of full time staff by five.

The reduction will return staff levels to what they were before Harvard’s spending spree of recent years that focused on campus and faculty expansion. But Hatch and Lajoie said they have no way of knowing yet whether the merging of staff members will in fact save FAS money.

In August, eight out of the 28 total history and history of science staff members left as a result of layoffs, staff-buyout packages and voluntary departures.

But the merger also involved departmental hiring. Four full time staff members—including three new hires—have taken up offices at 17 Sumner Road, where they will share tech support and financial and faculty assistant duties for the two departments.

Both departments will retain staff in their main locations—but the new space behind the Center for Government and International Studies will serve as a central office for the departments’ faculty services.

The staff that served history faculty offices in the Center for European Studies and CGIS South will not be replaced.

History Professor David Blackbourn, whose office is in CES, said that the loss of the CES faculty assistant has taken a toll.

“In an ideal world,” he said, that staff position would be filled. Under the new model, faculty assistance for many history professors will come from the house, and will not be on-site. “I hope the new arrangement works.”

History Department Chair Lizabeth Cohen described it as “a new model of a collaborative administrative cluster.”

“If it succeeds as I think it will, it will increasingly save us money as more departments may join,” she said. “This is a model experiment.”

Consolidation has increasingly been an answer to slimmer FAS budgets. With support from Dean of the College Evelyn Hammonds, the Office of International Programs moved its offices closer to the Office of Career Services. In this “neighborhood,” as they call it, staff are sharing and coordinating duties.

And Harvard Centers across campus have sought similar initiatives to share staff. “All the centers are working to coordinate our activities and look for synergies where we could,” said Merilee S. Grindle, assistant director of David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies.

But Blackbourn said the coordination between history and the history of science departments was especially apt.

“I’m one of many in this history department who feel that historians of science are close cousins intellectually,” he said.

—Staff writer Noah S. Rayman can be reached at nrayman@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Elyssa A.L. Spitzer can be reached at spitzer@fas.harvard.edu.

Tags