In the worst recession in decades, budget cuts are both necessary and expected. Even in the proverbial “Ivory Tower,” sacrifices must be made, and these sacrifices will test the resilience of the Harvard community in weathering such a formidable economic storm. Certainly, the course on which this university is about to embark will not be an entirely pleasant one. From the perspective of the student body alone, these budget cuts will often negatively impact student life, but they must be endured as they come.
Although we understand the necessity of these budget cuts, there is a right way and a wrong way to arrive at these difficult decisions. Unfortunately, the university’s recent actions embody the wrong way—lacking, as is all too typical, in transparency. The planned cuts, including hot breakfast, late-night weekday Quad shuttle service, and the Hilles Library, seem to have been made without adequate student consultation.
Given the uproar heard around campus over several of these cuts, it seems many student considerations were not fully thought through by administrators. Moreover, students were understandably taken aback by these cuts. Before cutting hot breakfast, athletes who rely on these meals should have been consulted. Before cutting shuttle service or the Quad Library, Quad students should have had a period to offer feedback. When finalized decisions are made without any prior effort of communication, this leave students feeling alienated and the administration seeming disconnected and disengaged with student life.
To avoid situations like this from happening again in the future, especially given the promise of further cuts on the horizon, it seems prudent to offer more opportunities for student input before decisions are made. While we appreciate the initiative several students have taken in planning the “We Are Harvard” rally this coming Tuesday—with the very appropriate tagline of “students, staff, and faculty for transparency and inclusion in budget cuts”—ultimately, the responsibility for starting these conversations lies with the administration, not with students. The recent commotion caused by these cuts could have been avoided by soliciting respectful student input before these cuts were finalized. Had it widely publicized its cut proposals beforehand, FAS could have easily refined its plan as holes and concerns were uncovered.
We certainly do not believe that student opinion should dictate the university’s budgeting decisions—there is information we do not know and particular circumstances we do not entirely understand. But the administration should certainly consider student concerns more actively when making decisions, especially when these decisions directly affect student life. We hope that , in the future, the administration starts this important dialogue much earlier.