Our Plans for the Future

On Monday, May 11, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences outlined a wide-ranging set of changes to programs and services across all parts of FAS. It launched a website to share those changes and provide contacts for questions or more information. The website will be the portal for the reporting of further progress and the collecting of broad community input. These recently announced changes to programs and services were the result of a cost-saving effort involving all units of FAS, launched as we began the process of budgeting for fiscal year 2010.

As was publicized and explained, our efforts to trim the FAS budget focused on local planning and efficiency-increasing measures, and it asked the community for ideas. It produced an extensive set of suggestions, and the academic deans of FAS approved those that made better use of our limited resources within the context of our core mission. The approved list equates to a $77 million reduction in our annual operating budget but represents only 35 percent of the $220 million deficit that FAS will face in two short years (based on what we know today).

The remaining $143 million must be the focus of our community. We will not meet this goal by simply making further reductions in our existing programs. As we have often heard, the current reductions left no “fat” in our programs, and to continue to squeeze them would simply “cut into bone.” We must look at each major area of the FAS and decide what excellence for the future will look like, within a budget driven by our new fiscal reality. Only then can we decide where to make further reductions and where to apply incremental resources.

As you have heard us say, this approach will most likely involve the restructuring or reshaping of some of our academic programs. Change is difficult, even when the goal is clear, and to successfully overcome the challenge before us, our entire community—the faculty, staff, and students—will need to work together and trust that each has the best in mind for our community.

The global economic crisis is having powerful impacts on higher education, and neither Harvard nor its peers have been immune. Difficult trade-offs among many traditional commitments have been and will continue to be made. We can promise you that the decisions we make will always reflect our core values, priorities, and mission. While the spotlight of attention will often be pulled toward that which has been eliminated, we would also like to acknowledge those of you in the community who have indicated to us that you understand that behind every measure announced there is a trade-off. And we hope that this entire process reflects our dedication to the excellence of our programs and, to the greatest degree possible, our effort to minimize its impact on all those who make FAS the unique and vibrant place it is today.

Can we reshape the FAS to ensure the quality, integrity, and excellence of our mission? Our answer is unequivocally yes. Will this be difficult? We all know the answer is yes. Inevitably, in such a process there will be disagreements and disappointments. Some commitments will be deemed more essential than others, and some activities will be continued while others will regrettably be eliminated. With such a multiplicity of important and valuable activities, it is never simple or easy to choose among them. But drawing upon the remarkable talents, goodwill, and broadly shared commitment of our community will sustain Harvard’s unique identity and unmatched excellence.


Michael D. Smith is the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Evelynn M. Hammonds is the Dean of Harvard College. Allan M. Brandt is the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.