Harvard Announces Impending Layoffs

Roughly 275 staff from across the University will be cut in the next few days

Harvard announced Tuesday that it would lay off 275 employees from across the University in coming days, while offering reduced or changed work hours to approximately 40 others.

Administrative and professional jobs will comprise roughly half of the eliminated positions, with clerical and technical jobs making up the remainder, according to the e-mailed announcement from Marilyn Hausammann, Harvard's Vice President for Human Resources. She wrote that service and trade workers will be largely unaffected.

The announcement of the cuts—which University President Drew G. Faust described in a complementary e-mail as "modest in comparison to the overall size of our University-wide staff, but nonetheless painful"—caps weeks of swirling speculation that Harvard would seek to conduct layoffs shortly after Commencement activities. The downsizing is one of the most prominent budget-cutting measures to date following a semester of fiscal anxiety that has seen the trimming of student services, the curtailing of capital projects, and the implementation of a sweeping early retirement incentive program for staff.

As of Oct. 31, there were approximately 13,000 full-time equivalent non-faculty staff employees at the University, according to a report from the Provost's Web site. That number has likely been reduced since then, with roughly 530 employees accepting early retirement incentive packages this spring.

Yet, despite the relatively small number of staff affected by the reductions announced today, decisions to lay off staff, "in their human dimensions, are among the hardest that an institution like ours can make," Faust wrote. She emphasized that "difficult circumstances have called for difficult decisions across the University," and Hausammann pointed to the projected 30 percent drop in the endowment and other revenue pressures as motivation for the layoffs.

Most of Harvard's schools will implement the cuts this coming week, Faust wrote in her e-mail, with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Medical School, the central administration, and "several of the allied institutions" to follow beginning next Monday, June 29. FAS Dean Michael D. Smith wrote in an e-mail to faculty and staff today that the notification process for the layoffs would begin at Harvard College Library today, with the rest of FAS following next week.

The University will support the laid-off staff by providing 60 days of pay from time of notification, severance benefits, and continued medical and dental benefits for 18 months. Non-union, administrative, and professional staff are eligible for employment coaching and outplacement services, and unionized workers are eligible for three additional months of paid work security, during which they will receive case-management services, according to University spokesman Kevin Galvin.

Galvin declined to comment on the cost savings achieved by the cuts, but said that the layoffs announced today represent a "significant step" in aligning Harvard with its current fiscal reality. He added that while administrators "do not have any current plans for additional University-wide reductions," the need for further budget cuts could not be ruled out as Harvard reshapes itself in a volatile global financial environment.

Although faculty, students, and staff across the University have long anticipated the impending staff cuts—Harvard officials often emphasize the need to trim compensation costs, which make up roughly half of the University's $3.5 billion operating budget—the layoffs appear to be have implemented quickly. Only three weeks earlier, in early June, both Galvin and Bill Jaeger, director of the Harvard Union for Clerical and Technical Workers, said that negotiations about staff reductions remained in very early stages, with discussions of a timeline for layoffs premature.

Most of the affected staff members, Galvin said today, would be leaving campus roughly two weeks after notification.

Jaeger said in a phone interview that the number of workers to be laid-off was not yet finalized, and that conversations and consultation between human resource officials and union representatives are "active and ongoing." Even today, he said, he had attended meetings and discussions that resulted in "creative solutions" and a reduction in the number of staff affected by the layoffs.

Furthermore, despite the reduction in staff positions, Jaeger said that all of the HUCTW workers affected by the layoffs should "absolutely" be able to find alternative jobs at the University in the coming months. He said that even the definition of the word 'layoff' is ambiguous in some cases, since staff in various schools and departments are being told that they can either lose their employment or consider alternative jobs.

In her e-mail, Hausammann said that the University would institute a 30-day external hiring freeze for staff jobs in order to allow internal candidates to fill job openings, and Jaeger noted that dozens of jobs are currently posted on the employee intranet. He also said that many more jobs would be posted in the coming days and weeks since various schools had previously withheld job postings in order to deny external applicants.

The negotiations about the layoffs between Union and human resource officials were made in "good faith" by the University, said Galvin, who noted that by the time the layoff process is complete, there will have been roughly 75 bargaining sessions conducted over four weeks. He said that during these meetings, representatives from Harvard "either suggested alternatives to layoff or entertained union suggestions, explored or agreed to some voluntary process for layoff selection, and generally answered questions and responded to follow-up information requests."

But Jaeger said the discussions have been of mixed success, depending on the location or unit, because of the differing budget situations and managerial personalities. While emphasizing that discussions would continue at several schools and departments, he also said he wished there could have been a "few more weeks" for negotiations at many locations.

"In some cases, [there are] cuts in the level of service to faculty and students or compromises in terms of quality, which I think most people would have to consider unfortunate," he said. "But we recognize on the other hand that the University does have to make adjustments in order to live with constrained revenue and realities."

In the next month or two, Jaeger said, the Union will focus on continuing to explore alternatives to layoffs and then turn its energies to questions of staff placement.

"We've wanted to have as meaningful of a process as possible before final notifications, but where there's more to talk about, were going to insist the conversation continues," Jaeger said.

—Send tips, comments on the layoffs to news@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Peter F. Zhu can be reached at pzhu@fas.harvard.edu.




See below for the e-mailed announcements:

Dear Colleagues,

As all of you know, this past year has created a set of extraordinary financial challenges for our university as it has for others. I am grateful for the continuing efforts made by people across Harvard to confront these new realities with thoughtfulness and care, and with an emphasis on sustaining the strength of our core academic programs.

With compensation accounting for so high a proportion of our budget, we will enter the 2009-10 academic year with salaries held flat for faculty and exempt staff; we have also offered a voluntary early retirement program in which more than 500 staff members across Harvard have chosen to participate.

While these actions have helped us reduce expenses, we nevertheless have more we must do. In the coming days, Harvard’s Schools and units, as well as its central administration, will be carrying out a reduction in the size of our workforce — modest in comparison to the overall size of our University-wide staff, but nonetheless painful for those people directly affected, as well as for our community as a whole. Most of the Schools will carry out the process this week; the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Medical School, the central administration, and several of the allied institutions will follow, beginning on June 29.

Such decisions, in their human dimensions, are among the hardest that an institution like ours can make. But difficult circumstances have called for difficult decisions across the University.

As we proceed through this complicated transition, I want again to express my appreciation to all of you for your dedicated efforts on Harvard's behalf. A letter from Marilyn Hausammann, our vice president for human resources, explaining more about the planned reductions, appears below.

Sincerely,

Drew Faust


Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to let you know that most of the Schools, allied institutions, and units in the central administration at Harvard will be carrying out a reduction in our workforce over the next seven business days.

The size and scope of the reductions will vary across the Schools and units, but when taken together these changes will result in the elimination of approximately 275 staff positions. About 40 more staff members will be offered positions with reduced work hours or an academic year schedule. Deans at the affected Schools and department leaders will be communicating directly with their staff members about the changes taking place in their local communities over the coming days.

We regret the impact this will have on the lives of our valued colleagues. This decision was driven by the financial challenges facing the University after a projected 30 percent drop in our endowment, as well as pressure on other revenue sources, and it should not be allowed to diminish the many contributions made by these staff members during their time with the University.

Over the past six months, managers across the University have scrubbed their budgets for non-personnel savings, canceled or curtailed travel, and limited other discretionary spending. We have slowed development in Allston, strictly limited hiring, and reduced our reliance on outside contractors. We have held salaries flat for the coming year for our faculty and exempt staff, a move affecting more than 9,000 individuals. And the Voluntary Early Retirement Program that was offered to about