FAS Reduces Budget Deficit

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has cut down its deficit to $80 million, which amounts to a $30 million decrease since FAS Dean Michael D. Smith announced in September that the University’s largest school had cut half of its projected deficit, according to a high-ranking FAS administrator.

Smith said in a November interview with The Crimson that he would be releasing the most recent budget figure at today’s Faculty meeting, which marks the first gathering of the Faculty in the calendar year and the first meeting held in the budgeting process for the next academic year.

At an open forum last September, Smith announced that FAS had closed half of its two-year $220 million budgetary gap, noting that the administration would aim to slash another $20 million from the deficit for the fiscal year ending in 2010. But the new figure suggests that the administration has exceeded its expectations.

FAS Dean for Administration and Finance Leslie A. Kirwan ’79 declined yesterday to comment on updates on the budgetary numbers.

Questions linger regarding the new figure’s effect on the upcoming budgeting process and the breadth and severity of this year’s cost-cutting measures.

In the last academic year, Smith urged FAS departments and administrative units to cut their budgets by 15 percent. The Faculty also underwent a litany of budget-saving measures—such as a temporary freeze on faculty hires, a decrease in funding for food and office supplies, and growing reliance on the work of fewer staffers, after 531 accepted an early retirement package.

“We are pretty much at the bone level,” said Catherine McKenna, chair of the Celtic languages and literatures department, which comprises two faculty members. “But I feel from my conversations with the Dean that it is pretty well understood that there is no fat in this very tiny department.”

Last May, Smith projected a $143 million gap over the next two years. But strategic cost-cutting measures, increased revenue, and anonymous donations helped to bring that figure down to $110 million.

Along with the slew of budget cuts announced in May, Smith announced the creation of six working groups across FAS to produce budgetary recommendations for the upcoming fiscal year.

History of Science Department Chair Anne Harrington, a member of the social sciences working group, said yesterday that she expects Smith will “report a kind of synthesized procedure that has come out of the various working groups.”

Some of the cost-saving measures are ongoing. In November, Smith said that he was seeking to reduce the size of the faculty through attrition, and two months ago FAS offered the first retirement program in the school’s history, enabling more hiring flexibility.

But many of last year’s budget-balancing tactics will likely be one-time measures.

“You can’t not buy new computers when computers break,” said executive administrative director of the department of molecular and cellular biology Susan H. Foster. “There are some things you can get by with for some short period of time but not a long period of time.”

—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.

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