With departmental budget proposals for the 2013 fiscal year due earlier this month, many department administrators in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ smaller departments said that the funds available to them have not increased since the 2008 financial crisis.
“We’re not making radical cuts the way we were during the worst part of the financial crisis, but we’re also not reinstating things we cut,” said Julie A. Buckler, chair of the department of Slavic Languages and Literature. “We’re holding steady.”
Budget cuts over the last few years have proven effective in returning FAS to financial stability and the budget is on track to reach a “structural, long-term balance by the end of the current fiscal year,” Associate Dean for Finance Eric Kopstain wrote in an email.
Yet several department administrators said there is little indication that their departments will see the financial austerity relax in the near future.
“We’ve stayed flat, with the exception of payroll,” said another department administrator in the humanities, who wished to remain anonymous due to the confidential nature of departmental budgets. “This is the new normal.”
Janet Hatch, director of administration in the History department, said she is bracing her department for the continued challenges of a leaner operation.
“We still have to be careful, and careful going forward. There is no indication that things are going to suddenly get better in the future,” she said.
NAVIGATING HARD TIMES
Departments have seen their resources and faculty shrink since Dec. 2008, when Harvard’s endowment decreased in value by nearly 30 percent and FAS Dean Michael D. Smith predicted a decreased in value by nearly 30 percent and FAS Dean Michael D. Smith predicted a two-year, $220 million FAS deficit.
As the value of Harvard’s investments decreased, the 5 to 5.5 percent of the endowment that the University typically allocates for school budgets annually decreased as well.FAS, which relies on interest generated by the endowment for roughly half of its annual budget, saw the distribution it received from the University decrease by 12 percent in the 2010 fiscal year and then 8 percent in FY 2011.
According to one department administrator in the humanities, the period immediately following FAS’s fiscal downturn was marked by collaboration between department administrators and University Hall to determine the scope and scale of the cutbacks.
“I was extremely pleased by how the faculty, staff, and even students came together to help resolve projected shortfalls in our core budget. As a faculty, we spent a lot of time talking about the challenges confronting us and what we had to do to overcome them,” Smith said.
In the current academic year, FY 2012, the FAS deficit decreased to $16 million and distribution to FAS rose by 4 percent. But Smith acknowledged that certain needs remained unfulfilled across a variety of disciplines.
“Everybody feels the impacts of operating under more limited resources than in past years. I don’t think there is a department that doesn’t wish for a bigger budget,” Smith said.
TRIMMING THE FAT