Regional Centers Suffer Cuts in FAS Financial Assistance

As several of Harvard’s regional centers continue to cope with a 50 percent reduction in federal support, they must also suffer sustained cuts in financial assistance from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, according to various administrators.

In the past, FAS’ regular operating budget has covered the costs of a number of programs provided by regional research centers—including language training and graduate student fellowships. But after the financial crisis, these monies were diverted to other academic priorities within FAS, forcing centers to trim their budgets and reach into their endowments.

“In the three fiscal years since the crisis hit, CES [the Center for European Studies]—like other area centers—has redirected part of its income to the FAS to help the process of closing the FAS budget gap,” Director of CES David G. Blackbourn wrote in an email.

Centers reduced their budgets by at least 10 to 15 percent for Fiscal Year 2010, as requested by FAS Dean Michael D. Smith in Dec. 2008. These cuts helped FAS recover from the $225 million two-year deficit it suffered following the 2008 economic meltdown.

At the peak of the crisis, for example, the Edwin O. Reischauer Institute for Japanese Studies paid approximately 30 percent of its annual budget to FAS administration, according to Andrew D. Gordon, director of the Reischauer Institute.

According to Gordon, continued redirection of money from the regional centers to FAS could potentially harm Harvard's world-class reputation in international studies. But “to the extent that this was a short-term response in a crisis, we all understood the need,” Gordon wrote in an email.

FAS is poised to balance the budget by the end of this academic year. But in a process called “FAS debt relief,” the centers’ annual contributions to FAS are now permanent, according to Susan M. Kahn, associate director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies.

The financial restraints imposed by the redirection of money from centers to core FAS operations have been exacerbated in four of Harvard’s regional centers, which saw their sources of federal funding reduced by nearly 50 percent in the beginning of Fiscal Year 2012.

Reduced funding to centers from both FAS and federal sources has impeded the launch of new programming, such as international mini-courses sponsored by the Reischauer Institute during Winter Break, Gordon said. And the Center for Middle Eastern Studies has had to eliminate its academic journal, Kahn said.

The decision to redirect funds from the budgets of the Harvard’s regional centers was part of a broader strategy by Smith to “eliminate the structural budget deficit and [put] the FAS on the path to sustainable excellence,” according to FAS spokesperson Jeff Neal.

“It is important that we continue a budgeting approach that focuses first on academic priorities, today and in the years to come,” Neal wrote in an email statement.

—Staff writer Radhika Jain can be reached at radhikajain@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Kevin J. Wu can be reached at kwu@college.harvard.edu.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

CORRECTION: April 6

An earlier version of this article referred to Susan M. Kahn as the executive director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. In fact, Kahn is the associate director.

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