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Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby’s second annual letter to the Faculty, which was posted online yesterday, outlines plans for the future of undergraduate education and reiterates last year’s concerns about Faculty budget deficits.
The lengthy report, which will be officially released today, appeared on Kirby’s website yesterday afternoon but was not linked from his homepage or the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) website.
The letter will be sent to the Faculty later this week for discussion at next week’s Faculty meeting.
Kirby’s letter includes initiatives to improve student recreational athletic space and plans for University land in Allston.
For the first time, it explicitly states an expectation to establish undergraduate housing and resources across the river.
Professor of the History of Science Everett R. Mendelsohn said the letter, though longer than most of the dean of the Faculty’s previous annual reports, skirted some of the more controversial matters facing the Faculty.
“Dean Kirby has written a very thoughful report,” Mendelsohn said. “I think it’s outlined a range of things going on. He has not focused on areas where there are issues of tension.”
The letter suggests that fiscal belt-tightening might be necessary to facilitate FAS pushes for growth in facilities and faculty.
In 2002-2003, the FAS budget increased by nine percent, to $804.1 million, but the budget surplus was nearly eliminated—decreasing from $22.6 million to $2.4 million.
“Our current financial health is sound, but we must restrain our spending and seek to enhance our most flexible revenues,” Kirby said in the letter, citing the rising costs of employee benefits and the forthcoming construction projects in Cambridge and Allston.
“Discussion about Allston is very upbeat and optimistic, and yet we’re being told that our budget is constrained in FAS,” Mendelsohn said. “There was some real discussion of the tension between Allston growth and FAS feeling constrained.”
Despite Kirby’s desire to cut costs, the letter said renovations to the Malkin Athletic Center (MAC) will start this summer and that a partnership between FAS and the Law School will bring improvements to the Hemenway Gymnaisum by 2006.
Thomas A. Dingman ’67, associate dean of the College, said more space might be opened for cardiovascular equipment and that the north side of the gym, above the pool, might be opened.
“I knew that there was a lot of discussion abou tthe possibility of interim fixes at the MAC,” Dingman said. “I’m thrilled to hear that now there’s a commitment to look further at possibilities across the board.”
A full renovation of the gym is expected to cost over $30 million, according to College administrators.
The letter also details the progress of the curricular review committees, expanding on several major themes Kirby has mentioned in the past.
“I think for the first time the dean has given indications of where the curricular reform might go,” Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield ’53 said, noting that the word “Core” does not appear in the section about the curricular review.
Kirby’s letter highlights what he sees as an overly restrictive undergraduate curriculum, which can leave students to choose less than one-quarter of their courses.
“A three-year concentration may be ideal as preparation for doctoral study, but ought that be the central aim of a college of arts and sciences?” Kirby wrote.
Kirby’s letter also restates his commitment to incorporating more international elements in the undergraduate curriculum.
“Our responsibility therefore is to educate students for a world that in many ways is ‘globalizing,’ but which is a world of still different, and changing, cultures and civilization,” Kirby wrote. “Should we not expect that every student have a significant international experience—be it foreign study, an internship, public service, or research abroad—before graduation?”
The Faculty Council, an 18-professor advisory body that customarily reviews the annual letters, met last week to give Kirby feedback on the letter.
Mendelsohn, a member of the council, said that in addition to the financial situation, the group discussed the problems faced by international students—particularly those in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences—attempting to acquire visas.
Kirby will hold a meeting this afternoon in University Hall for Faculty members and administrators to discuss science in Allston.
The letter also briefly details the work of the committees on student health and alcohol that will issue reports this year, the renovation of the Hasty Pudding building and the changes to Hilles Library,
Kirby’s letter stresses the importance of increasing the Faculty’s racial and gender diversity. It also mentions his goal of increasing the proportion of non-tenured professors on the Faculty.
“A more balanced ratio of tenured and non-tenured faculty would allow grater flexibility in our intellectual directions,” the letter reads.
Mansfield said he agrees with Kirby’s goal.
“That’s a real concern, that profesors will stay on and on,” he said. “Does [Kirby] say anything about the possible senility of our older professors?”
—Staff writer Joshua D. Gottlieb can be reached at email@example.com.
—Staff writer Rebecca D. O’Brien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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