Deans' Letter to Department Chairs

This letter was sent by FAS academic deans on Monday, Dec. 8.

Dear Department Chairs,

As you know, the current projection of a 30% decline in our endowment presents the FAS with a substantial financial challenge. To help address this challenge, we will need to draw upon our endowment at a higher spending rate than we have historically. Even with a higher spending rate, we still face a large gap in funding. Based on preliminary estimates, we need to plan for a cost reduction of $105 million to $125 million relative to this year’s (FY2009) budget. In other words, even if we do not take on any incremental expenses (such as a salary increase for existing faculty or new ladder faculty searches) we will still need to find at least $105 million in reductions from current expenses. Faced with budgetary pressure of this magnitude, we have decided to curtail sharply most incremental expenditures (relative to the FY2009 budget).

Dean Smith wrote to you last week regarding staff hiring. We are writing to let you know about three further cost-cutting measures that will be announced at the Faculty Meeting tomorrow. We would greatly appreciate it if you would refrain from sharing this information with your colleagues until tomorrow ’s meeting.

First, we plan to keep all faculty and non-union staff salaries flat next year. Union staff have a contract with the University, which has been negotiated with the central administration.

Second, we are postponing almost all current tenure-track and tenured searches. There will be a small number of exceptions (selected with an eye toward minimizing costs and maintaining priorities) and, of course, internal promotions will continue as planned. The FAS remains committed to a tenure-track system.

We intend to resume searches once the financial situation turns around. At that time, we plan to allow departments to proceed with their original searches or to switch those searches to new fields, so long as they align with the departments’ academic plans. Thus, it is imperative that we continue with the academic planning process.

Third, to minimize the cost of visiting faculty, new non-ladder faculty appointments, and purchases of faculty from other Harvard schools, we will only authorize requests for these types of instructional faculty to fulfill essential curricular needs. If such a need is demonstrated, we ask that departments search for candidates according to the ordered list below:

* Recent PhDs (from Harvard or other institutions)

* Tenure-track faculty from local institutions

* Senior faculty from local institutions or local practitioners from industry or government

To attract and support h ighly qualified candidates who have recently or will shortly earn their Ph.D., the FAS is developing a new program akin to a teaching post-doc. You will soon receive a description of this program. This program provides one way in which the FAS can support our Ph.D. students who are graduating into what looks to be a tight job market. At the same time, we must support our continuing graduate students.

We appreciate that many of these measures will be difficult for the faculty and we do not take these actions lightly. Nonetheless, we will do all we can to ensure that our core mission of teaching and research can continue to thrive even in these difficult times.


Diana Sorensen
Jeremy Bloxham
Stephen M. Kosslyn
Allan M. Brandt
Evelynn M. Hammonds
Michael D. Smith