Dean Michael D. Smith said he will shrink the number of professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, ending a decade-long expansion in order to offset the school’s $110 million deficit.
In an interview, Smith said FAS would achieve the cuts by leaving vacancies unfilled and offering early-retirement packages to professors. He said the scale of the reduction hasn’t been determined.
FAS is currently looking to fill 31 faculty positions and will continue to make new hires—but not “at the rate that would maintain the size of our faculty,” Smith said. There are now 720 associate professors and professors in FAS, an increase of 20 percent since 2000.
The Faculty even grew during last year’s hiring freeze, though Smith said the increase was a result of employment offers that predated the school’s financial troubles.
Smith said that he and other administrators are still working out the details of the faculty retirement package. Among the issues that need to be resolved are which Faculty members will be offered packages and how to encourage retirement without making the offer too generous.
Tenure and Harvard’s lack of a mandatory retirement age will also complicate the process.
“There are some people who would say that they are highly effective teachers at the age of 70, and there are people who are never going to be highly effective teachers or producers,” said Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds. “So age doesn’t get you too far. It’s too blunt an instrument.”
Last year, the University offered an early-retirement package for staff members aged 55 or older who had worked at Harvard for at least 10 years. Bill Jaeger, director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers, called the staff buyouts effective and said trimming the ranks of professors “might be even more important” for cutting costs.
“A voluntary program with the faculty could be a good way to avoid other types of cuts that could be more traumatic and more harmful,” Jaeger said.
Administrators first floated the possibility of retirement packages for professors in April. The Harvard faculty has grown slowly older since American universities were barred from implementing mandatory retirement ages in 1994. Previously, universities could force professors to retire at age 70.
Smith said that not all departments will be equally affected by the reductions. In particular, student-faculty ratios will serve as “one of the inputs” in determining which faculty searches to pursue, he said.
Some departments are plagued with high student-faculty ratios that result in large class sizes and little interaction between students and professors. The economics department, for example, was forced to cut its junior seminars last year because it did not have enough faculty members to teach the courses.
Smith said that he is currently in talks with the department about ways to bring back the seminars, whose cancellation students protested last spring.
—Staff writer Noah S. Rayman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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