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Dean Asserts FAS Recovery

By Noah S. Rayman and Elyssa A. L. Spitzer, Crimson Staff Writers

In his annual report, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith chronicled the financial setbacks and modes of recovery that marked the past year for the University’s largest school.

The Dean’s Annual Report, which was released yesterday on a redesigned FAS website, reviews the major budget cuts over the past year, during which the school pushed through its sustainability efforts, its first year of the General Education program, and its inaugural January Term.

Smith described the last year as the middle phase of a long-term process to close a $220 million budget deficit that arose in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, when the University’s endowment fell 30 percent.

The middle phase—which followed the more immediate, across-the-board cuts, such as 15 percent reductions in departmental budgets—represented a period of strategic structural changes within FAS, according to Smith.

Over the course of the last year, FAS trimmed down a $110 million budget deficit to $35 million—a remaining gap that Smith said he intends to close by the summer of 2012.

The report attributes the school’s financial recovery to factors such as successful fundraising efforts, cuts in departments’ discretionary spending, and reduced energy costs, which resulted from sustainability measures and a warm winter season.

While the Dean’s Annual Report has traditionally been published in the spring semester, Smith said in an interview last month that providing the information earlier in the year would be helpful in the lengthy fiscal and academic planning process of structuring next year’s budget.

PRESERVING THE INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL

The Dean’s Annual Report also provides a lens into the recent period of severe hiring reductions, during which the Faculty saw only limited growth after nearly a decade of high spending and faculty expansion.

There are currently 721 tenured and tenure-track faculty members in FAS—only two more than in 2008. But that figure represents an overall 16 percent increase from 2001, when the Faculty stood at 619, according to the report.

Over the course of the last academic year, FAS undertook 41 searches for new faculty members that have thus far resulted in 20 acceptances, the report stated.

The report does not detail hiring plans for the future, but Smith told The Crimson last month that he expects a similar stringency when it comes to faculty searches this year. The report itself emphasized the school’s focus on retaining top faculty.

“Faculty and graduate students are the intellectual capital underlying our educational and research mission; thus, maintaining and enhancing our world class academic reputation require sufficient funds in these critical areas,” wrote Leslie A. Kirwan ’79, FAS dean for administration and finance, in the report.

DIVERSITY IN THE FACULTY

Beyond the issue of faculty size, the report turned its attention to the gender and ethnic diversity of its faculty.

There are currently 181 female professors within FAS, constituting 25 percent of tenure-track and tenured faculty members. Despite University-wide efforts over the last five years to support gender diversity in the Faculty, the number of women in the Faculty stands at 2007 levels, according to the annual report.

The issue of faculty diversity was raised at yesterday’s Faculty meeting, during which Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Professor Elena M. Kramer briefed the community on behalf of the Standing Committee on Women.

Kramer said that the committee has analyzed the dual issues of hiring women faculty members and promoting them to tenured positions at Harvard. Female tenure-track professors, she said,  are more likely than their male counterparts to leave Harvard before receiving tenure.

Meanwhile, there has been insignificant growth in underrepresented minorities since the school limited the expansion of its faculty, according to the report. Non-white, non-Asian minorities represent slightly more than 5 percent of the Faculty.

Because there are so few minorities in the faculty, the committee could not perform a an analytical assessment of the situation analogous to that for gender diversity, according to Kramer.

—Staff writer Noah S. Rayman can be reached at nrayman@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Elyssa A.L. Spitzer can be reached at spitzer@fas.harvard.edu.

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