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Faculty Notebook: Faust Defends Humanities in Wake of SUNY Albany Cuts

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

University President Drew G. Faust delivered a rousing defense of the humanities and institutions of higher education, drawing extended applause from the professors gathered at yesterday’s Faculty meeting.

Faust was responding to concerns from Virginie Greene, chair of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. Greene said she was upset by last week’s announcement that the State University of New York at Albany—facing more than $32 million in cuts to state funding—will dissolve many of its humanities departments, including classics, theater, and some languages.

“I feel understandably dismayed by this news, but I believe we should all feel dismayed,” Greene said before asking for a statement from Faust.

The President, appearing calm and confident, was ready with a response.

Faust said that in the wake of the financial crisis of recent years, she has continually emphasized the importance of the humanities. She added that support is widespread, pointing to the recent donation of $10 million by Anand G. Mahindra ’77 to the Harvard Humanities Center.


Green may have been the new Crimson two years ago, but the color is still in vogue: FAS is continuing its quest to be more environmentally friendly.

The coffee cups beside the Starbucks dispensers are now the pale-green and white eco-cups commonly used across campus. The Dean’s Annual Report, formerly printed, will now be available only online. And many events, including Faculty meetings themselves, have become “zero-waste” events.

FAS Dean Michael D. Smith spoke of the new “zero-waste” approach at Faculty meetings as soon as he stepped up to the microphone.

He also listed several waste-free events that have already taken place this academic year: the Chemistry Department’s Aug. 26 barbecue, CGIS’ Aug. 11 ice cream social, and the Department of Comparative Literature’s welcome back party.


Yesterday’s meeting took a turn when it morphed into a personal finance seminar.

Professor of Economics David I. Laibson ’88 gave the Faculty updates to the University’s retirement investment options.

Before a full room of senior Harvard faculty members, Laibson delivered a clear and thorough lecture on the benefits of Harvard’s recent reforms, which schools and organizations across the nation have been making over the course of the last decade.

“We employees will save $3 million in year one,” Laibson said of the altered options.

But facing an inquisitive audience, Laibson found himself facing a barrage of questions from Faculty members, some of which devolved into questions about where individual professors should invest their money.

Laibson humored the professors’ queries.

“I’ll be offering personal financial advice in my office later,” Laibson joked.

—Staff writer Noah S. Rayman can be reached at

—Staff writer Elyssa A.L. Spitzer can be reached at

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FASHumanities DivisionFAS AdministrationGreenRomance LanguagesDrew Faust