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FAS Beats National Faculty Salaries

By Gautam S. Kumar, Crimson Staff Writer

While a recently-released report from the American Association of University Professors indicated that across the board faculty salaries still reflect a depressed fiscal environment, professors in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences will continue to receive 2 percent annual salary increases.

However, Harvard has not been immune to the effects of the weak economy.

Similar to many peer institutions, Harvard continues to maintain fewer active faculty searches for tenure track positions than it did before the 2008 financial crisis.

The salary increases—while a welcome respite from the pay freeze imposed between 2008 and 2009—still pale in comparison to the five percent year-on-year raises that faculy members received prior to 2008.

During the crisis, Harvard’s endowment plummeted 30 percent in value, dropping from a high of $37 billion to a low of $26 billion.

As a result, the monetary endowment payout to FAS fell nineteen percent over two years from its pre-2008 high of $650 million. FAS derives roughly half of its operating budget from this payout.

Standing in a packed room of faculty in Dec. 2008, FAS Dean Michael D. Smith announced staff and faculty salary freezes, and recommended that each department trim its budget by 10 to 15 percent.

What we have to do is plan for expense reduction,” Smith said at the time.

The salary freezes were lifted after a year, in December of 2009, and “merit-based salary increases” of 2 percent per year were instated.

“While we continue to operate in a constrained fiscal environment, the FAS will, as always, work to be a competitive employer so that we can continue to attract the most talented faculty and staff,” FAS spokesperson Jeff Neal wrote in an emailed statement.

In an interview yesterday, University Professor Stanley Hoffmann said that—despite the thawing of the pay freeze—Harvard professors should not consider salaries a primary concern.

“I think, on the whole, it is unseemly for academics to worry too much about their salaries,” Hoffmann said, noting that professors are quite affluent compared to the majority of the population.

But the AAUP report released yesterday still aggressively emphasized that professor salaries rose, on average, only 1.4 percent in the past year—considerably below the hikes that Harvard awarded.

The AAUP concluded that these low year-on-year gains reflected little confidence in the current “global knowledge economy.”

In budgets for fiscal year 2012 submitted to academic divisions in the beginning of March, department administrators were told to increase salaries even further for unionized workers—to 3.15 percent.

A 4 percent increase in the endowment distribution value will help fund most of these continued salary increases.

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at

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