Following at least four years of budget deficits, The Faculty of Arts and Sciences ended fiscal year 2018 with a $3.1 million surplus, according to the Dean’s annual report.
Faculty members will discuss the report, as well as a proposed change to the wording of the College’s foreign language requirement, at their monthly meeting Tuesday, the first of the semester.
FAS Dean Claudine Gay will present the annual report — her first presentation since taking office in July following former Dean of FAS Michael D. Smith's retirement — according to the meeting agenda. This will also be the first Faculty meeting for newly minted University President Lawrence S. Bacow.
The report summarizes FAS’s financials from fiscal year 2018, which ended June 30. The $3.1 million surplus marks a significant improvement from the $11.7 million deficit FAS saw in fiscal year 2017. This is the first time the school has achieved a surplus in several years as it struggled to recover from the 2008 financial crisis.
Key expenses over the past year have included Harvard Financial Aid, a new initiative started by Smith in fall 2017 to fund faculty projects, and infrastructure expenses — including the House Renewal project, per the report.
Gay’s report also introduces the Quantitative Biology Initiative, which launched this past spring, and comprises research grants and training meant to facilitate collaboration between scholars in biology and quantitative fields.
The report further highlights faculty hiring trends, including an increase in the percentage of women in the ladder faculty — meaning tenured and tenure track professors — from 25 percent to 31 percent and an increase in the percentage of minorities in the ladder faculty from 17 percent to 23 percent under Smith’s 11-year deanship.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, Jay M. Harris, former Dean of Undergraduate Education, will propose a change to the Handbook for Students which would alter the wording of the current foreign language requirement to be a “language other than English” and eliminate the “written component” portion of the requirement.
"The language requirement demands rigorous study but does not require a particular format of study or examination. Students should be taught in all forms of a language that are customary in the practice of that language today," the proposed wording states.
The new wording stems from a report authored by a subcommittee convened in spring 2018 to review the language requirement. The elimination of a written component would allow students to use American Sign Language to fulfill the requirement.
“The subcommittee recommends that the study of sign languages of Deaf communities such as American Sign Language (ASL) be permitted to fulfill the language requirement,” the report reads. “[ASL] is not the English language in another form, but is instead a language with its own cultural and linguistic integrity, unrelated in structure to spoken English.”
Ever since Harvard first began offering ASL classes two years ago, activists have urged the College to allow students to fulfill their requirements using the language.
The proposal would also allow students more flexibility in completing the foreign language requirement generally.
One proposed change would allow students who fail to place out of the requirement using Harvard placement test scores to retake the placement exam after their first semester of language study. Another proposed change would allow the Office of Undergraduate Education to seek qualified examiners at other institutions if a student wished to take a placement exam in a language not offered at Harvard.
The Faculty Council has already discussed and voted to approve the new wording at its most recent meeting. Though the Council will announce its support for Harris’s proposal, their vote is purely advisory.
Because the change in wording would be substantial, the Faculty will only discuss the proposed change Tuesday and will be able to vote on the proposal at their next meeting in November.
—Staff writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.
—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22