The short-term financial picture for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) has taken a turn for the better as a result of spending cuts and reinvigorated fundraising, Dean Michael D. Smith said Tuesday (Sept. 15) at a public discussion about the future of FAS.
FAS ended fiscal 2009 under budget by $6 million after targeted budget cuts were implemented and current-use financial gifts to the endowment increased, Smith told more than 250 faculty, staff, and students who gathered at the Science Center for what was billed as a “Discussion with the Dean.”
“I want to emphasize how thankful I am that this community put the effort into really thinking through some hard decisions — painful decisions in many cases,” Smith said. “We’re a stronger institution for that.’’
The budget update covered FAS operations funded by unrestricted income and was focused on the FAS core, which includes the faculty, Harvard College, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Despite the good financial news, Smith said that it was imperative that FAS press ahead with a thorough review of programs and spending because administrators still project budget deficits of $20 million in fiscal 2010 and $110 million in fiscal 2011.
Smith also unveiled a plan to capture ideas from faculty, students, and staff about ways FAS can operate more efficiently, and he recounted a number of recent accomplishments that were achieved even as faculty and administrators were facing tough budget choices, adding that the core mission of teaching and scholarship remains the University’s top priority.
“Don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s not about finances here all the time,” Smith said. “We have made tremendous progress on intellectual and pedagogical priorities across FAS and we will continue to do so into the future.”
Budget cuts announced earlier this year and improved current-use fundraising helped turn around a projected $30 million budget and left FAS with $6 million to apply to the current fiscal year, Smith said. About $75 million in spending reductions for the current fiscal year have already been announced.
That still leaves FAS with a projected deficit of $20 million in fiscal 2010, but Smith said that careful planning would bridge that gap and result in trimming the projected fiscal 2011 deficit from $220 million to $110 million.
FAS must continue to assess which of its current activities are critical to its fundamental purpose, Smith said. But the good financial news for the near-term provided administrators with the time needed to thoughtfully and creatively devise solutions to the long-term budget problems.
Smith touched on the budget review process, mentioning the six working groups that were formed to generate recommendations to reshape FAS. He also announced the creation of an online “Idea Bank,” where students, faculty, and staff could suggest and comment on budget-saving ideas before the working groups report their findings in the fall. Members of the Harvard community can link to the Idea Bank from the FAS planning site.
While working to close the budget gap, FAS moved forward on a number of important pedagogical and administrative initiatives, Smith said, hailing the successful launch of the new Program in General Education, which now has 235 approved courses, as well as the smooth switch to the new academic calendar. He also noted that FAS has conducted 31 faculty searches and 17 tenure reviews since April.
The dean’s discussion was held in Science Center Lecture Hall B. After his presentation, Smith answered a number of questions from audience members.