Dear Members of the Law School Community,
I am writing to update you on the HLS budget process and to share some difficult news about cuts that are necessary in order to absorb the impact of our declining endowment.
As we have gone through the budget process over the past several months, many of you have offered ideas for achieving savings, especially during the recent staff focus groups on the current HLS financial environment, co-sponsored by the Joint Council and Human Resources. I am deeply grateful for your input, much of which we have adopted.
As I outlined for you at the Town Hall meeting in April, the distributions we expect to receive from our share of the endowment in FY10 and FY11 are expected to fall by as much as $19 million from FY09 levels—a decrease of more than ten percent of our current annual operating budget.
After extensive review of all our operations, we have now settled on an FY10 budget that represents a major step in our response to this new reality. As part of this process, all departments across the school were mandated to design budgets for FY10 that were approximately 10 percent lower than what they had to spend in FY09. Those plans have now been finalized.
I know your overriding concerns are with the staff reductions that I told you were likely when I communicated with you in April, so I will address these first. It’s a difficult subject, and the news that jobs will be lost will certainly come as a blow even if it is not unexpected. Nothing I say here will bring much comfort to those who will be impacted the most, but I can tell you that every one of these decisions has been extremely tough to make.
Today, we will begin the process of notifying 12 of our employees that they are being laid-off. We expect all of these notifications to be made by the end of the workday tomorrow. This is by far the most painful of a number of measures that, together, ultimately will result in the reduction of our staff by close to 10 percent. The bulk of these reductions and savings will come from a combination of the university’s early retirement program, the elimination of current vacancies that will not be filled, the ending of several limited-term appointments, and several offers of redeployment.
The people who are being laid off are drawn from a broad range of pay-grades and departments, and include managerial staff. After these reductions are made, the size of our workforce will be similar to what it was in 2005—when the value of our endowment was closer to what it is today.
Understandably, many of you have expressed a wish that I be as transparent as possible about the process by which these decisions have been made. I can tell you that it was straightforward. Our compass was set according to our strategic goals: to make sure that Harvard Law School will continue to offer first-class teaching and scholarship; attract top-tier students and faculty; build its world-class clinical program; support the finest law library and legal materials collection in the world; and maintain its longstanding commitments to financial aid and the encouragement of public service.
Be assured that layoffs were considered only after an exhaustive look at all other possibilities, and only after we took a series of steps to cut costs in ways that minimized the impact on our workforce—freezing salaries for faculty and exempt staff members, strictly limiting new hires, reducing the use of temporary labor, and offering a voluntary early retirement program.
I believe that these decisions, including the layoffs, were the right decisions for the Law School. I reviewed each of these decisions personally. They were difficult decisions to make, and I know they will be even more difficult for those most affected to absorb.
As we’ve gone through this process, many of you have asked how the faculty will be contributing to the effort to minimize the impact of the economic downturn. The faculty, senior administrators and I are in full agreement that the staff should not shoulder the burden alone. We have taken a number of additional measures to share that burden. Reductions in faculty allowances and certain stipends have been instituted for FY10. Changes in procedures for developing the teaching program in FY11 and beyond have been put in place to ensure that the permanent faculty will teach as many of our core courses as possible, and in some cases teaching above their required loads, in part so that fewer visiting professors will be needed.
Furthermore, members of the faculty and senior administration staff have pledged to contribute several hundred thousand dollars in cash contributions and have waived certain other forms of compensation to help us ameliorate the severity of this downsizing. Their contributions have made a material difference in avoiding even deeper cuts, and I’m deeply touched by their generosity.
In the months ahead, we will continue to explore additional opportunities for streamlining our operations and identifying efficiencies. This will include looking at ways to rationalize certain aspects of our organizational structure and also our space. The decisions we have made for FY10 have given us a solid start towards equilibrium during this period of diminished endowment distributions. But we don’t know how long this period will last, and we must continue to prepare for what could turn out to be a long interval before the endowment recovers fully.
In closing, let me say that the people who will be leaving us will be missed. Their collective contributions to the Law School over many years were substantial and valuable. I also recognize that we will need to adjust to the workplace without some longtime friends and colleagues. I assure you that we will do all in our power to support the staff who are directly and indirectly affected by this change. Those who are leaving will receive a transition package including eligibility for enhanced severance, continuation of subsidized health benefits for 12 months, a 60-day paid notice period, and access to outplacement or case management services.
It has been a privilege to serve as acting Dean these past several months, especially because I’ve had a chance to see and understand more fully how dedicated and professional you are in going about your jobs here on a daily basis, and how deeply you care for this institution. Harvard Law School is indeed a tremendous place, in no small part because of all of you, and I am confident that you will share your many ideas and your support with Martha Minow, as you have done so graciously with me.
These are challenging times, but the school will get through them—not just because of the tough decisions we’ve had to make, but because of the hard work and cooperative spirit of the good people who work here.
Best wishes,Howell Jackson