Wednesday, December 16, 2009

FAS Sees Light at End of Fiscal Tunnel

Dean Smith Presents Positive Picture of FAS Finances at Faculty Meeting
Gomes makes case for faculty membership on the Corporation

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith delivered a notably optimistic financial outlook for FAS yesterday, though the University’s largest school faced a projected $110 million annual deficit as of Sept. 15.
“I believe we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel,” Smith said at yesterday’s Faculty meeting. “We are not done by any means yet, but it is also a start to resolve some of these questions and theoretically give some comfort to people about the direction of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.”

Meanwhile, University Provost Steven E. Hyman sought to alleviate some professors’ concerns that the Task Force on University Libraries—which released a wide-ranging blueprint for overhauling Harvard’s library system in November—is focused on change solely in the context of cutting costs.

Hyman, who usually sits quietly at Faculty meetings, found himself fielding several questions from professors yesterday about potential changes to the library system.

He defended the report’s timing, explaining that redesigning the library’s “labyrinthine” administrative system has been a topic of discussion at Harvard for over a decade and was not triggered by the recent financial crisis.

Smith said that discussions surrounding the new faculty retirement package—which was announced earlier this month as an option for professors over 65 at several schools across the University—have been in the works since he became dean in 2007.

But for all the rhetoric about an improving fiscal climate, many of the changes mentioned at yesterday’s Faculty meeting—such as the faculty retirement package and a potential overhaul of the library system—were connected to streamlining budgets.


Following recent news that Senior Fellow James R. Houghton ’58 has chosen to step down from the Harvard Corporation—the University’s highest governing body—Reverend Peter J. Gomes suggested that a Harvard faculty member should fill in the opening.

A Harvard professor has not held a seat on the six-member committee since former University President Derek C. Bok appointed former Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky in 1987 and Reverend Peter J. Gomes suggested that the vacancy on the Corporation could be an opportune moment for change.

“Most of us felt that we were well served by having a former professor on the Corporation,” Gomes said. “The Corporation can be a distant and disengaged body... If we ignore them, they will ignore us, and we can’t have that.”

University President Drew G. Faust asked professors to send their nominations for candidates to fill the Corporation’s newly open seat to


Evoking the difficulty that Smith encountered at a Faculty meeting last December where he had trouble launching a slideshow on the FAS financial crisis, Faust herself struggled with technology during yesterday’s meeting.

As she approached the microphone to award honorary degrees to recently tenured professors who do not already possess a Harvard degree, Faust realized that the stand supporting the microphone was too short for her. She attempted to adjust its height, but it did not budge.

“I give up,” Faust said, fiddling with the microphone’s knobs as faculty members chuckled. “I should have just called on the faculty from the School of Engineering [and Applied Sciences].”

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

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