University plans targeted cuts

Some Yale departments will shed entire programs and projects due to budget cuts this year, not just trim as they have been doing since last year.

Instead of asking all departments to reduce costs in equal proportion, the University is now targeting some specific units for deeper reductions than others, administrators said. The University’s new strategy for cutting costs on the heels of after two rounds of across-the-board cuts designed to help close a $150 million gap in the operating budget caused by the endowment’s 24.6 percent tumble.

The strategy of cost-cutting has shifted in part because further blanket reductions would hit some departments’ core academic missions harder than others, and so they would cease to be effective, Provost Peter Salovey said.

“Across-the-board cuts can only take you so far,” he said. “Now we’re really looking at each unit and department. If it had to do with less, what could we cut?”

The shift in strategy also stems from a realization that forcing departments to prune more social events, refreshments and other small expenditures might save some money but significantly hurt morale, Salovey said. Finding almost $150 million in savings, he added, will require much more significant cuts.

So administrators in the Provost’s Office have begun meeting with the heads and business managers of each department, unit and school in turn, attempting to identify which ones can absorb further cutbacks. Eventually, the differential cuts could force some departments to postpone, downsize or even cancel entire programs, from special research projects to local outreach initiatives, though administrators said they were not yet sure which departments would face deeper cuts.

The newest cuts, which will be negotiated and implemented through April, will be made in addition to 5 percent reductions to the current year’s non-personnel spending and 7.5 percent cuts in personnel and non-personnel spending.

Twelve department heads said each successive round of cuts has been harder to absorb as the cost-cutting begins to threaten vital department activities such as teaching.

“Once all of the things that are arguably non-essential are gone, what are they going to force us to do?” French department chair Thomas Kavanagh said. “We just don’t see places where we can cut.”

Until now, the administration had pursued blanket reductions as the most equitable way of squeezing savings out of the University’s budget. Administrators said the new strategy will require re-examining the University’s priorities for the next three to five years to ensure Yale is still strong in certain areas when the endowment recovers.

Though the University will continue to support financially initiatives it deems important, Deputy Provost Lloyd Suttle said, it does not have the funds to pay for every single program a department wants to pursue.

“There’s a lot of soul-searching,” Suttle said. “We’ve got enough money to do anything we want to do, we just don’t have enough to do everything we want to do.”

Suttle said administrators will consult with affected departments as much as possible. But ultimately, he added, University officials must decide which programs are most worth maintaining.

So far, that has meant asking departments with accumulated savings and endowed funds of their own to dip into those assets, freeing up funds from the University’s general operating budget to cover other costs.

“They’ve been saving up for a rainy day,” Deputy Provost Charles Long said. “But it’s a monsoon.”

Long said he did not yet know how many departments would face extra cuts.

Members of the Yale Corporation will review the University’s finances at a meeting in December.


  • SB

    This is as sensible approach. Some departments have a lot of waste and employees who are not very productive.

  • Hieronymus

    A great opportunity to clean a house our two! You *knew* I was going to suggest:

    DIV (at least the MDiv program)
    Comp Lit dept (or, heck, the entire Lit major)
    A slew of majors could be subsumed w/in a more general major; suggestions might include AmStud, WG&SS and ER&M be subsumed w/in, e.g., Soc. (yes, I know: not gonna happen.)

    Film Studies could be downgraded to “second major” status (or a concentration w/in some new, broader major, e.g., Media Arts), not because I have any axe to grind, but more as a nod to future employment prospects.

    Not *just* being a wise guy: it’s a long-term philosophical stance that the less (or more general) the information contained in a major, the less chance a potential employer has to ignore you. Always easier to bulk up a History major (History major focused on the plight of women within the patriarchal oppression) than it is to hide political statements (WG&SS major…).

  • Where’s the Beef?

    I read this article TWICE. Yup, yup–no mention of which are to be the “affected departments.”

  • DG


    Your “long-term philosophical stance” appears bizarrely ill thought out. By what critical standards have you deemed the information contained in your various sacrificial majors to be “less” than in those you would retain?

    I may well be wrong, but your writing-style marks you as one who is rather young, which leads me to wonder how much weight your assessment of the job market really carries.

  • Recent Alum

    DG: ERM, WGS, and Am Stud are not even disciplines. Even if you believe that what you can learn from these classes can be worthwhile, they still should be subsumed within Sociology, as Hieronymus correctly pointed out. This has been shown more than convincingly in the Yale Free Press, the Light & Truth and the National Review Phi Beta Con blog.

    I would go farther and say that the Sociology major (along with all of the “majors” that should fall within the Sociology major) should be taken away entirely, since it is just a politicized discipline that doesn’t teach anything that couldn’t be taught in a non-political manner in Economics.

  • It’s the Administration, Stupid!

    Where is the FTE growth? How much is being spent in Administrative/Finance/ITS units? All these units are ludicrously top-heavy with self-important knuckleheads that weren’t here a few years ago. Why do we need VPs on top of VPs, especially when none of them know what they are doing and seem oblivious to the whole point of Yale? Of course, they keep hiring consultants to tell them they’re on the right track. Funny how that works. Anyway, there is no more money to pay for them so time for “last in, first out”. We really need to assess whether all the new baloney added in the last 3-5 years has been worth the money and if not, clear the decks.

  • dk

    Look at the state universities and see what happens when there is a large, strong administration. Things get done faster and there is more campus-wide coordination but academia is so often trampled in the name of political or employer or donor sensibilities.

  • inno

    Working with Michael Frame was possibly the best experience of the entirety of my Yale education.