Rosenbaum: For a more frugal Yale

As we begin the new year, still in the midst of an economic crisis, Yale will have to make tough decisions to account for its $300 million budget shortfall. In a series of meetings for faculty and others late last year, President Levin and Provost Salovey began outlining Yale’s goals during these difficult times. They also explained some of the belt-tightening measures the loss of endowment funds will force us to make. At these meetings, many suggestions were made; in light of the coming budget cuts, I’d like to highlight a couple and add a few of my own.

First, until the economic situation improves, no University administrative or faculty salary should exceed $500,000 per year until the economic situation improves. This will save some money and, more importantly, will provide a good example for others at the University, such as faculty members whose salaries will not be increased for the second straight year and staff members who might lose their jobs because of the financial crisis.

In addition, while building the proposed almost $200-million Yale Biology Building has already been postponed, it should continue to be delayed until the economic situation improves significantly. Almost $15 million recently went to repairs for the Kline Biology Tower, and the building is functioning adequately for the first time since it was built about 40 years ago. In addition, much of the laboratory space has been refurbished and modernized. The renovated building lacks a new animal facility needed by the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Development Biology — one of the major reasons to create a new building — but a temporary facility could be built on the site of the proposed new building for a fraction of the cost of a new departmental building. Until we make significant strides toward recovering our lost revenue, there are more pressing concerns than a new building.

Finally, consideration should be given to the possibility of selling the recently acquired West Campus. This large parcel with a laboratory, storage facilities and other buildings, was purchased a few years ago for approximately $125 million. It was a great deal, but will cost almost $15 million a year to maintain. This money could instead be used to support teaching and research in the humanities, which, unlike the sciences, are generally unable to reap the benefits of large government grants and are, as a result, more constrained when it comes to hiring. Moreover, Science Park offers ample lab, office and storage space and is much closer to central campus, making it easily accessible by those on foot or bicycle. Admittedly, the current market makes it a difficult time to try to sell this piece of property, However, since we paid so little for it initially, we may be able to make money with some patience and perseverance.

Although these suggestions may seem drastic, they can be carried out without disrupting our ability to carry out our missions of teaching, research and administration over the next few years. More importantly, in addition to benefiting the entire Yale community financially, they may foster a stronger sense of community as well.

Joel Rosenbaum is a professor of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology.


  • another Yale Prof

    Buying West Campus was and is brilliant. Selling it now would be ridiculous — in the current climate, I doubt we could give it away.

  • Yale Science Prof

    Plus, Federal funding in the sciences is often tied to available lab space, which West Campus provides. It will pay for itself in only a few years.

  • Yale 08

    I always thought Yale professors were, consistent with Yale’s spirit, focused on the long-term and open-minded rather than being closed-minded and overly-conscious of short-term objectives … evidently, this is only true when dealing with political correctness.

  • yet another Prof

    The suggestion for salary caps is silly and offensive. Levin is worth far more than Yale pays him — if he ran a similar-sized company, he would be paid in the millions and also get bonuses for performance.

    At Yale all he gets is people like Rosenbaum talking nonsense.

  • and yet even another Yale prof.

    I, too, am a fan of Rick L. but like most of us, he opted to work in the academy where we traded big salaries for that elusive “intangible” benefit of the scholarly life. A cap of half a million salary does not sound unreasonable to me… after all he has job security for life as a tenured professor. And some of us have had to settle for more than frozen salaries… after a frozen salary for 5 years, I got a decrease of nearly 15% this year…. and this after decades of service and grant-bagging. I guess that is called doing one’s part for Yale.

  • Jordon Walker ’13

    1) I find it particularly troubling that people consistently post their opinions with out clearly labeling and identifying who they are. If you are ashamed of what you have to say, then do not say it.

    2)I find the author’s opinion on this piece not troubling insofar as I believe he is wrong or in error, but that he, similar to myself, lacks the same managerial credentials of Richard Levin and the administration. Albeit everyone at Yale university is intelligent, we do not all posses an aptitude to guide and direct a large, prominent university such as Yale. We therefore should be reluctant, and especially so if we are faculty, to overtly “suggest” prescriptions to financial problems if we do not have a depth of experience that would render the suggestion beneficial or at least legitimate. That is not to insult the professor, but rather is an indictment of the larger culture here at Yale where people feel as though, by their association to the university, they have the ability to dictate the course and path of the university.

    As an undergraduate I am especially lacking in management experience and as acknowledgment of this dearth of expertise I do not, and would not, offer any solution to our financial problems. I would hope that others would do the same. But to suggest solutions in an open forum such as this, as the professor did, is tantamount to open criticism which should never be levied against one’s leaders.

    I am sure the professor did not intend any animus in his post, but his writing could be misconstrued as an attempt to usurp the direction of the university that Richard Levin has put in place.

  • another faculty member

    #6 would be funny if it was not so sad.

    “to suggest solutions in an open forum such as this, as the professor did, is tantamount to open criticism which should never be levied against one’s leaders.”

    Do you have *any* idea what a university is supposed to be?

  • to #6

    If you want leaders to defer to, try a community college or a stricter country like China, North Korea or Iran. Democracy and academia have no place for uncritical attitudes like the one you express.

  • FailBoat

    Anonymous speech is free speech.

  • Yale ’08


    Give it a rest. Your pretentious overuse of vocabulary is nauseating. Perhaps posting anonymous is actually better since there is no need to overindulge in self-flattery as you have. I have to agree with #7: acquiescence to leadership simply because it is leadership is not an obligation at a leading university. This is NOT a business corporation, it is an academic one, with different rules and goals, the preservation of free speech being one of the most paramount. Levin does not receive millions of dollars and performance-based bonuses because Yale is a non-profit institution.

    I agree with the suggestion that salaries should, in the short-term, be capped. Levin’s 800,000+ salary is plenty for now. And it takes guts for a science professor to suggest selling West Campus in favor of boosting the humanities. Give him some credit for at least positing some new ideas