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.

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