Science cuts force commute

Yale’s budget deficit has encouraged collaborative hiring among Yale’s medical, engineering and science faculties.
Yale’s budget deficit has encouraged collaborative hiring among Yale’s medical, engineering and science faculties. Photo by Aliyya Swaby.

New West Campus researchers are making the seven-mile commute to labs and offices on Science Hill as budget cuts force reductions in hiring.

As hiring budgets across the University decrease in response to the economic downturn, West Campus and Yale’s science administration are working together to bring in new faculty that work in Yale’s central, medical, and engineering campuses as well as West Campus. Although not all faculty members are on board with the vision of West Campus as a new haven for interdisciplinary research, administrators said they hope these joint appointments will strengthen the Yale science community’s relationship with the satellite campus.

West Campus’s budget has been cut 40 percent from its original level, said Scott Strobel, vice-president of West Campus planning and program development. Because of these financial difficulties, the rate of hiring has been much slower than planned, though there are currently searches under way for directors of the chemical biology and systems biology institutes, he said.

The budget in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has also decreased, said Timothy O’Connor, associate provost for science and technology, adding that it is difficult to tell to what extent science hiring in particular has been affected.

To try to offset some of these budget shortages, Yale’s science administration and West Campus have been hiring new faculty members who will play important roles in teaching and research for both parties.

“Hiring is supposed to create synergy,” O’Connor said. “The idea is less, ‘How many faculty spots do you own?’ but instead how West Campus resources can be used strategically to help Science Hill and to help the medical school.”

When new faculty members are hired on West Campus, they are always appointed to a department or school within the University as well, O’Connor said, though the reverse is not true.

Some new hires are supportive of this approach. Jonathan Ellman, a chemistry professor and researcher in West Campus’s Chemical Biology Institute, said his appointments on West Campus and in the chemistry department complement each other well. He was attracted to Yale because of the opportunities present in both areas, he said.

“The West Campus presents a huge opportunity and it is a huge area of growth and emphasis,” he said.

But not everyone shares this view. Both Strobel and O’Connor said there are faculty members with a negative attitude toward West Campus, because they feel it is diverting resources away from Yale’s science departments.

“Some faculty are enthusiastic about West Campus … other faculty are more suspicious of what it represents,” Strobel said.

O’Connor said these individuals’ fears are misplaced because the investments in West Campus have been scaled back as dramatically as investments on the main campus.

But, he added, the administration has an obligation to maintain a certain level of growth on West Campus, in order to ensure that its employees enjoy the benefits of support systems like effective transportation and dining.

“Until we have a critical mass out there, it’s more challenging to have the support systems work efficiently,” he said.

There are currently five institutes planned for West Campus, with two of these announced in the past two months.

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