Against a background of fiscal cutbacks at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, Yale Provost Alison Richard — the University’s chief academic and financial officer — has held meetings with members of Yale’s academic community to address concerns about the University’s budget.

The nation’s academic community has grown concerned in recent months about the economy’s effects on higher education. At her meetings with professional school deans, department chairmen and other administrators, Richard informed faculty members that while the endowment is not growing as fast as it did in the late 1990s, Yale is not facing the kind of pressure other universities appear to be experiencing.

Deputy Provost Charles Long said the message of Richard’s meetings was that the University cannot run completely against the economic tide but that people should not panic.

“Basically what she’s telling them is that the University has accomplished a lot in the last couple of years — but the economy is slowing and the endowment can’t be expected to perform as well as before,” Long said.

In October, Stanford University announced a staff hiring freeze and Duke University announced it might cut 50 faculty positions. More recently, Cornell University’s endowment dropped 8.1 percent in the first quarter of the 2002-03 fiscal year. Brown University has also experienced financial difficulty, announcing the possibility of staff layoffs and a $1 million deficit in its Office of Finance and Administration.

“We’re not in the same position because I think we’ve been more disciplined in our growth and we have a larger endowment,” Long said.

But Long said the University will need to be “very patient” when adding new programs. Richard said regardless of budget concerns, the University should always be sure that it is investing in “the highest priorities.”

“I certainly don’t think that budget concerns are a reason to consider cutting programs,” Richard said.

Sociology chairman Jeffrey Alexander said the talks with Richard were reassuring.

“We felt pretty good with the Provost for having the meeting,” Alexander said. “I think the faculty has a lot of confidence in her.”

Yale Center for International and Area Studies Director Gustav Ranis said Richard made it clear that there will be no real structural changes within the University. He said the talks had a very positive tone.

YCIAS has been growing rapidly and Ranis said he understood the need for budgetary restraints in the future.

“They are very sensible, and we can live with them,” Ranis said.

Alexander said Richard made it clear that the University will abide by its current commitments, including faculty hirings and the planned construction of new social sciences buildings.

“As [Richard] said, nobody knows what it will look like in three years,” Alexander said. “But right now the University is in a remarkably good position. It’s astonishing.”