To computer science professor Michael Fischer, there is something in the University’s decision to continue budget cuts that does not add up.
“Somehow crying poor in the face of an administration that has recently spent $17 million on the president’s mansion and given million-dollar bonuses to top administrators does not ring true,” Fischer said.
Fischer is not alone — the formal announcement that the administration would continue budget cuts brought renewed criticism from faculty across the University. On Tuesday, faculty and staff received an email from University President Peter Salovey and Provost Benjamin Polak confirming what had long been suspected: Yale would maintain the three-year budget targets set last fall.
The statement clarified that despite positive news — including a slight surplus in the fiscal 2014 year, strong revenue from the medical school clinical practice and the endowment at an all-time nominal high — the pressures from rising costs and new initiatives necessitate the University “stay the course.” While faculty interviewed were largely unsurprised, many remain unconvinced by the justifications provided in the email.
Assyriology professor Benjamin Foster GRD ’75 said while great institutions can and should cut their costs, the compensations to University leadership and costs in renovating the President’s House demonstrate that sacrifices have not been evenly distributed.
Polak replied to the criticism by stating that the renovations to 43 Hillhouse were 100 percent funded by private donations, which were given to the University for the project. He added that the administrative compensations that have faced scrutiny did not reflect annual salaries, but rather were issued after careers of dedicated service to the University.
According to the message, Yale slightly surpassed the goal of 3 percent cost savings in central administrative areas. It also projected the University’s budget — including the slight deficit witnessed in the central campus, which excludes West Campus and the School of Medicine — will be balanced by the end of the fiscal year.
Still, Salovey and Polak said the challenges, including the rise of health care costs in excess of inflation, shortfalls in funds reserved for future pensions and retiree benefits and decreased federal funding for research serve as “long-term worries.”
“We will have finally emerged from the valley caused by the recession,” Salovey and Polak wrote in the email. “Although it has been painful, we have come through relatively unscarred.”
But faculty said those scars may run deeper than the administration is willing to admit.
While the email said Yale’s current total number of faculty is 32 percent higher than in 2004 and the University’s staff rose by 17 percent over the same period, some professors interviewed said they had not seen evidence of the increases.
“My department has suffered unduly from a long-term paralysis in appointments even to key vacant positions, so the alleged  percent increase is not visible to me or to anyone in my scholarly community here,” Foster wrote in an email. “Nor is the alleged growth in staffing particularly visible to me in those units with which I interact most frequently, such as the University Library.”
Molecular, cellular and developmental biology professor Joel Rosenbaum said it is difficult to judge how the faculty has increased if the provost does not provide the actual numbers on a department-specific basis. He said that the MCDB department has seven fewer ladder faculty members than it formerly maintained over the past 20 years.
Polak told the News that although he did not have the faculty head count by department readily available, he said the data are largely available in the Office of Institutional Research. He added that though growth was larger in some schools than others, specifically in the School of Medicine and School of Management, he said all faculty increases reported reflected actual hires.
However, Fischer said despite the OIR data, growth in the faculty as reported in the email remains ambiguous because it is not clear where this growth is felt on campus.
He added that he was particularly struck by the penultimate paragraph of the report, which stated that Yale will need to achieve small increases in “productivity” each year to fund initiatives.
“It is unclear what future initiatives the administration has in mind — perhaps more overseas ventures such as Yale-NUS, or real estate such as West Campus, or other entrepreneurial attempts to turn Yale’s reputation into revenue,” Fischer said.