Every year for the past four years, Classics professor Andrew Johnston has encouraged students taking his ancient history and Roman culture courses to spend their summers participating in a renowned archaeological excavation project at the ancient city of Gabii in Italy, where Johnston runs the field school.

But every year, Johnston has watched as dozens of interested students are denied the chance to do so due to a lack of financial support — despite the more-than-$50,000 annual budget of the Tarbell Fund, an endowed Classics departmental fund specifically designated “for the support of instruction in classical archaeology.”

Instead of funding students to join the archaeological excavation as its indenture, or contract, specifies, almost all of the Tarbell Fund’s budget this year will go to paying for repair work in Phelps Hall, according to Classics department chairman Kirk Freudenburg. Other endowed funds in the department have also been redirected to pay for the University’s general budget, Classics professors interviewed said.

At a Nov. 18 Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate meeting, Freudenburg presented a report criticizing the administration’s “aggressive” financial strategy over the past eight years of appropriating his department’s restricted, endowed funds for purposes he said do not align with how donors intended the money to be used. Regular departmental expenses, such as librarian salaries and faculty research budgets — which had previously been paid from the University’s central administrative budget — are instead being paid with the department’s restricted funds. In total, Freudenburg said, the department has paid more than one million dollars toward these departmental expenses since 2008. Other Classics professors interviewed confirmed that what they described as an administrative “raid” on funds is damaging the quality of the department.

“When I came to Yale 10 years ago, I did so under the impression that we were expected to stand toe to toe with our competition by doing exceptional things, by having big ideas, developing programs, providing magnificent opportunities for our students and so on,” Freudenburg said at the senate meeting. “In fact, for the past several years, the only bold initiatives I have been able to undertake as chair of Classics have had to do with finding ways to eliminate and slash away at the very things that have helped make the Department of Classics at Yale one of the best in the country.”

In his presentation, Freudenburg referred primarily to former University President Richard Levin’s “all funds” budgeting initiative, which was instituted after the 2008 financial crisis to compensate for the drop in the University’s endowment and remains in place today. The budgeting strategy stipulates that more restricted funds — such as departmentally endowed funds — should be used before less restricted funds for the most effective deployment of resources, according to FAS Dean Tamar Gendler. Freudenburg, however, said the administration’s centralization of his department’s endowed funds has severely damaged its ability to do “important and necessary things” for the department’s students. He said the all funds budgeting model should no longer be used, as the endowment has fully recovered since the recession, and he recommended that the FAS Senate hold the administration accountable for its use of departmental funds — not only in the Classics department, but also in many other departments at the University.

Gendler, who said she has not been given a detailed version of Freudenburg’s remarks, defended the use of all funds budgeting. She said using more restricted funds before less restricted funds is a method for “responsible stewardship” of University resources and provides support for the University’s core academic mission.

Still, Freudenburg’s report extensively detailed how the all funds budgeting initiative has crippled his department’s finances. For example, starting from the spring of 2008, the department has been required to pay a Capital Allocation tax — essentially rent for the offices in Phelps Hall, Freudenburg said. The amount was supposed to be capped at $50,000 a year but has now risen to more than $57,000. Freudenberg called the tax “odd,” describing it as asking the department to pay for “being a department and doing our jobs.” In 2010, the department became responsible for paying for all research funds for almost all of the department’s members, and in 2011 it was tasked with paying a significant portion of the salary and benefits of Classics Librarian Colin McCaffrey. These expenses had previously always been paid by the administration, according to the report. Other added expenses include the salary and benefits of an administrative assistant in the Yale University Art Gallery, the stipend of a graduate student and the salary of the department’s lecturers.

However, Freudenburg noted that the amount of money the department has had to pay is not the only concern. He said the administration is taking advantage of loopholes in the restricted funds’ indentures. For example, the Horatio Reynolds Fund stipulates that no part of the fund may be applied to salaries of teaching staff. But the indenture makes no stipulation about librarians, so the administration used the fund to pay for the Classics Library librarian. Because of these financial maneuvers, Freudenburg said, the department’s largest fund, the Martin Kellogg Fund, is projected to run a deficit next year — the first in its history.

“Donors need to be warned: Leave any small opening in whatever indenture you write, and this administration will drive a truck through it,” Freudenburg said. “The financial details that I have laid out above suggest that donors’ intentions are not treated as priorities by this administration, but as obstacles to be gotten around.”

Other Classics professors confirmed the impact the all funds budgeting system has had on the department’s students and faculty. Professor Emily Greenwood, the former Classics director of undergraduate studies, said Classics majors are missing out on opportunities to join excavation projects and visit overseas museums. There has also been a decrease in the number, range and ambition of conferences and colloquia hosted by the department. Greenwood added that faculty members have been forced to shelve many exciting initiatives due to financial constraints, and that these impacts will damage the department’s profile over time.

“As a department we do an excellent job with what we have, but it would be dishonest to pretend that areas of our teaching and research have not been undermined by the raid on our endowed funds,” Greenwood said. 

Johnston said that a few years ago, the department could support any qualified, deserving Yale student who wanted to participate in the Gabii excavation project. Now, however, the department can only partially support two students at most. He said the administration has “handcuffed” the faculty and students by taking away the department’s resources. 

Speaking more generally, Greenwood said there needs to be clear accountability when endowed funds are appropriated into the general budget, as well as a restoration of these funds when a budget surplus returns.

“An important part of the University’s financial ethos is … the safeguarding and shepherding of the endowment so that future generations of students and faculty can benefit from Yale’s academic and intellectual culture,” she said. “Depleting endowed funds in Classics and other departments and programs is a breach of this ethos; this is to condemn future generations of students to less excellent academic training.”

The Classics Library contains a working collection of over 25,000 noncirculating volumes.

  • concerned

    The growing collection of legal manipulations unleashed by Yale admins against departmental students and advanced scholarship is wholly disgusting. But there can be absolutely no wonder about the path of corruptions to scholarly ethos at Yale: the current chief of the Yale Corporation has personally eschewed the scholarly disciplines as “learning more and more about less and less.”

    • ldffly

      This is what has bothered me for years. I have been contending that the attitudes of the Corporation are very different from those of previous decades. The quote you reference is something one is very likely to hear from a state university curator. The statement is utter nonsense, but he must have a constituency.

      • concerned

        Far more than nonsense, today it threatens a knowledge-based economy. But plenty of wealth will still come for corporations legally permitted to globally exploit peoples and natural resources, so no biggie, for some. I see this as cut from the same cloth as the Yale-NUS enterprise–graduate departments not needed for the “college” experience.

    • eyequeue

      I wasn’t able to confirm this quote, disturbing as it is. Can you tell us where we can read it in context?

      • concerned

        It slipped out in some published material on the officer’s background–to explain a move to law school.

  • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

    Classics? What possible political agenda could Classics further?

    • Jonny-O

      Interestingly, classics has actually tried very hard in that respect. Emily Greenwood, from what I hear, deals with race in reception and is a very active faculty member in such dealings. They have people who work on gender and slavery and all kinds of things that should work into that.

      • Lucretia

        “Political” and “agenda” are words that derive from Greek and Latin, respectively. To understand what the political is, you have to study classical history and philosophy.

        • ldffly

          I agree. However, consider that in the 2015-2016 undergraduate course list, the Yale Philosophy Department has a course on Aristotle, one on Plato, but none on the modern political thinkers, with the exception of two on critical theory, which is a variant on Marxism.
          Interestingly, if you go to YouTube and the Yale courses, you will find that the classical political philosophers and the modern political thinkers, are presented in courses run by the Political Science Department. Not by Classics and not by Philosophy. Very disappointing.

  • http://pobox.com/~flash Flash Sheridan

    Not that I’m planning to die soon, and I doubt I’ll have as much money to leave as Tarbell, but I do mention Yale in my will, and this certainly makes me less likely to trust Yale the next time I revise it.

  • Pitmaster

    Yet overnight, there magically appears plenty of money to throw at cultural centers and fund “faculty diversity initiatives” — presto. Maybe the Classics department should rebrand itself as a cultural center.

    • Elliewho

      I posted this response on an earlier thread but I want to repeat it:

      In 2010, Yale administrators, facing a budget shortfall, started combing through gift agreements, some centuries old, to see where they could legally siphon money off for financial aid and other expenses. Admins contended that the language of many agreements gave them the latitude to use the money for other purposes. Yale prizes, awards for excellence in fields ranging from Latin study and translation, English prizes for fiction, and senior essays in economics, are now mostly capped at $1000, where many were once substantial. I suspect that Salovey may have Yale lawyers and money managers look again at lowering prize money or perhaps even do away with the cash award altogether, leaving them merely as honorifics. After all, these prizes, which were established to recognize excellence in scholarship and single out the best students majoring in math, or the best essay in political philosophy and theory, only serve to make “marginalized” students feel bad about themselves and continue to glorify the “oppressor/white supremacists” who established said prizes.

      http://yaledailynews.com/blog/

      • 100wattlightbulb

        This is absolutely it in a nutshell.

      • ldffly

        Does anyone have the legal firepower to take Yale (and other universities) on in their dismal use of endowed monies? Legal action should have been taken during the Levin administration over the gross misuse of the various prize funds. Of course, it wasn’t because it would be very time consuming and expensive.

        I keep asking, where is the faculty. They must know better than to acquiesce to these shenanigans.

      • branford73

        It was/is nothing less than theft and I said so at the time. But the University was safe from litigation because the donors were dead and had no surviving family members who cared about the theft. Neither state prosecutors nor federal district attorneys, being political animals themselves, have any interest in an issue that has no constituents.

        I have thought for awhile that someone could create a successful business by organizing donors of means who would like to endow their favorite university departments with dedicated prize money for students or special department moneys. There has to be a legal structure, like a foundation, which could be created to have a continuing existence and fiduciary duty to maintain the original intent of the donors after their deaths— and to sue universities which engage in this kind of theft.

        • ldffly

          A great idea. This is one of those times when I wish I were a lawyer. If I were, I’d get started on this right away.

    • je2016

      Even if you object, this is small potatoes. The big money goes for dozens of new administrators.

  • koko

    A tangential rant.

    Reading these articles, I always get the impression that Yale is the worst school around–indeed, many of the administration’s actions seem craven and hypocritical–yet Yalies are consistently more satisfied than students of other schools.

    It’s possible that the “satisfaction data” does not reflect reality, but that disparity should affect all schools alike.

    Perhaps Yale has given everyone soporifics, so most people cannot see it for what it is. Or someone convinces Yalies to rate the school highly. Or Yale admits and woos the students who will rate the “Yale experience” highly. But if one thinks that Yale differs from Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, or Swarthmore in the way of propaganda, he presupposes that Yale is more insidious and subtler than its “peer schools,” most (if not all) of which boast “less satisfied” students. And the administrators here don’t seem particularly subtle or crafty. I’m ambivalent about Yale College and feel no need to overrate the school. In truth, the fact that Yale is “Yale” makes me judge the school harsher. Perhaps I have a stronger and more independent mind than others, but I doubt that.

    • Lucretia

      Student “satisfaction” surveys are bogus overall, since undergrads are too young and unworldly to know what really makes for a great education. Ask people how they feel about their undergrad education when they’re 50 for a real assessment.

      • ldffly

        True. And that was my opinion when I was a student. I hated filling out assessments.

  • disqus_fvLIBK8ktD

    I find this neglect of donors’ intent and reallocation of funds by the administration shocking. Unlike the Bass family with their huge gift to the school, these donors seem to be dead so can’t now rescind their gifts.

  • 100wattlightbulb

    Yale is becoming one big disappointment.

  • Jonny-O

    As someone in the know about these things peripherally from friends, the classics department over the past several years has actually made a huge amount of cuts for visiting lecturers, graduate student research possibilities (and classics grads are almost never funded by the graduate school, since classics is perceived as a well-off department, so there aren’t many places they can turn but their dept), cuts to staff budgets and research, library acquisitions, technology, all to maintain as much as they can for undergrads and grads and pay the “rent” Yale charges them for Phelps, a building that is in a much sadder state of neglect than any of the undergraduate housing. Classics actually has a surprisingly good level of fiscal management and a willingness to economize to make ends meet, but the university seems to be taking advantage of that fact and that willingness by going after more and more of their funds. I’m glad that Freudenberg is taking them to task and has the courage to say “enough is enough”; the administration more than deserves it. The fact that classics has to cut research and is having serious funding issues that didn’t exist in the past to maintain the fabric of its building makes the university seem like a terrible slumlord, taking the rent check and raising it every year and then telling the tenants to fix the plumbing from their own pockets.

  • Yirmin

    And so it goes… the makers of the buggy whips still have realized that no one needs their product anymore.

  • Jonny-O

    As someone in the know about these things peripherally from friends, the classics department over the past several years has actually made a huge amount of cuts for visiting lecturers, graduate student research possibilities (and classics grads are almost never funded by the graduate school, since classics is perceived as a well-off department, so there aren’t many places they can turn but their dept), cuts to staff budgets and research, library acquisitions, technology, all to maintain as much as they can for undergrads and grads and pay the “rent” Yale charges them for Phelps, a building that is in a much sadder state of neglect than any of the undergraduate housing. Classics actually has a surprisingly good level of fiscal management and a willingness to economize to make ends meet, but the university seems to be taking advantage of that fact and that willingness by going after more and more of their funds. I’m glad that Freudenberg is taking them to task and has the courage to say “enough is enough”; the administration more than deserves it. The fact that classics has to cut research and is having serious funding issues that didn’t exist in the past to maintain the fabric of its building makes the university seem like a terrible slumlord, taking the rent check and raising it every year and then telling the tenants to fix the plumbing from their own pockets.

    • ldffly

      Is the following a reasonable piece of speculation? That the administration would like to jettison or severely shrink academic departments that probably can never bring in much outside money. Obviously, it’s been a long long time since Classics had the normative position in the curriculum that it had in decades past. So I wonder if administrators see it as little more than a curio of old academe.

      Before anyone thinks that this sort of rationale would never apply at Yale, I would point to this. In the late 1980s, when Yale was in much worse financial condition, there was talk of either shrinking engineering or killing it. (Of course, there was no follow through.) One concern was that the program was very expensive to run. Another was that graduates were not returning monies to the university in the quantity desired by the administration; a concern that was backed up by what was described at the time as the limited lifetime earning power of an engineer. (If compared to law or medicine, that was certainly true.)
      This foolishness was not pursued. Yet why was it even a position in the discussion of “What do we do with engineering?” So watch out. This frame of mind exists at the new Yale and if it were to build a strong enough constituency, it could do damage,

      • Jonny-O

        Interestingly, from what I know from people in the department, classics actually generates a lot of money, at least for themselves. They recently closed in on money for a new teaching position for a historian, and established a new teaching award with donor funds. They regularly go and promote the department to bring in more donors, and to look at their newsletter, they seem to be doing a good job of getting donations. Even though it is not a central curriculum contributor, their upper level classes seem to have very high enrollment rates, but you may be right that admin wants to do away with them. They have an especially strong graduate program. They are also specifically invested in not appearing as a fossil, with faculty hires that center on those working on issues of current interest, like gender, slavery, and race/reception. If after all that the administration is gunning for them, then I can’t think of much else they could do.

        • ldffly

          If they are able to bring in money, very good. I certainly am not in the camp that sees Classics as a fossil. So that makes me very hopeful that the department can successfully combat the administration.
          Once again, my worry is that this might be a sign of negative attitudes within the administration and Corporation. I hope I’m wrong.

  • ShadrachSmith

    You are questioning Social Justice Warriors?

  • annette

    Donors beware…

  • Lucretia

    As a Yale Classics alum, I’m appalled at this raiding of funds specifically intended to support classical studies, research, travel, etc. Classics is at the core of all Arts & Sciences disciplines and deserves to flourish at a university like Yale, not be forced to run a bare-bones program. My own undergrad experience of going on an archaeological dig in Italy was formative of my whole world outlook, and I believe today’s students should not be denied this — especially when funds have been donated for it!! And as for Phelps Hall, this major New Haven landmark should be maintained by Yale as one of the jewels in its architectural crown, not used for squeezing rent money out of old donors’ bequests.

  • Jonny-O