A decade after the University acquired it in 2007, West Campus continues to generate expenses that exceed its revenue, and the gap is only growing. But faculty members and administrators contend that the growing deficit is not a cause for concern.
The University’s annual budget report, which was released earlier this semester and offered more information on the financial status of individual academic units and departments than any past report, revealed that West Campus is projected to earn $3.4 million and spend $44 million in fiscal 2018, resulting in a $40.6 million deficit. Moreover, the report shows the deficit has expanded every year since 2014, before which the report does not provide figures.
University Provost Benjamin Polak said it is not uncommon for costs to outweigh revenues for University departments. He explained that many units Yale administers, including the Yale University Art Gallery and athletics, regularly run negative operating budgets and rely on support from central funds.
“Yale University invests in its scholarly infrastructure. Central funds are provided to cover various aspects of West Campus expenses,” Vice President for West Campus Planning and Program Development Scott Strobel said. “Like all parts of the campus, the West Campus has a budget. We have been under that operating budget every year. We are not in deficit.”
Polak said that, in the budget book, income from grants and contracts generated by activities on West Campus often show up as revenues for other University units, such as the School of Medicine and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Andre Levchenko, director of Systems Biology Institute, one of seven interdisciplinary research institutes at West Campus, said his lab received a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Health last year, but the fund could have been listed under the School of Engineering & Applied Science.
However, some faculty are not as quick to dismiss the growing gap between costs and revenues for West Campus. Molecular, cellular and developmental biology professor Joel Rosenbaum said that part of the reason the gap between expenses and revenue for West Campus is so large is because of the challenges researchers face in securing federal grants.
Rosenbaum added that the new faculty members Yale has been able to hire since acquiring West Campus do not bring in sufficient grant support to make up for operational costs. The best chance West Campus has of shrinking its deficit is soliciting donations, Rosenbaum said.
“If you’re looking for a rescue for the West Campus via grant overhead, forget it for at least ten years, or until we have a president of the USA who is smart enough to appreciate what biomedical research is all about,” Rosenbaum said. “And even a decade may not pull us out of the research funding hole we are in.”
Over the past few years, as West Campus has gone further into the red, total salaries and benefits associated with West Campus have steadily risen from $6.7 million in fiscal 2014 to $10.9 million expected in fiscal 2018.
Strobel said that the rise in University spending on West Campus reflects the increasing number of faculty who have been hired.
“West Campus has made it possible to hire incremental faculty in over a dozen different departments across the University and strengthen and diversify science at Yale,” Strobel said.
But not everyone is equally enthusiastic about West Campus. A professor in the chemistry department, who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly, said West Campus has “perverse effects” on science education at Yale.
He explained that the long distance between West Campus and the rest of Yale can deter faculty members and students based in West Campus from interacting with their counterparts on the University’s main campus. For example, he said, faculty members on West Campus might not be accessible to students outside of office hours.
Levchenko said West Campus was the main reason he joined Yale from Johns Hopkins University and that it has helped him attract top researchers from Princeton and Harvard to work in his lab.
Chemistry professor Seth Herzon said the hiring opportunities made available by the Chemical Biology Institute at West Campus has significantly enhanced the chemistry department’s offerings.
Large spending is a must if Yale hopes to attract top talent, Herzon said.
“I don’t think [the money deficit] is a relevant question,” he said. “The University needs to look deep into its soul and ask if it wants to be a first-rate research or undergraduate teaching university.”
Yale acquired West Campus for $109 million in 2007.
Jingyi Cui | firstname.lastname@example.org