Christie Yu

A recent report from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate called on the University to increase the amount of attention it pays and the resources it allocates to the FAS and Yale College.

The FAS Senate publicly released an abbreviated version of its Research and Scholarly Excellence Report last Wednesday. The Senate’s Committee on Faculty Advancement drafted the recommendations based on the results of a faculty questionnaire, publicly available statistics and interviews with chairs of 12 of the largest FAS departments. The survey found that many faculty members worry that their respective departments are not among the highest-ranked in the country and feel that the university is “too cautious in its spending,” despite boasting an impressive endowment, according to the report. The report pointed to a decline in the number of FAS ladder faculty members from 688 in the 2010-2011 academic year to 658 in the 2017-2018 academic year, while the number of the FAS ladder faculty in peer institutions has grown.

“The bottom line was quite disturbing that Yale has not kept up with the competition,” William Nordhaus, chair of the FAS Senate and economic professor, said. “The other universities have been quite aggressive. … Yale, I believe, has become quite distracted and has not paid as much attention to Yale College and the FAS.”

The Senate report offers a variety of recommendations: it suggests that the University should dedicate an additional $40 million per year to increase faculty compensation; that departments should be subject to external reviews and regular self-assessments; and that the University should increase the number of FAS faculty members. According to Nordhaus, the report is an “important piece of research.”

In an email to the News, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Tamar Gendler said that she and other administrators want the academics departments in the FAS to be “among the strongest in the world in their fields of study.”

Still, she added that University President Peter Salovey’s academic priorities already reflect the University’s investment in the “arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences and engineering.” As examples, she cited the ongoing transformation of 320 York Street into a Humanities hub, the creation of the Tobin Center for Economic Policy intended to further Yale’s research in the field and the numerous ongoing investments in the science and engineering.

“I am grateful to the committee and share their commitment to excellence in the FAS faculty,” Gendler said. “The FAS Dean’s office has been working on precisely the issues raised in the report for the last five years, and will continue to do so.”

The public release of the Faculty Excellence report comes just months after the 2016-2018 Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty issued a strong recommendation that the University increase the salaries of FAS ladder faculty.

The 71-page report found that Yale salaries were on par with those of peer institutions’ from 1998 to 2009 but that the salaries of full FAS professors fell 5 percent by 2016 relative to those at peer institutions. Both reports — the CESOF report and the latest Senate report — corroborate a long-standing belief that Yale faculty pay has fallen relative to peer institutions over the past decade.

“To maintain Yale’s status as one of the greatest universities in the world you have to have one of the greatest faculties in the world, and it’s hard to do that if you’re not keeping up salary wise and size wise,” said John Geanakoplos ’75, economics professor and co-chair of the Committee on Faculty Advancement.

Geanakoplos declined to comment on where the University’s money was being allocated instead of going towards the development of FAS. Nordhaus also did not “want to pick on a particular place,” but he said the University attention has been placed on venues such as “international priorities, West Campus” and “everywhere else.”

The committee released the full report, which holds confidential information such as personal anecdotes from professors regarding their assessments of their departments, to the faculty in December 2018. Geanakoplos said he suspects the full report will one day be public.

Maureen Long, professor of geology and geophysics and an FAS senator, said the findings of the report are a critical reminder that the FAS, Yale College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences should be “central priorities for the University.” She said that Salovey’s 2015 announcement —  which guaranteed the University would devote $50 million to “enhance the excellence of its faculty by building diversity” — was a solid starting point but that it did not fully compensate for the current FAS faculty salary deficit.

“We all care deeply about making Yale a place where the faculty can thrive as scholars, and do their best and most important scholarly work,” Long wrote in an email to the News. “I hope the report helps to place new emphasis on the need to recruit and retain the best faculty to the Yale FAS.”

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate was established in 2015.

Carly Wanna | carly.wanna@yale.edu