A recent Yale Daily News article referred to the number of managerial and professional, or M&P, staff on campus and quoted a small number of faculty who disparaged the contributions they make to our university. I take strong exception to any view of Yale that privileges the needs of our students and faculty while dismissing the invaluable contributions of any of our staff.
As a faculty member with a research laboratory, I have long had a sense of the valuable role played by administrative staff, but it wasn’t until I became provost in 2020, with responsibility for getting the University through a pandemic, that I fully saw the contributions of our staff colleagues.
Throughout this pandemic, I have been grateful for what students and faculty have done to advance the teaching, research and practice missions of the university, by transitioning to remote instruction, by finding creative solutions to continue their scholarship and by continuing to mentor each other during this once-in-a-generation crisis.
But this transition of our work did not occur just because faculty and students ably did their part. It occurred also because hundreds of expert staff colleagues made sure every part of the infrastructure vital to our work as scholars and learners operated effectively in radically different circumstances, and under emotionally trying conditions. An incomplete list of the roles played by our M&P staff include: residential college deans, lead administrators, nurses, clinical practice managers, research associates, dining hall managers, librarians, human resource generalists and mental health counselors.
I have seen how, just like faculty and students, every Yale staff member had their work altered during this period. They met rapidly shifting needs with agility, creativity and determination. They accepted roles that previously did not exist and did this on top of their non-pandemic responsibilities, often while juggling the unique child and dependent care needs brought on by the pandemic.
- Our staff colleagues designed and built from scratch viral testing, contact tracing and vaccination programs.
- Our staff colleagues found ways to deliver health care remotely, created an IT infrastructure for remote work and testing compliance and remodeled and prepared our campus so that it was a safe place for faculty and students to engage in our scholarship.
- Our staff colleagues made it possible for our classrooms, libraries and laboratories to function, while ensuring that our shuttles, utilities, facilities and emergency management services continued to sustain and power the university.
- Our staff colleagues helped our faculty transition their courses to an online environment, communicated critical public health information locally and globally, engaged our alumni and managed all the human resource challenges that the pandemic has created.
- Our staff colleagues found creative ways to feed our resident students, reopen our residential colleges so undergraduate students from around the world could return to their Yale-home and continue with their education and took extraordinary measures to support our students’ well-being.
- Our staff colleagues ensured our bills were paid and our financial resources properly managed. They procured critical life-saving medical supplies despite supply chain challenges, maintained the security of the campus and helped support the needs of our home city.
Many of our administrative staff colleagues did essential work on campus throughout the pandemic that could not be done remotely. While I and many of my faculty colleagues could continue our work from home, many of our staff were on our campus, in our buildings and with our students. Staff have been essential workers on the front lines, readying campus for our safe return when the appropriate time came.
As a university we are rightly focused on reinforcing a culture of inclusion and belonging at Yale. I affirm that our staff colleagues belong here. Their contributions are different from those of faculty, but make no mistake; Without them, none of our work would be possible. Our staff are every bit as committed to advancing the academic missions of the university as those who hold the title of professor or student. No matter one’s title, we must recognize the vital role all members of our community play in our shared success.
The YDN article incorrectly implied that M&P staff growth is out of control and out of proportion. The facts here are important. Between 2002-2020, the faculty grew by approximately 54 percent, while the M&P staff grew by approximately 45 percent and revenues by almost 200 percent. In other words, the growth in M&P staff has been slower than the growth in faculty and the growth of both groups has occurred during a period of increasing scholarly ambition.
Our staff colleagues — including the university’s administrative leadership — have made a choice to do their life’s work and apply their talents here because they believe in Yale’s mission. I have highlighted their contributions during the COVID-19 period, but this is not a COVID story. Nor is this a story about just our M&P staff. These pandemic efforts by all our staff colleagues are a powerful manifestation of how their work makes possible the realization of our students’ and faculty members’ scholarly ambitions. Their pandemic work is just the most recent example of how their contributions are essential to making Yale a bold, diverse, vibrant, thoughtful and ambitious community of scholars. I am proud to work alongside them. Our university is strengthened by their efforts and I offer my deepest thanks to them for all that they do.
SCOTT STROBEL is the university provost and the Henry Ford II professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry and a professor of chemistry.