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The Dartmouth
May 30, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Depts. adjust to recent cuts

Six months after the College indicated that it would be implementing a mandatory five percent cut in all departmental operating budgets for the 2003 fiscal year, every department has successfully reduced its non-compensational operating costs and is preparing for another five percent reduction next year. However, according to most department chairs, the actual budget reductions have been, for the most part, bearable.

Compounding these across-the-board departmental reductions, many of the departments were also informed that their courses were effectively being paired down, and departments are now rearranging their course offerings to accommodate the decrease in the number of courses.

"We are proceeding along as frugally as we always have," said Laura-Ann Petitto, chair of the education department. "The quality of service to students has not suffered. We just make fewer phone calls."

For already small budgets such as that of the education department and the Russian department, the cuts were realized by making minor reductions in multiple budget items. Both chairs reported no impact on service to students.

Larger departments, such as the anthropology and biology departments, had to make substantially greater reductions to shave off the required five percent, but many were able to account for the lost funds by utilizing endowment surpluses from previous years.

"Some of the things we had previously paid for out of the budget were given funds from the endowment," anthropology department chair Kirk Endicott said. "It hasn't really harmed what we can do, but that's because we have the luck of plenty of people leaving money to this department."

For the biology department, this year's cut totaled $15,000, according to department chair Mark McPeek. However, those cuts were "such a small fraction of the total budget" that they were easily absorbed, according to McPeek.

He added that many alumni had been very generous to the biology department recently, and that they had a nice "nest egg to draw on to buffer the shock."

A far greater problem for the biology department is the sum of money taken by the College out of one of its endowments. According to McPeek the College took $480,000 from one of the biology endowments, categorizing the sum as "unspent endowment surplus." The particular endowment affected was used for funding undergraduate research, some graduate research, and major equipment purchases, McPeek said.

While the research money has been relatively unaffected, the loss of such a large sum of money from the endowment leaves McPeek and the department, "just sitting here waiting for something big to break, and we won't be able to replace it," he said.

However, many departments do not have large endowments, and though no department reported any serious trouble finding five percent to cut, Endicott said that it would have been substantially harder for his department to find places where he would feel comfortable cutting that much money from the budget without the support of the endowment.

"Some departments can't tap their endowments for these purposes, and some don't have endowments," Endicott said. "For them it would have been much harder."

The cognitive sciences and linguistics department was one of the departments that could not rely on endowments to supplement the cuts. Instead, as a department, they prioritized and made small across-the-board cuts to make the five percent decrease.

"We chose to protect two aspects of our budget: the money for students, and the money for bringing in lectures," said Lindsay Whaley, chair of the department. "Those were sacred. For the rest of the budget we just cut a little from a lot of places."

The only noticeable effects of the cuts will be less money available for small equipment purchases and less money for books and reference materials in the department.

While many departments were relatively unharmed by this year's five percent cut, the more substantial complaints involved the cutting of classes.

Most of the course cuts occurred in humanities departments, with English reporting three classes lost, comparative literature two classes, and multiple other departments having lost one class, including Endicott's anthropology department.

"Losing courses across the College means more students in each course, fewer courses in the ORC, and it is troublesome to the faculty-student ratio," said John Kopper, chair of the comparative literature department.

For the anthropology department, the College reduced their total course offerings from 27 to 26. But because the department has such deep endowments they were given the option to "buy back" the course from the College for $12,000 dollars, according to Endicott.

"We were given the option to buy back that course -- at a cost of $12,000 each year -- by taking money from our general program endowment," he said. "So this year we did bring back our 27th course."

However, according to the chairs of other departments who lost courses, this option was not offered to everyone.

For some departments the concern is not the cuts within the department but rather those to other school resources, such as the libraries.

"Our main concern is the Sherman library," said Ada Cohen, chair of the art history department, which is housed in the same building as the Sherman Library. "The staffing in Sherman is going to be much reduced. The impact is already visible."

The College has even discussed consolidating many of the smaller libraries on campus such as Sherman and Kresge into the Baker/Berry Library.

This process may begin this summer, according to Cohen, against the wishes of the art history department when the art history reserve section is moved from Sherman to Baker.

According to many of the department chairs contacted, most departments are willing to work with the College making reductions where they can be made, but the faculty is less willing to make these cuts when they are forced upon them.

"No chairs were informed in advance," Kopper said, referring to the original decision to make reductions in each department. "None of us had any warning. The faculty just wants input in where the cuts will be made."