Current Issue

July15, 2009

Vol. 109, No. 16

Notebook

Impact of budget cuts to be felt across campus

By Alice Lloyd George ’09 and W. Raymond Ollwerther '71
Published in the July15, 2009, issue


Though administrators have vowed to protect “the core” of the University as they cut the budget by $170 million over two years, those cuts will be felt in many ways.

“This is an opportunity for us to rethink our priorities,” President Tilghman told alumni at Reunions, “and to eliminate some things that we were doing because we could — but aren’t necessarily the core of what makes the University such an important institution in the world.”

Administrators say they expect changes across campus:

Faculty: The size of the faculty, after years of steady increases to more than 1,000 fulltime and parttime positions, will begin to shrink. The number of visiting professors and postdocs has been reduced.

Student offerings: The number of academic courses will decline, though the University says that many of those eliminated have enrolled only a handful of students. There are no plans to cut any varsity athletic teams, but positions like “that third assistant coach” may be eliminated, Tilghman said.

Staff cuts: The University expects to eliminate 100 to 150 positions through attrition, a voluntary retirement-incentive program offered to 459 non-faculty employees this summer, and layoffs that are expected to take place this fall. Eligible for the retirement program are employees 55 and older whose age and years of service total at least 80.

Miscellaneous: There will be fewer campus conferences, and landscaping and classroom renovation projects will be sharply curtailed.

Excluding sponsored-research funding, about 15.5 percent will be cut from Princeton’s operating budget by the start of the 2010–11 year, Provost Christopher Eisgruber ’83 said. Individual departments have been given targets to cut their administrative budgets by about 7.5 percent. Depart-mental endowment spending is being cut by 8 percent in each of the next two years.

The University expects to save $22 million in compensation costs through a combination of eliminating vacant positions, cutting overtime, curtailing pay raises, reducing the number of visiting professors, and implementing the retirement program and layoffs.

No programs to encourage faculty turnover are being planned, Eisgruber said, but for the next few years, not every faculty opening will be filled. In those searches that are approved, more positions will be filled by junior faculty.

Faculty growth in recent years has been “more than enough to serve the increase in size of the student body,” the provost said, and classes will continue to offer students “an intense and intimate experience.”

Travel for academic research by undergraduates and graduate students should remain strong, Eisgruber said, noting that this area has been a high priority for alumni gifts.

Janet Dickerson, vice president for student life, said that “for the most part, students will not perceive major cuts,” but added that there will be somewhat less money for student-initiated projects and programs on campus.

One area that is increasing is student financial aid. The University provided $92 million in undergraduate financial aid during the 2008–09 year, $5 million more than originally budgeted. With 58 percent of undergraduates on financial aid in the coming year, that figure is expected to rise to $104 million. A 3 percent increase in graduate stipends will take effect as scheduled, according to William Russel, dean of the Graduate School.

While Princeton has halted most new construction projects until complete funding is available, Eisgruber said a major renovation of Firestone Library is expected to begin in the fall of 2010. Describing the 61-year-old library as “the heart of research at this University,” Eisgruber said safety, mechanical, and fire-suppression systems must be upgraded, and that it would be more cost-efficient to reconfigure the library’s interior at the same time. The project is expected to take at least 10 years and cost at least $100 million, he said.

Department and program chairmen contacted by PAW said they are planning to cut back on guest lecturers, visiting professors, and catered events. “There will be less sushi at department events, and fewer talks and conferences,” said David Howell ’89, chairman of the East Asian Studies department. “But supporting our students is the highest priority, so I don’t anticipate any cuts to graduate-student support or programs that directly affect core undergraduate activities.”

At the Princeton Environmental Institute, associate director Katharine Hackett said the reduction in visiting faculty will limit courses “in new and emerging topic areas.” She said PEI also is reducing summer internships and will host fewer large-scale events.

Margaret M. Miller ’80, assistant vice president for alumni affairs, said Reunions and Alumni Day events will not be affected by the budget cuts. She said the Alumni Association has saved money by moving to electronic voting for alumni trustees (paper ballots are available on request), and staff travel will be reduced.

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CURRENT ISSUE: July15, 2009