Smith Struggles With Financial Crisis, Computers

Before leading a discussion on the Faculty’s financial situation at a meeting in November, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith struggled for several minutes to convince his computer to display his pre-prepared slideshow on the subject.

“I’m a computer scientist, I should be able to make the computer work shouldn’t I?” said the computer science professor, fiddling with his laptop while a colleague loudly speculated from the Faculty floor that the Dean’s technology had been subject to financial cutbacks.

Before the situation was resolved, Smith unwittingly treated the audience to a picture of a vacation get-away in upstate New York that was set as his computer’s background.

“Somebody here must know what that is?” Smith asked.

“Tahoe?” someone wondered.

“Nope, I wish,” the dean responded.

“The Adirondacks?” another offered.

“Nope,” Smith said.

“The new plan for Allston,” someone speculated, drawing what the Faculty’s minutes for the meeting described as “thunderous laughter.”

To avoid similar difficulties yesterday, Smith literally took matters into his own hands, reverting to pen and paper to conduct his presentation on University finances. He also had the visual under control.

“Since you enjoyed my pictures so much last time, enjoy this one for a second while I get this set up,” said Smith, slipping a photo onto the projector and provoking low laughter from the Faculty. “Later, you can ask me what that actually is. You’ll have to figure it out.”

Taken in a forest in New Jersey, the picture showed a plaid-clad figure crouching on the roof of an outhouse. The figure was Smith himself, the dean later insisted. Upon close inspection, the photo was too fuzzy to verify the claim.

The scene quickly disappeared from the screens, replaced by white emptiness.

“So I’m going to, first and foremost, try to explain how we arrive at this gap of $100 to $130 million dollars,” Smith said.


During the question-and-answer period of yesterday’s meeting, Professor of Christian Morals Peter J. Gomes re-visited the issue of the next academic year’s calendar reform, which will see exams moved before winter break and the installation of a January ‘J-term.’

Gomes first raised questions about the impending calendar change at an October Faculty meeting, but yesterday he offered some fresh ideas about a potential link between the global financial crisis, the Faculty’s fiscal troubles, and the evils of the new calendar.

“I’d like to know what the connection is between the new J-Term and the recent deficit,” Gomes said after yesterday’s meeting. “The J-Term just seems to be symptomatic of all our problems.”

Likening the Administration’s plan for a separate three-week January Term to former United States President Richard Nixon’s plan to end the war on Vietnam, Gomes said he is alarmed by the path to self-destruction the University has undertaken.

“I didn’t sign on board the Titanic,” he said. “I’d like to know what it is: ‘The J-Plan.’”

—Staff Writer Christian B. Flow can be reached at

—Staff Writer Esther I. Yi can be reached at