Stress of 2009 Staff Cuts Lingers in FAS

Staff members across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences are reporting varying degrees of recovery from last year’s sweeping reductions in staff positions.

After facing the largest hit to the endowment in decades, the University announced the elimination of 275 staff positions in June 2009. An additional 531 staffers accepted an early retirement package offered by the University.

In interviews with The Crimson last week, staff workers across FAS said that high levels of stress have followed less than a year after the comprehensive staff reductions, even while many positions have been replaced.

“It’s been a challenge to pick up the slack,” said Helen Lewis, a staff assistant in the linguistics department, noting that employee streamlining has been a trend across the nation. “Of course that causes a lot of stress.”

Though the linguistics department’s small size prevented staff cuts, reduced hours have forced remaining staff members to fit the same amount of worknto a smaller time frame, according to Lewis.


One humanities administrator, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid conflict with her superiors, said that reductions in staff hours have imposed additional burdens on faculty members who find themselves performing administrative duties.

The individual added that cuts in budgets for meetings and food have limited the amount of time she spends with her colleagues and faculty members in the department.

“When you cut out that time,” the administrator said, “something is missing.”

The Classics Department was able to fill a position that had been left vacant when a staffer took the early retirement package, but the department has still faced the loss of “institutional knowledge” possessed by the individual, according to department administrator Theresa T. Wu.

Staff reductions have not been limited to academic departments. The College’s Office of Administration and Finance—members of which declined to comment—also lost two of its six staff members, and the Advising Programs Office and the Office of Student Life have been coping with staff streamlining.

“It meant that the people who were left behind really stepped up,” Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 said. “The staff commitment has been extraordinary.”

FAS Associate Dean Robert G. Doyle, who oversees five media and tech-related FAS services and a staff of 46 employees, said that while no full-time positions were cut, he eliminated all temporary positions and reduced what he described as the basic services that they typically performed.

But not all staffers said that cuts have strained their departments. In some of the larger academic departments, administrators were able to avoid laying off full-time positions.

For example, financial associate and program coordinator for the African and African American Studies Department Melissa B. Huser credited the balanced work level to the fact that her department did not lose any staff members last spring.

In addition to the restructuring, FAS is training administrators to use a new digital budgeting tool known as the Harvard University Budgeting Service.


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