Duke to cut faculty for first time in financial crisis!!!!

Chronicle editorial analyzes last week's announcement of a crunch in the Arts and Sciences. Fact Checker posts in response.

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✔Good day fellow Dukies. Fact Checker here.

What is surprising about the announcement from Dean Crumbliss is the depth of the cuts in the Faculty of the Arts and Sciences that lie ahead.

✔ Hopefully attrition will reduce numbers, no goal specified. The word layoffs was not used, but the thought was there.

Faculty -- like all Duke employees -- are in the second year of a wage freeze, but this is the first time in the financial meltdown that regular rank faculty members will be impacted with cuts like those that have already ravaged staff positions. This is a big, negative turn, cutting into the heart of the academy, cutting into both time-frames that President Brodhead has talked about: our short term focus and long term ambition.

✔ The impact will be exacerbated because 35 faculty (the symbol for more or less was used, so this is an approximate number) were hired in recent years even though there was no money in the A and S budget; Crumbliss revealed for the first time that the Provost has been paying these salaries and fringe benefits out of his slush fund.

But that is coming to an end, and these people will be transferred to the regular A and S budget where they will land with a thud.

✔ Any new recruiting to fill holes will be aimed at cheaper assistant professors.

Duke does not release official salary figures; the American Association of University Professors survey for the last academic year showed male full professors averaging $164,700 and assistant professors $96,300. Female full professors averaged $146,800, assistant professors $79,500. The numbers are for nine month contracts. Yes, the disparity between men and women is that big. Question: will Duke also seek out cheaper female labor?

✔ For the first time a University official has stated that the financial crisis will continue into the 2012-2013 academic year.

President Brodhead announced a "smaller Duke" on March 1, 2009, and his timetable was widely interpreted to mean a three year adjustment to a sustainable position. Indeed, the Trustees responded by appropriating extra funds from the endowment to cover deficits for three transition years, which in the current year (the second) total $72 million. (See further discussion of this below)

We will not emerge from the red ink as hoped at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year. And FC would add, at this point, who knows when!

✔ Chambliss spoke for the Arts and Sciences, where the overwhelming element is Trinity College. There was no word on any other part of the University.

But there is no reason to suggest A and S exists in bad times, while the rest of this place thrives. More announcements ahead.

✔ There was no mention of any cutback in administrative blubber. As incredible as it sounds, Crumbliss announced appointment of another potentate.

Crumbliss explained there is a need "to clarify the working relationship between the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences, the Dean of Academic Affairs of Arts & Sciences, and the Dean and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education."

In other words, Allen Building is in chaos, people with similar sounding titles stepping on each other's turf. Fact Checker's solution would be to fire two of them.

However, Lee Baker, currently top academic dean in Trinity, will move up a notch on the others, putting the title Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education after his name. Baker, a cultural anthropologist, thus becomes one of the most important -- or more accurately one of the few -- black leaders on the academic side of Duke, a meteoric rise from his March, 2006 role in the lynch mob known as the Group of 88 during the lacrosse hoax.

This also means a consolidation of power under Nowicki. Hell, what's a vice provost if he does not have an associate vice provost!

Fact Checker, Fact Checker, here is a question. Why did you use the word "blubber?"

Well, Loyal Readers, let's have the roll call of academic Deans of Trinity College, not counting people like judicial Dean Bryan who is not academic. Not counting Pratt Engineering and so forth. Not counting the Vice Provosts, the Associate Vice Provosts, nor the Deans of Arts and Sciences who cover more than Trinity College.

Just the academic deans of Trinity:



19!!!!!!!! I wish there were that many Deputy Fact Checkers!!!

My fellow Dukies, the financial situation is of great concern to FC, but so is the way this announcement was made.

This was major, not something to be slipped into a routine report of the Dean at a meeting of elected faculty members watching over the governance of one segment of the University.

Not something to be announced by a new Dean appointed to a one-year term, filling in.

Fact Checker declaration of principle: President Brodhead should have made this announcement.

It should have been made to all stakeholders.

It is another failure of communication during the fiscal crisis, the type of Presidential isolation that drew two blistering Chronicle editorials last spring about Brodhead's leadership.

In the overview, the dismal announcement makes FC wonder what Trustee Chair Dan Blue was referring to after February's Trustee meeting when he declared "The University is in a sound position financially..." You may recall Fact Checker's challenge, since this rosy assessment emerged just five months after Blue declared we were in "dire financial strait."

My Fellow Dukies, please remember Brodhead's e-mail to alumni last April 21, outlining strategy he had followed in the fiscal crisis:

"In the planning, care was taken to preserve our core commitment to financial aid, to sustain the quality of the student experience, and to continue the hiring of outstanding faculty."

So much for continued hiring. Their numbers will now be few few and far far between.

Indeed Duke has been on a hiring binge: In the 2000-01 academic year, all of Duke had 2,159 "regular rank" faculty. The last official numbers are outdated now; they show that by 2009-2010, this had exploded to 2,877.

Not sustainable.

As for the Arts and Sciences, the Dean for the past five years has been George McLendon, lured from Princeton with great fanfare. When he was passed over in favor of Nowicki to be Supreme Undergraduate Commander, he got a consolation prize adding the title Dean of Trinity College, but still word went out that he was shopping his resume.

In April, McLendon gave short notice he was going to Rice as provost, and Brodhead and Lange scrambled and prevailed upon Crumbliss -- a chemistry professor for 40 years and a minor Dean -- to postpone a dream semester's sabbatical in Genoa and become interim Dean for one year.

(Footnote: paid sabbaticals should not be given to professors at the end of their careers, just before retirement, when Duke will reap no continuing benefit. We have a money crunch and higher priorities. Sabbaticals should also be accorded only for clear connection to academics, which is to ask, why Genoa for a chemist? )

With the announcement from Rice, Duke's Provost Lange promptly sent out an e-mail that praised McLendon for an "ambitious strategic vision... that started with a successful effort to expand and renew the faculty" of Arts and Sciences. Continuing, Lange said “More than 130 new faculty members have come to Duke in the past six years (since Duke lured McLendon from Princeton to be Dean of Arts and Sciences). By new, FC believes the Provost means "additional."

Indeed, saying goodbye to the Arts and Science Council, McLendon said his proudest moment was adding faculty.

To put this in perspective, the Arts and Sciences have 645 professors now, apparently meaning six years ago the total was 515 and the expansion was 25 percent. Caveat: FC cannot confirm the 515 figure.

Suddenly, Duke realizes it cannot sustain the crowd.

If all this is news to you, it's also news to Crumbliss.

Newly appointed, he told the the Chronicle (6/30/2010) that he looked forward to hiring more faculty. “I don’t see any drastic direction changes,” Crumbliss explained.

✔Crumbliss got a key point wrong in his address -- and I would sure like to know who fed him this myth. The new Dean said Duke's budget this year is "balanced," a term that Trask has also used.

Stand up and shout, "I read Fact Checker. You are not going to fool me!!!"

The over-all budget has $72 million in red ink, covered by a special withdrawal from the endowment, a withdrawal over and above what's normal.

And in addition the budget for undergraduate financial aid is being sustained only because we are taking 28 percent more money out of the endowment each year than the otherwise prudent Trustee formula allows. There is no free lunch: money we spend today is money that we are not leaving future generations as we should.

The University budget for the current fiscal year is just under $2 billion, with $300 million allocated to Arts and Sciences. In other words, A and S gets about 15 percent, and if you were to assign a portion of the deficit of $72 million to A and S, although this not the way budget decisions are made, it would be roughly $10 million.

✔✔✔Let's look forward. All stakeholders in this University -- students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff, friends -- are entitled to far more information than the Brodhead Administration has been providing about the meltdown.

The information must be timely -- not 11 months late like some of the financial reports dealing with the 2008-09 fiscal year made available last summer.

We must be able to ask questions to be able to understand that which is not clear. People like Executive Vice President Trask and PR vice president Schoenfeld should answer all their email -- or find jobs elsewhere where their selective help only to people who sing Brodhead's praises would be appropriate.

Fact Checker foresees many lean years and intense competition for new dollars, choices that often have a moral component.

For example, do we break the two year freeze by raising everyone at the same percentage; or do we freeze faculty salaries for another year and accord a higher percentage increase to our lower-paid employees who have taken the brunt of the fiscal crisis so far, people who have less flexibility in their personal budgets than some of the highest paid professors in the country.

There is also a need for harder decisions on controlling costs. Example: with the out of control medical plan, administrators have not touched the structural problem, but rather danced around the edges with the kind of changes other plans made a decade ago. Limiting name-brand drugs, using generics, and restricting the choice of specialists to those under contract to the medical plan, rather than paying whatever fee they submit.

The DART program to control costs is also just catching up with what others have done a decade ago. There has been neither imagination nor reach.

Some examples: the discovery that we can get a better price for computers if we buy in bulk rather than one or two at a time. The discovery that you use less paper if you print on both sides. The discovery there is no need to mail paperwork every payday to people on direct deposit. We do not need a Ph.D., Dr. Trask, to figure out these mundane steps, nor do we need a press release on each.

✔There is no doubt Brodhead has worked hard to sustain and expand undergraduate financial aid, with great sensitivity to the plight of families. He has explained we cannot erect a barrier due to the economic happenstance of one's birth, to replace the one due to the color of one's skin that took so long to dismantle. Right on.

But Brodhead has given no indication that he realizes that he is the very person who keeps raising the economic barrier -- with higher and higher tuition, far above the inflation rate. He would do just as much to give everyone a shot at higher education if he kept the cost barrier low, rather than just providing help for people to jump over it.

On March 1, 2009, Brodhead sent an e-mail to everyone stating a future budget -- presumably three years out -- "will have to be approximately $125 million smaller than it is today."

The execution has been spotty. Correction: poor.

The first budget submitted under that protocol was flat -- it took no steps toward being smaller.

The second budget -- this year's -- included double digit increases for student aid and employee benefits, an overall increase of 5.6 percent. That's a poor response, for it leaves us even further from the goalpost Brodhead set out than we were when the crisis started.

Thank you for reading Fact Checker and caring about Duke.

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