Zimmer to expand faculty as economy bounces back

Zimmer also assured faculty and students that there are no plans for further budget cuts or reductions in financial aid.

By Burke Frank

President Robert Zimmer announced a new round of faculty hiring in a campus-wide e-mail Tuesday, some of the first bright financial news for the University since the recession last year. Zimmer also assured faculty and students that there are no plans for further budget cuts or reductions in financial aid. He cautioned, however, that many of last year’s budget cuts will only begin to be felt in the coming months.

“We got where we needed to be in our budgets,” said John Mark Hansen, Dean of Social Sciences. “This expansion of the faculty is smaller than we were hoping to do before the crisis hit, but the hope is that the larger expansion will proceed a few years down the line.”

The planned hiring will be the first major faculty expansion in decades, according to Hansen. “We’ve been increasing the responsibilities of the faculty over the last 15 to 20 years, specifically with the expansion of the College,” he said.

He added that departments will have to submit proposals for new faculty, which will be evaluated “in light of their intellectual merits. It’s not going to be where we give one new faculty member to every department.”

The University endowment dropped dramatically last year; the administration estimated it dropped 25 percent in the spring. Last week, administrators said the University’s “total investment performance” fell 21.5 percent in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009. University spokesman Steve Kloehn said this number did not directly measure endowment performance, but represented “all investments within the endowment, and only to investments within the endowment.” The endowment was last valued at $4.945 billion in March 2009, down from its all time high of $6.391 billion in 2007.

The University’s investment decline is comparable to losses at other universities. In the past month, Harvard reported its endowment lost 27.3 percent of its value in the past year, and Yale has reported a 30 percent decline in its endowment.

“The budget’s going to feel pretty tight certainly for this year, or the next couple of years,” Hansen said. “But we hit the nail on the head with budget reductions. By June there was enough improvement to feel that we had got the job done.”

Hansen said the slow economic climate is an opportunity. “Other universities are going to be retrenching right now. We think that we can hire high quality faculty and get them here at a time like this. Our new faculty are long-term investments.”