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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

State of university budget uncertain

Published: September 26, 2008
Section: Front Page

The university budget is projected to be in deficit for the current fiscal year, according to a Sept. 19 e-mail sent out by Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe. In his e-mail to department chairs, Jaffe suggested that faculty members “husband [their] resources now” in case cuts are made.

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Peter B. French explained that the current national financial crisis has inevitably affected the university. “It is fair to say that many not-for-profits, of which the university is one, are experiencing those economic pressures. They are coming at us in terms of lower endowment investment returns compared to prior years,” he said.

Recent national and global financial stress also affects the university indirectly, as prices increase and potential donors protect their own assets.

“There’s a lot of concern about philanthropists being able to continue the level of gifts that they’ve been making over the last few years,” French said.

While it is yet premature to determine the magnitude of the effect of the national financial crisis on Brandeis, “it is likely that operating budgets will be cut,” Jaffe said.

The Integrated Planning Group, composed of university senior administrators, is currently assessing several different possibilities to minimize the potential damage and its effects on students and academic programs, but no decisions have been made so far. “You can increase revenues or you can decrease expenditures. We’re looking at both,” French said.

Though it is unusual, this is not the first time the university has been severely affected by external economic turmoil. Following the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the university faced a similar situation of economic uncertainty. According to French, Brandeis suffered from negative endowment returns, as well as expenditure reductions, for over two years after the event.

But the progress the university made in spite of these economic obstacles during this previous experience may offer students and faculty hope. “We were pretty successful during that period,” said French, “and we’re much stronger financially than we were five years ago. Hopefully we’re going to be able to get through this without too much effect on students and academic programs.”

Presently, plans to deal with a potential budget cut are yet to be determined. “As soon as the plan is complete there will be notification to the community. President Reinharz and I are scheduled to talk about the budget at next week’s faculty meeting,” French said.