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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Faculty give salaries, save jobs

Published: January 16, 2009
Section: News

Approximately a third of the Arts and Sciences faculty and donated $90,000 to a charitable fund in an effort to limit staff layoffs made necessary by the university’s fiscal year 2009 and predicted fiscal year 2010 budget deficit, Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe explained.

Originally, during informal talks with the Faculty Senate, Senate Chair Prof. William Flesch (ENG) suggested a voluntary 1% faculty salary cut because “it seemed symbolic enough that people would be willing to do it, and real enough that it would make a difference,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Instead of a 1% salary cut, a donation model was used for faculty, Jaffe explained. “We let people donate whatever amount [of their salary] they wanted,” he said. While the “original motivation” was for faculty “to donate to benefit staff,” the option was opened up to staff after sufficient interest was demonstrated, Jaffe added.

“The deal was that this would be anonymous – that is, that there would be no negative list of shame consisting of those not on the list of contributors,” Flesch explained in a statement.

Some administrators “were a little wary about [the voluntary salary cut initiative],” Flesch explained. “They didn’t want to cut salaries, and didn’t want this to look like a backdoor way to cut salaries. But on balance, they decided that the pluses outweighed their anxieties.”

When Jaffe first heard the idea, “frankly, I wasn’t sure it would work, but I’m pleased it did.”

“We did not want to cut salaries as a budget cutting measure” because it is not sustainable and it lessens the university’s competitiveness in hiring, Jaffe said.

Some administrators, including President Reinharz, donated to the fund. Reinharz did not respond to requests for comment.

The volunteered salary reductions will go into effect July 1, the beginning of fiscal year 2010, and will last through June 2010, Jaffe said. “We are looking at a whole range of actions [to reduce costs] for [fiscal year] 2011,” he added.

The fund reached $90,000, which amounts to 1% of 30% of the salary paid to faculty, Jaffe said. That money will prevent two staff layoffs.

“There’s still layoffs,” Jaffe said. “The impact for mitigating pain for employees is not huge. I would hope for the staff who remain,” Jaffe continued, “it feels good to be at an institution where faculty is willing to make this effort.”

Prof. John Burt (ENG) explained via e-mail, “I felt that we who have relatively secure jobs owe something to the people who don’t. It was little enough, I’m sorry to say, and plenty of people are still going to be hurt by what will happen here over the next year.”

The initiative was picked up by the New York Times Business section in late December. Jaffe commented, it is “excellent to have the message in the broader community that Brandeis is a university where social justice is more than words.”