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Institute to Trim 400 from Payroll

By Sarah Y. Keightley
News Editor

In an effort to reduce the Institute's budget deficit, 400 employees will be cut from the payroll over the next four years and the faculty will be reduced through attrition over the next 10 years, according to President Charles M. Vest.

Changes in government research funding will also cause a 10 to 20 percent reduction in graduate student enrollment by the end of the decade.

Operating expenses need to be reduced by $25 million "in order to keep our expenditures matched to our resources," Vest said. Most of MIT's operating budget is used to pay salaries, wages, and staff benefits, so this is where most of the cuts need to be made, he said.

MIT recorded a deficit of $10.1 million for fiscal year 1993 and expects a deficit of $13.6 million for FY 1994. The large deficit is caused by a number of factors: MIT's attempt to reduce the rate of growth of tuition, the increasing need for financial aid, federal research funding and changes in reimbursement rules, and expensive new services such as information technology used in education and research.

"It is difficult to meet all objectives of reasonable growth in tuition and self-help levels, competitive salaries for faculty and staff, and need-blind admissions," wrote James J. Culliton, vice president for financial operations, in his annual financial report.

Vest said that the administration has not yet determined which positions will be affected by the cuts. The decrease in staff size "should allow us to get back to roughly the level of employment we had 10 years ago," he said.

Nobody knows which unions could be affected by the staff cuts or if the cuts will come from non-unionized areas, said David B. Achenbach, assistant manager of labor relations.

"President Vest described this as an evolving process," Achenbach said. Most likely, "departments are going to be asked eventually to meet certain targets" within their own departments, Achenbach said.

Faculty concerns

Chair of the Faculty Robert L. Jaffe said that most of the faculty he talked to were concerned about the life and careers of the staff members and the decrease in support for the faculty.

"We hope it might be possible to make most of these cuts on the basis of attrition or reassignment rather than laying people off," he said. However, even though the rate of staff turnover is "sufficiently high ... it seems inevitable that there will be some layoffs," he said.

Furthermore, the faculty depend on the staff to help them with their work, Jaffe said. "Unless the cuts are made in a way that is magically effective, I think it's going to result in less support for faculty. That means less time for research and teaching," he said.

The number of faculty will also be reduced. This "will be accomplished by attrition over 10 years," Vest said.

The administration has said that "cuts will not be uniform," Jaffe said. They will use "intellectual judgement on which programs to cut and which programs not to cut," he said. "This is a delicate subject because the administration hasn't decided which to cut yet."

"We are not planning any salary reductions," Vest said. "Salaries will not grow as rapidly as we might desire, however."

Grad student body to shrink

Another major change is that graduate student enrollment will probably be reduced about 10 to 20 percent, Vest said at the October faculty meeting. Currently, there are about 5,300 graduate students.

"By 1999 we will not be able to charge the tuitions of graduate research and teaching assistants to the employee benefit pool," Vest said. "This will result in a substantial loss of funds for this purpose," he said.

Frank E. Perkins '55, dean of the graduate school, said that the changes in government rules will mostly affect research assistants though "on paper" teaching assistants will be affected as well.

Research assistants are graduate students working on sponsored research programs. They get compensated with a stipend and a tuition scholarship, and the program is a "dominant form of support for graduate students," Perkins said.

The government changes will not take affect until July 1, 1997. This means this change "will not be felt seriously until 1997-1998," Perkins said. However, if research funding were to decline as well -- "and many people think it will" -- it would also hurt graduate student enrollment, Perkins said.

"Not all of our graduate students are affected," Jaffe said. For instance, the students at the Sloan School are here on full tuition.

RA cuts will hurt research

The cuts in research assistantships "would have a significant affect on faculty research," Jaffe said. Because MIT is "among a handful of universities" that train students in basic science research, "I don't believe that our country can afford to cut our funding," he said.

Jaffee would prefer not cut the number of research assistants, but "The government has forced this on us," he said.

President of the Graduate Student Council Caryl B. Brown G said he is against reducing the graduate student body. "One of the greatest elements of the MIT graduate student body is its diversity. ... A reduction would reduce this diversity," he said.

He said the administration has not approached the GSC, but he thinks graduate students might be able to suggest other solutions, such as reducing stipends.

Vest said that he does not "anticipate any change in the undergraduate enrollment." He said that with the future graduate student reductions, "It is too early to say what the effect on the number of recitations will be, but it is my hope to enhance the quality of undergraduate education, not reduce it during this period. There likely will be a reduction in the number of subjects offered in some departments, but quality should not suffer."

The number of researchers and faculty who visit the campus will also be reduced, Vest said.

"To see what we are about to undertake simply as budget cutting is to miss the point," Vest said. "We must fundamentally examine what we do and how we accomplish it, set clear goals and priorities, and work more efficiently and effectively. I intend for MIT to be stronger and to enhance its excellence by the time we have completed these readjustments," he said.