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Financial State of the Institute Likely To Improve

By Kathy Dobson

STAFF REPORTER

President Charles M. Vest, Provost Robert A. Brown, and Executive Vice President John R. Curry spoke to the MIT community yesterday at a State of the Institute forum on a number of topics, including the Institute’s budget and its changing research and curriculum.

As a result of yesterday’s power outage, which affected the entire MIT campus and much of East Cambridge, the forum was abbreviated and could not be held inside Kresge auditorium, which lacked lighting, and was instead held in the lobby.

2006 budget will grow

After reviewing the budget constraints that faced the Institute in the past year, Brown said that there will be budget growth in next year’s budget, including raises, capital plans, and renovations. The cuts have caused “uniform pain across the Institute,” Brown said, but the Institute will “move ahead in the next budget year to the same tradition we’ve had.”

Cuts in the budget for the coming year included the elimination of eleven unfilled faculty positions, a salary freeze for those making $55,000 or more, reduction in the number of graduate fellowships, and a reduction in the Institute’s tuition subsidy for graduate students, said Brown.

Curry said that he is optimistic about the financial state of the Institute but has yet to see the impacts of the cuts made. “We are pleased we made it through this budget year,” he said. “We will all learn the impacts of the cuts as we look back on the year.”

Curry also said that the budget cuts have been thoroughly documented to aid the new president once Vest resigns.

Vest said that one of the reasons the budget cuts were made so severely and quickly was because the leadership of the Institute will change soon. “We do not want to pass on the problems of budget crisis to a new president, a new team,” Vest said.

Despite the tight budget, MIT will complete all of its current projects, Curry said. “We’ll complete the buildings under way, we’ll complete the payroll, then we’ll see,” he said. The payroll changes refer to an overhaul of the financial and reporting tools being used at MIT.

Biology at MIT continues to grow

Vest said that MIT will continue to increase its focus on biological sciences and credited the leadership in the faculty for the push for biology in research and curriculum.

Brown said that the growth in the Brain and Cognitive Sciences department as well as the incorporation of biology in all engineering disciplines within MIT will continue.

Originally scheduled to be held for two hours, the forum ended up lasting about 45 minutes because of the power loss.

Vest said that he liked holding the forum in Kresge lobby except that those attending were forced to stand. “It was kind of intimate,” he said.

As to whether Vest would consider giving the address in the same setting next year, “as long as I’m president, we’ll always do it that way,” he joked.