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About the cuts

MIT’s endowment has shrunk by about 20 percent in the past year, Vice Chancellor Steven R. Lerman ’72 told the Graduate Student Council on Wednesday night. When the endowment shrinks, MIT plans to cut its $1 billion General Institute Budget, spending which doesn’t come from research money.

MIT has mandated that the GIB be $50 million lower in fiscal year 2010, $100 million lower in FY2011, and $150 million lower in FY2012. For the current fiscal year, FY2010, the GIB is $58 million lower.

The first $58 million in savings have come from cuts that could be conceived and implemented within months: for example, the Admissions Office dramatically scaled back its paper mailings, reduced travel, and laid off some staff last year.

But the next $92 million might come from ideas more complicated than “hire fewer people” or “buy less stuff.” The Institute asked its community for ideas that might take a little more lead time to plan, and it got many such ideas online from community members at ideabank.mit.edu. Over the spring and summer, committees met to discuss these ideas and to propose the most viable as part of an “Institute-Wide Planning Task Force” report.

That report, released last week, gives brief summaries of each idea and sometimes lists each idea’s cost savings. (Detailed one-page descriptions were produced for each idea but are not in the report. Lerman said that some of the one-page analyses were very specific, while others were sketchier, and it didn’t make sense to try to compare them to one another.)

The report is now in a “public comment” phase, with suggestions being open to the MIT community, again at ideabank.mit.edu. A final report, to be delivered in two months, will designate each idea as assigned to a particular administrator, who will carry it out; as assigned to a team, who will keep planning the idea; or as not recommended, in which case it will die a quiet death.

For example, the report suggests that overhauling the physical education requirement be assigned to the Dean for Undergraduate Education and carried out. It suggests that new professional education programs be further developed by a team. What about examples of ideas that the report suggests should not happen? Those include “online freshman year” and “New faculty will be offered a very long-term contract instead of lifetime tenure.”