Open Letter from the Faculty Council to Faculty of Yeshiva University
We are writing to clarify, and respond to, President Joel’s letter of November 20th. In justifying the proposed measures to address the financial problems faced by Yeshiva, the letter pointed to major structural issues with the University’s current financial model: in brief, the University has been running an estimated annual deficit of $35-45 million on the Manhattan campuses for several years, which has now affected its short-term liquidity. These problems are without doubt considerable, although their exact extent, and the reasons why they went unreported until recently, are not yet clear to us and are being investigated. Various groups within the University are looking at ways to solve these problems in the short, medium, and long term, and they are considering proposals that could make significant changes in the institution and in our working conditions. As representatives of the faculty, we believe it is crucial to stress the central importance of the faculty to the University, and, hence, the role it should play in these discussions.
The University administration must understand and recognize that a strong and well-supported faculty is vital to the long-term stability and success of the institution. The University’s policy of investing in the faculty in recent years has made it possible for us to offer our students a better education. We are also producing more scholarly and creative work, earning more grants, and enhancing the reputation of the University. We have been doing all this despite the following measures recently undertaken by the administration: a four-year salary freeze that amounted to a salary cut of 13.5% because of inflation; the two-year reduction of the University’s matching contribution to our retirement funds to a maximum of 2% (compared with an average of 10% at our peer universities); dramatically increasing health insurance rates; and cuts to our research funding, equipment, and conference travel. If, in response to short-term pressures, further cuts were to be made to salaries or to our benefit packages, our University would, we are convinced, be undermined in the medium and long term. Any reversal of this year’s 2% salary increase would further decrease already diminished morale: the best professors would be more likely to leave, and hiring new faculty would become increasingly difficult. The University’s failure to adequately match faculty retirement savings has already made it even harder for many professors to afford to retire, and this failure guarantees that this problem will persist far into the future. We have made these points clear to the administration.
We also believe faculty should have a central role in discussions concerning the University’s future. In the past months, the Faculty Council and other faculty have begun to work with the administration and staff to create a long-term strategic plan that would enable the University to function in a more sustainable way. Various suggestions have been offered, some of which would involve radical changes in the structure of the University and the way we work. No decisions have been made as yet, and the faculty must have a strong voice when they are. We have worked with University administrators to create committees addressing questions dealing with academic affairs, undergraduate issues, and facilities. We are encouraged that the faculty are being given a voice in these discussions, and we believe that this points to a real shift in the way the administration understands the faculty’s role. We also believe, however, that transparency, clarity about the causes and extent of the current financial problems—and accountability—are essential if we are to understand the institutional practices which have led to the current crisis and be able to move forward together in a productive way. President Joel and Senior Vice President Joseph have expressed their willingness to talk to faculty concerning the problems we face; each unit’s Faculty Council representatives will arrange for meetings in the next few weeks where that can take place. The Council will continue to work to represent the faculty’s interests to the administration. We urge you to help us advance the role of the faculty in discussions about the University’s future by communicating your ideas and being willing to take part in formal discussions about the direction that we should take.
Members and Alternate Members of the Faculty Council, Manhattan Campuses:
Paris Baldacci, Malvina Halberstam, Lynn Wishart (Cardozo);
Charles Swencionis (Ferkauf);
Daniel Rynhold (Revel);
Jeffrey Freedman, Anatoly Frenkel, Miriam Hirsch, Marina Holz, Nora Nachumi, Marnin Young (SCW);
Joseph Kerstein (Syms);
Joan Beder (Wurzweiler);
Gabriel Cwilich, Carl Feit, Paula Geyh, Joanne Jacobson, Will Lee, William Stenhouse (YC)