About 15 minutes into his Town Hall meeting at the School of Medicine in February, President Richard C. Levin came to the end of what he called “the gloomy stuff.” That would be a discussion of the 2008 market crash, the resulting recession, Yale’s efforts to mitigate a 30 percent decline in the value of its endowment, and a budget gap approaching $60 million.
The meeting was the first in a series of presentations by Yale officers that Levin hopes to hold three or four times a year to help faculty, students, and staff “keep abreast of what is going on at the university.” Joining Levin at the February meeting were Provost Peter Salovey, Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer, Vice President Shauna King, and others.
“It’s been a tough two years since the collapse of 2008,” Levin said, noting that the effects of the recession varied across the university. They have been felt less at the School of Medicine, which relies heavily on grants and clinical fees for revenues, than at such entities as the Beinecke Library, which is wholly dependent on endowment revenue.
Unlike corporations around the country that laid off between 10 and 20 percent of their workforce, Yale chose not to respond with massive layoffs. “That would have caused truly unnecessary pain,” Levin said. “We chose instead to spread out the adjustment.” The university cut expenses, raised tuition, froze salaries for most employees for one year, froze salaries for high earners for two years, and slowed faculty hiring. Less than 5 percent of the university’s staff was laid off involuntarily, Levin said, and about half of them have found new jobs at the university. The university also postponed $2 billion in construction projects and slowed the growth of West Campus.
Throughout the cost-cutting, Levin said, every effort was made to protect the core academic missions of teaching and research. “Yale will emerge from the recession as strong as ever,” he said.
And Levin had several items of good news. The Yale Tomorrow Campaign has surpassed its initial goal of $3 billion and is expected to bring in $3.5 billion. Yale College received 27,000 applications this year, which underscores, Levin said, the importance of expanding the college. The law, art, and drama schools remain among the best in the country.
The medical school, he said, has advanced under the leadership of Dean Robert J. Alpern, M.D., Ensign Professor of Medicine. “We are growing more rapidly than any of our peer institutions,” Levin said. “We are well ahead of peer institutions in terms of grants per faculty. Our relations with Yale-New Haven Hospital are better than they have ever been.”
Levin also cited improved relations with the city of New Haven. Yale has sought to preserve neighborhoods with its homebuyer plan, and this year funded New Haven Promise, which will provide tuition support to New Haven high school students who maintain a B average, have good disciplinary records, and a 90 percent attendance rate, and who attend college in Connecticut. “We hope that will motivate young people in this community,” he said.
Yale is also achieving its goal of providing its undergraduates with the chance to spend time abroad. In 2005, Levin said, 400 undergraduates went abroad. Last year that number reached 1,400. “It is my hope and belief that by giving every Yale College student the opportunity to work or study or do research abroad, that this would actually improve the quality of undergraduate education,” he said. “We are getting there. We are becoming a truly global university.”