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Faculty hears projections on budget, endowment

The Institute's endowment peaked in 2000 at more than $6 billion for a brief "snapshot in time," Provost Robert A. Brown told the faculty on March 19, but now stands at about $5.5 billion, making MIT the "poorest of the wealthy" behind--but in the same league with--Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford.

"The hill in front of us is very large," Brown said, referring to the enormous endowments of those four schools. Harvard's endowment is about $17 billion.

Speaking at the monthly faculty meeting, Brown said that MIT's endowment capital and investment grew 13 percent between 1992 and 2002. But growth for the investment is projected to be flat into 2006.

Based on that prediction, he gave financial projections for fiscal years 2004 (which begins July 1, 2003) and 2005, and an overview of how the Institute has progressed in meeting its objectives in five key areas: increased undergraduate financial aid; increased support of graduate research and education; investment in physical facilities; faculty renewal; and compensation and benefits for faculty, staff and students.

The average undergraduate scholarship has increased from $13,084 in 1998 to $19,227 this year. The Institute has begun supporting the research assistant (RA) subsidy and created presidential fellowships for graduate students from money raised in the fund-raising campaign. The renovations budget saw enormous growth--from $2.4 million per year to $24 million. More than 300 new faculty members have been hired, 90 as replacements for those who took early retirement in 1996. And three new buildings have been built (two residential halls and the Zesiger Center) while three more are underway: the chemistry building, the Stata Center and the brain and cognitive sciences project.

For fiscal 2004, expect no change in faculty hiring, financial aid or the graduate RA subsidy, the provost said. There will continue to be presidential fellowships for graduate students, though fewer of them (from 170 to 100) and possibly there will be a slight reduction in the renovations budget.

But there will be a nearly $20 million cut to the budgets of academic units ($4 million from the general budget, $9 million because of reduced endowment revenue and $6 million from other revenues), and a $13 million reduction for administrative units coming from the general budget.

"This will not be a time of growth for the Institute," he said.

The expected impact for fiscal 2005 will be a decrease in the RA subsidy from 65 to 50 percent, continued decreased funding for academic and administrative units, less money for renovations and discretionary spending, and modulated increases in faculty and staff compensation.

One positive note, Brown added, is that although research volume growth was static for many years, it has increased recently up to $450 million. The number of graduate students has increased the last few years as well; the Institute now has more than 6,000 graduate students, or one and a half times the number of undergraduates. But the number of tenure track faculty members has not changed. "You would think this wouldn't be possible, but the faculty haven't shown there is any upper limit" to this trend, he said.

Students requiring discipline

Professor Derek Rowell said the Committee on Discipline--which hears cases of academic dishonesty and severe personal misconduct--had a "very light year" in 2001-02, with only nine cases instead of the usual 12-15 in most years. The committee heard five cases of plagiarism, one case of cheating and three of theft, involving five male and four female students (three each sophomores, juniors and seniors), leading to two expulsions, three suspensions and four instances of formal probation. Both expulsions and one suspension resulted from a single case, he said.

So far this year "the news is worse," with 17 cases already reported, Rowell said.

Larry Benedict, dean for student life, reported on other cases of personal misconduct heard by the Division of Student Life. For 2001-02 the number of cases was down. The highest number of cases involved alcohol (28). Theft was second (17), followed by being in a prohibited location (14), harassment (9) and disorderly conduct (6). Six other categories had fewer than five cases each. About 80 students were involved, 85 percent of them men. "The plurality of cases involve freshmen. This is to be expected, as they are learning our values and standards," Benedict said.

"Our students are extraordinarily well behaved," he added. Sanctions included warnings (written and verbal), probation and suspension. Students also were required to write educational papers, attend alcohol education classes, provide community service or pay a fine, among other things.

Other business

President Vest noted that MIT's police, environmental protection and Facilities staff were "quite well-prepared" for war-time events. "We have a responsibility for maintaining a caring and safe community for our members," he said.

Chancellor Phillip Clay said he and other members of the Committee on Community would hold special briefings for invited members of the community to further the Institute's goal of maintaining an open, welcoming community.

"We want to make sure that we don't make distinctions among our colleagues once they've been admitted," said Clay. "Last week and several weeks hence, we are sending out thousands of letters of admission throughout the world. We must make sure we conduct ourselves so that our yield is not affected."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 2, 2003.

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