Joint Council Q&A with Dean Murray

1. What are the school’s plans to adjust staffing levels and add office space to address the faculty and student growth of recent and coming years?

Fawwaz is looking at how to best utilize space in Pierce Hall after the move of accounting/finance/purchasing to Northwest.

Various offices are being shifted to help free up some space for new staff and faculty and to accommodate our increasing student populations. Even with the faculty we intend to add, we are heading for zero faculty growth in the next few years, because so many faculty are transitioning.

We have at least 25 faculty over age 65 and in the next 10 years many of the faculty may retire (i.e. become research faculty or emeritus faculty). Our plan is to keep hiring so that there is an overlap. 

2. Would you be open to meeting with staff to explain the budget and discuss strategies for managing growth?

We have a choice to maintain the size of the faculty, increase the size of the faculty, or, through natural attrition, actually decrease the faculty FTE.

While the budget office has reservations about spending down our reserves to grow our faculty, the area deans and I feel we need to keep going as a school and to meet our teaching and research objectives.

3. Would you be willing to have an "all-staff" (in contrast to "all-hands") meeting to discuss issues and plans for the School, as well as recognize exceptional effort by staff members? 

We are planning to have an All Staff meeting to discuss issues directly relevant to staff. Within that meeting, we also plan to have a portion dedicated to recognizing exceptional staff (beginning in February 2012).

4. Is it possible to go back to including a question and answer portion of the all hands meetings?

Questions can be presented in advance: simply email me or send a note to the Communications Office.

After a lot of experimentation, we found that it is most effective to encourage staff to send me an email with their questions, and if it is relevant to the whole school I should be saying it anyway.

If it’s personal or about a specific activity, I can direct it to the most appropriate person to answer the question. 

5. Could you paint a picture of the general financial status and outlook for SEAS given changes in the endowment payout, operating deficits, fundraising, trends in sponsored research funding and plans for program growth.

Given the uncertain state of the economy and the long-term effects of the decreased Harvard endowment, Associate Dean for Finance and IT Harry Dumay (and others in FAS/Central) are concerned about carefully managing growth.

That said, I have met with 280 alumni (not all at once) and they are really thrilled with engineering. A number of our alums also went to the Business School and they are also strong supporters of engineering and applied sciences.

Stanford University recently announced that it would invest $300 million to support the growth of engineering by creating new faculty chairs, new buildings, and by investing in other activities to bolster the program. Columbia University just built a $50-million interdisciplinary research building, and the University of Chicago just established 30 chaired positions, even though it never had an engineering program before.

6. What are your future community building plans, and will they include an effort to recognize SEAS employees, i.e. staff and faculty, as a separate workplace community that needs strengthening, separate from the academic focus of SEAS? 

I welcome any suggestions about community building with staff. I am continuing to invest my own funds (through my honorarium through APS) to support a wide variety of community building activities.

There are some design challenges in putting something like this together. The best time to do it might be in the summer and the faculty aren’t here in the summer.

Maybe there could be some kind of competition at the barbecue which would involve staff and faculty teams. 

7. Are you open to more opportunities to meet staff in small groups similarly to the program Fawwaz has put into effect?

I am always open to meeting with staff in small groups. Just let me know.

8. There still seems to be confusion about the relationship between FAS and SEAS. We are autonomous in some respects and dependent in others. Is there anything in writing that the broader community can have access to that clarifies the roles and responsibilities of each entity when it comes to SEAS? Is the agreement between FAS/SEAS “set in stone,” or is it reevaluated periodically? If it is reevaluated, is there any mechanism for community feedback that might inform the decision making process as the relationship evolves?

I think there will always be confusion between SEAS and FAS because our faculty members are also in FAS and teach in the College and GSAS. Likewise, our students are part of the College or GSAS.

We are governed by the Compact that was established between FAS and SEAS that was established when the school was created in 2007/8. We are continuing to review the Compact as we evolve and grow.