Allocating Faculty Time
To The Faculty Newsletter :
This note is in response to your September/October editorial "altering the culture" query about administrative involvement in allocation of faculty time to teaching vs. research.
From a business/financial perspective MIT has two main educational businesses – undergraduate education funded almost exclusively by students and donors, and research-centered graduate education funded largely by fellowships and student RA earnings billed to sponsors. Independent of their absolute “profitability”, the former relies significantly more on charity than does the latter and therefore our finances would clearly not be improved by increasing the former at the expense of the latter, as some have suggested.
The alternative option of increasing the graduate program makes sense financially only if that business is “profitable” in an absolute sense (unlikely), and shrinking both businesses makes sense financially only if we assume the charitable component will shrink less over the long term. The optimum strategy is therefore likely to be continuing improvements in long-term operational efficiency that promote teaching and research productivity within a cost-effective plant. MIT has been blessed relative to its peers by its healthy evolving strategic balance, so it is reasonable to expect that optimum solutions should not dramatically shift that hard-won multi-dimensional balance as costs are reduced, barring significant shifts in our sponsor/donor environment. Beyond insightful efficiency improvements and pruning, the main remedy for financial stress is creative increases in income and thoughtful reductions in compensation that preserve institutional /esprit de corps/ and academic excellence. In summary, moderation and balance will be key.
Professor of Electrical Engineering
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science