Fewer Faculty Members Only Through Attrition


Some news headlines provided a "dramatic distortion" of any future faculty reductions at Duke, Arts and Sciences Dean William Chafe told reporters at a press briefing in November. Chafe said "categorically" that any faculty reductions will be limited and occur only through attrition.

Two days before meeting with Duke's Arts and Sciences Council, Chafe answered press questions about a faculty task force that in October submitted a report considering ways of eliminating a projected $6-million A&S budget deficit. The task force, headed by Duke public policy professor Philip Cook, noted that one extreme measure might be to reduce as many as fifty faculty positions through attrition.

" That was a worst-case scenario in which no other options were explored," not an actual proposal for action, Chafe said. In fact, Duke is planning several measures to reduce the budget gap, he said, one of which is to trim the number of annual searches for positions created by faculty departures. Duke now carries out about thirty-five such searches annually, a number that Chafe said might drop below thirty for several years, with preference given to positions that support the goals of Duke's strategic plan, "Building on Excellence."

Other options include raising tuition to slightly higher levels, limiting the size of faculty salary increases, or expanding enrollment for undergraduate engineering students, which would bring additional revenue to Arts and Sciences as well as the Pratt School. Chafe also noted that the construction of new research facilities should lead to an increase in research grants, which would boost revenues.

" This is a problem that is workable," he emphasized, noting that Duke continues to project budget increases while some other leading research universities are making substantial cuts. "It's certainly not a crisis. We're in very good financial health."

Chafe said Duke had made significant investments in its strategic initiatives and new facilities for research and education, and remains "committed to the strategic plan." The challenge, he said, is to ease a future budget shortfall by moving on several fronts now. "Once you get in place the variables for correcting the problem, you get a more stable situation."

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