University News

Dean of faculty cuts $450,000 from budget

Temporary teaching funds for ‘non-essential’ courses trimmed in effort to reduce structural deficit

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Office of the Dean of the Faculty has reduced the temporary teaching budget by $450,000 this fiscal year as part of the University’s efforts to reduce the structural deficit.

The cuts to temporary teaching funds bring the Dean of the Faculty budget almost halfway to its $1 million reduction goal, which was announced in the University’s deficit reduction action plan released Sept. 10.

Temporary teaching funds are used to hire adjunct or visiting faculty members to stand in for faculty members on leave. Prior to this cut, these funds made up $6 million of the $140 million Dean of the Faculty annual budget, said Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12.

When the Deficit Reduction Working Group formed last fall, McLaughlin knew there was a strong possibility that he would be asked to find ways to cut down on his budget, he said. To find the necessary savings, his office focused specifically on the temporary teaching budget because of their larger control over that than over other elements of the budget, he said.

The process of determining temporary teaching fund allocations begins in February of each year, when the Office of the Dean of the Faculty calculates the anticipated amount of funding needed to cover each department’s faculty leaves for the following fall semester.

Once department chairs have been presented with the proposed amount of funding, they have the opportunity to make appeals to the dean of the faculty if they feel their department’s financial needs will not be adequately met.

“It’s always a conversation” between the departments and the dean’s office, said Jeri Debrohun, chair of the Department of Classics.

The Deficit Reduction Working Group’s May recommendations asked the Office of the Dean of the Faculty to produce $1 million in savings over the next two to three years. The office will ask departments to be judicious about what courses they would like to offer again next fiscal year despite the normal faculty member being on leave, McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin informed departments in fall 2014 that budget cuts would likely be necessary, he said. Beginning in December, he worked with the departments to find ways to “save some money in that budgeting process that wouldn’t have an ill effect on the concentrations” by identifying non-essential courses, he said.

All courses that were proposed to be taught by adjuncts and were not concentration requirements “got a closer look,” McLaughlin said. Enrollment history and curricular importance were taken into account when assessing these “non-essential” courses, McLaughlin added.

“If there’s a class that has five students in it, does it have to be taught every year or every semester?” asked Provost Richard Locke P’17, who co-chaired the Deficit Reduction Working Group and helped produce the final action plan. “The answer to that question is sometimes yes, it does have to be taught every year because it’s important for the curriculum. And other times, it doesn’t,” he said.

The goal was “to fund all of the essential courses that were requested and to fund as many of the non-essential courses that the departments thought were important,” McLaughlin said.

Ultimately, the departments decided which courses to offer given the amount of temporary teaching funds provided, McLaughlin said. “We gave them a budget, and they managed it,” he added.

Debrohun said the most important thing is that departments are “able to teach the classes that we need to teach and offer the kinds of things that our students need to get.”

“It’s never been the case in my experience that we haven’t been able to do that, and there’s nothing about the new formula or discussions around it that looks to me as though it’s really going to be problematic for our department,” she said.

But not all faculty members share Debrohun’s confidence that the budget cuts can be implemented without affecting the University’s ability to provide the same quality of education.

“We are already far from able to hire enough temporary instructors to cover courses left uncovered by faculty sabbaticals,” wrote Luther Spoehr, senior lecturer in education and history, in an email to The Herald.

“The proposed cuts in the University’s budget for such temporary instructors will make it even more difficult to sustain the number and quality of undergraduate courses,” he added. 

In the coming year, the Office of the Dean of the Faculty will look more closely at long-term commitments to visiting faculty members to meet the $1 million request, McLaughlin said.

“We are very much focused on the money,” he said. “We’d rather not do this, but we’ve been told that we have to find $1 million.”

One Comment

  1. Rather than focusing on cutting $450K, why not focus on adding $100 million per year to the top line–through teaching high school students?

    A gift of $100 million a year to Brown

    We would like to give $100 million per year to Brown. This money could be used to offset tuition fees, pay professors more, and support Brown’s current budget, which is in deficit. We have proposed this to Christina Paxson and several leaders within Brown’s administration.

    We in Northern California have created a plan to significantly increase Brown’s revenues. We are students from before birth, and remain students until we die. Those who are fortunate enough to attend Brown bring their own experiences and relationships with them. Our proposal outlines how Brown can participate in the learning process for high school students, with a goal of exposing students to Brown professors and students, developing and reinforcing a Brown-student relationship well before the admissions process begins.

    The key benefits to Brown are:

    1. Brown can add $100 million in revenues by teaching AP courses.

    2. This program would benefit both high-income and low-income high school students, as well as local teachers, Brown professors and Brown students (as paid proctors).

    3. This gives you Brown to increase student acceptance rate (now at 60%) and improve the number of high-potential poor students (a key target).

    Our proposal outlines a plan for Brown to offer AP courses in select schools, starting with Northern California. These courses would be co-taught by the local AP teacher and Brown professor, assisted by Brown students acting as proctors. The goals of the program are:

    1. To offer the students a compelling, interesting and informative set of courses.

    2. To expose promising high school students to Brown professors and students.

    3. To give Brown visibility on promising students who may become good candidates to attend Brown.

    4. To support schools which may need teaching resources in inner-city and poorer school districts, and support their local efforts.

    The fundamental principles of this program are that (1) it must be financially self-supporting, (2) it offers a first-class educational experience that is rewarding for Brown students and professors as well as students, and (3) that it works in concert with local resources, with full backing of the high schools.

    What is offered

    The educational product would consist of the following:

    A set of internet lectures using the Khan Academy format on AP subjects, given by a professor at Brown. These lectures are normally watched by the students online at home (as homework).

    A set of exercises and questions which are answered by the students during class time.

    A teaching guide for the local AP teacher. The teacher uses this guide and assists students in class to answer questions and do exercises.

    Tests to be proctored by the local AP teacher which are submitted for grading to Brown students assisting the professor (Brown students are paid for this course assistance). Results are then shared with the AP teacher and Brown (for certification).

    If applicable, online textbooks as a part of the educational offering.

    Who will pay?

    Identify those who have the greatest stakes in the education of students: parents, teachers, guidance counselors, who are willing and able to pay. “Rich” schools’ parents pay for their child’s certificate. Some scholarships offered. “Poor” schools parents pay, but with a great deal more scholarship assistance.

    Where are the target markets?

    Around the world. The “freemium” model can be disseminated on YouTube and used by millions. The “certificate” model is also freely expandable (same professor, more Brown student proctors).

    How much effort is involved?

    A Khan Academy format requires very little professor time and effort. With a virtual “blackboard” and voiceover, the professor can video a series of lectures based on his/her Brown classroom offerings.

    High school students in the “certified” program will require support. This would be provided by Brown students working at the direction of a Brown professor. These students’ main tasks would include grading courses, answering teachers’ and students’ questions, and monitoring feedback.


    Offer scholarships administered by Brown in collaboration with local guidance counselors.

    We have shared the entire plan, with revenues and costs, with top members of the administration at Brown. It is also available for public view at

    So, what’s stopping us? Let’s make this happen.

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