Budget cuts target jobs, Athena printing, student life

Despite increase in endowment and research funds, MIT community feels the impact of slashed budget

In late 2009, MIT announced its plans to save $130 million over the next two years. This past year marked a major move in the implementation of the recommendations made by the Institute-Wide Planning Task Force, a group charged to recommend budget-cutting activities across all departments and divisions at MIT.

But along with budget-cutting measures, 2010 saw signs of improvement. The $7.9 billion endowment posted returns of 10 percent, a big improvement over the previous year, when it dropped by 17 percent. At the September State of the Institute, President Susan J. Hockfield was confident that MIT was on an upwards track.

“It is fantastic news that we are going in the right direction,” Hockfield said. “But we still have a long way to go recover the ground we lost in the global downturn.”

And in a letter to the community in April 2010, Hockfield also announced that, in addition to positive endowment returns, research funding increased by 10.5 percent.

Still, many areas of MIT have been affected by the budget cuts in 2010. Job layoffs and changes to Athena printing, residential life, MIT Medical, libraries and shuttles rounded out some of the biggest ways budget cuts affected the day-to-day lives of members of the MIT community.


Over fiscal year 2010-2011, MIT laid off 174 employees, according to Alison Alden, vice president of MIT Human Resources. In doing so, the Institute saved $125 million.

But controversy struck as a result of the layoffs, when Professor Patrick H. Winston questioned the firing of Student Support Services Dean Jacqueline R. Simonis. Winston argued that Simonis’ firing was not “consistent with MIT culture and values” because she was not given advance notice of the decision. Winston also voiced against the fact that MIT barred Simonis from speaking to her colleagues or returning to her office.

Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75’s written response to Winston’s criticisms said that “all of the layoffs in student life were the result of budget reductions … the layoffs, at all levels, were initiated and conducted according to Institute policies and procedures, in consultation with, and with the full participation by MIT Human Resources. The process is consistent with MIT culture and values.”

In April 2010, the Cambridge City Council passed a resolution aimed at curbing further layoffs. Council members Leland Cheung MBA ’10 and Marjorie C. Decker co-sponsored a resolution “requesting that Harvard and MIT cease further layoffs and any cuts in hours, salary, or benefits,” and called for a more transparent dialogue between the universities and their host community. Cheung and Decker proposed that MIT and Harvard use their billions of dollars in savings “to cushion employees and communities from any further financial harm.”

MIT halted further budget-related layoffs in June, according to Alden.

Athena Printing

The Institute-Wide Planning Task Force also made recommendations to make Athena printing “greener,” including the removal of certain Athena clusters and printer quotas for students. In response, Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel E. Hastings SM ’78 and Marilyn T. Smith, head of IS&T, formed an Athena working group. The group was charged to review printing at MIT.

Their conclusion? MIT loses around $270,000 each year on printing alone.

To reduce expenses, IS&T and the UA Printing Committee have started to deploy a “hold-and-release” printer system called Pharos, which requires students to swipe their MIT IDs to complete their print jobs. Pharos is currently being piloted around campus and will be fully adopted by summer 2011.


In August 2010, The Northwest Shuttle merged with the EZRide, a move that will save MIT $200,000 annually, according to Lawrence R. Brutti, operations manager of MIT Parking and Transportation. EZRide, which is operated by the Charles River Transportation Management Association, services most of the same area as the Northwest Shuttle.

Brutti said he plans to use the money saved to enhance existing shuttle services. “It’s a good business move,” said Brutti. “The goal is to reduce cost while enhancing service.”

The Northwest shuttle used to run between MIT graduate dorms north of Vassar St. and west of Massachusetts Ave. and the main academic buildings

Residential Life Funds

Dorms were also affected by the budget-cutting measures. For the past two years, housemasters saw a 10 percent decrease in dorm budgets, according to McCormick Housemaster Charles H. Stewart III. As a result, less money per student has been allocated, forcing housemasters and GRTs to be more resourceful with their finances.

In some dorms like Next House and Baker, housemasters allocated money from their own budgets to support GRT budgets, which are directed towards activities within single floors or halls.

Renee C. Smith, Baker GRT, and the students on her floor comfortably accepted the smaller budget. “The students seemed alright with the changes,” said Smith. “… they realized that we had to be more frugal with our budget while our economy is struggling.”


As a cost-saving measure, hours were reduced across most MIT libraries, including Barker, Hayden, Rotch, Dewey, and Lewis. The total cuts across those libraries sum to 27.5 hours per week. Most began opening a half-hour earlier, and some started closing an hour earlier. Furthermore, over the summer, MIT closed all libraries from July 2 to July 10. Library staff were forced to take unpaid vacations to help cut costs.

The operating time reductions followed the closings of two libraries 2009: the Aeronautics and Astronautics Library and the Lindgren Library (Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences). MIT has mandated that libraries must reduce the fiscal year 2011 budget by $2 million.

MIT Medical

The Institute asked MIT Medical to reduce spending by 5 percent for each of three fiscal years, according to Medical’s website. To meet these goals, over the summer Medical closed their inpatient unit, from mid-June to mid-August, and reduced Urgent Care from 24-hour service to between 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Urgent Care was returned 24-hour service in the fall, but Medical reduced its hours again on Dec. 22 ,from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

According to MIT Medical Director William M. Kettyle, the transition to limited service has gone well. In a January MIT News article, Kettyle reported that only 31 patients called for overnight help during December, averaging to about one call per night.

NStar Collaboration

In May 2010, MIT and NSTAR, one of Boston’s largest utility companies, established the “MIT Efficiency Forward” project, which aims to reduce electricity usage at the Institute by 15 percent (or 34 million kilowatt-hours) over the next 3 years. That’s about the amount of electricity used by 4500 Massachusetts homes throughout a single year. NStar will contribute $1.5 million to the project.

MIT reported on January 11 that it has saved 30 percent more electricity than the projected amount. Most savings came as a result of a campus-wide installation of new, energy-efficient lighting fixtures and timers.

The plan estimates $14 million in investment and over $50 million in lifetime savings.