Saturday, November 08, 2003

I'm fighting off a pesky but fairly low level cold. I didn't let it stop me from having dinner with Ron (Ron's Log--see link), who turned out to be a lot of fun, outgoing and great company. Unfortunately, he is leaving Boston for good this coming Thursday to settle in Palm Springs. He mentioned something about having had his fill of Boston weather which didn't make much sense as we are noted for our LOVELY weather here. Ahem. By the time I got home, Ron had a digital of us posted on his log.

Ron is actually one of the reasons I got into blogging in the first place as I wanted to become part of the gay web community and that has happened in a modest way. I still don't have too much sense of how many people might or might not be reading me (which is, by the way, a very subtle hint to those of you who are to leave me a comment and introduce yourselves). I'll also be investigating how to get a counter onto the template.

Next week is one of the "bad" weeks at MIT. We put in a production this Sunday and go immediately into technical and dress rehearsals for a Thursday opening. This means getting into work at around 8AM and getting to go home anywhere between 10 and 11PM.

The news was broken to us this week of the somewhat draconian measures the Institute is taking to get us through the current financial crunch. We work on an interesting system whereby the amount of operating expense income from the endowment is based on an average of the dividends from the previous three years. The idea is to cushion the shock if there is a bad year and to evenly distribute the benefit from a single extremely good one. In reality what it means is that if the economy goes into a temporary downturn we won't feel it for at least two years as the better years will be represented in the mix for a while.

That is exactly what has happened--for the last two years, the last of the Clinton boom years remained in the mix but next year's budget is based on an average that has only the recent "Bush recession" years in it. There is a hiring freeze, a salary freeze for anyone making over $55,000 a year and there will be 250 layoffs, as many as possible to be made up through attrition. Grad students will lose a portion of financial aid and there are other small cuts being made anywhere. On the whole, it is a very fair plan and upper administration members have been touring the department monthly meetings to lay out the what and the why of it and to answer questions. It is in something like this that MIT reveals an unexpected populist style. The highest
levels of administration, including the President, come into the trenches to make an account of the Institute's situation and, as I told Ron at dinner, there is also a tradition of the great professors in fields like math, physics, computer science and engineering teaching intro courses instead of fobbing the freshmen off with teaching assistants. MIT may well be academe but it isn't an ivory tower and that's very refreshing.

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