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Duke ready to move out of recession, Brodhead says

After two years of difficult financial decisions, Duke is on its way out of the economic downturn, President Richard Brodhead announced Wednesday.

In his Primetime address, Brodhead advised employees to remain prudent as the University rebounds from the financial recession, noting the importance of future ventures and construction projects in Durham and abroad. About 50 people attended the event in Reynolds Theater and another 4,500 watched online.

“We shouldn’t fool ourselves, we are in better times partly because we helped put ourselves in better times,” Brodhead said. “I would hate to for us to loosen up this year and then find that next year we had another problem.”

Brodhead said the University made “calculated strategic solutions” meant to eliminate a budget deficit of approximately $100 million. He noted, however, that Duke continued to be a good place to work throughout the recession.

“You were fortunate to work at Duke during this period, there are a lot of [universities] where jobs are going away,” he said. “[The recession] did exact a sacrifice from all of us.”

Brodhead listed several cost-cutting initiatives the University has implemented since 2009. The list included encouraging voluntary retirement, rationalizing spending and putting a freeze on pay raises—a measure which will soon end, Brodhead recently announced. But he also mentioned increased spending on the University’s upcoming projects such as the new campus in Kunshan, China, Durham campus renovations and additions to the Duke University Medical Center.

Brodhead compared building a campus in China to the 1892 decision to move Duke from Randolph County, N.C., to Durham, saying a university must be located within a cutting-edge community. Duke Kunshan University, which is expected to cost Duke upwards of $37 million, will help the University as a whole to expand its knowledge of the world and provide the Duke experience to Chinese students.

“If you don’t understand remote international dimensions, you can’t understand what’s in front of your eyes,” he said. “We’re not going there to spend money, we’re going there to do the teaching.”

The University recently received $80 million from the Duke Endowment to renovate the West Union building, Baldwin Auditorium and Page Auditorium. If the costs exceed $80 million, Duke will have to raise additional funding, The Chronicle previously reported. Brodhead said he was pleased to have this opportunity, calling the buildings, in their current state, a “chaotic wreck.”

Brodhead stressed the importance of additions to the Medical Center such as the new cancer center and medical pavilion, noting that they will play a critical role in boosting research funding.

“[We must] invest in things now that will create economic prospects in the future,” he said.

Attendee Morgan Hendrix, assistant director of admissions at the Divinity School, said she believes some individual departments within the University have trouble looking toward the future when there are many present challenges, adding that she was pleased to hear Brodhead speak frankly with faculty.

“Something that’s hard is finding practical things you can do now as opposed to future things,” Hendrix said.

Brodhead said Duke, since its beginning, has been a “massive construction project,” and the University is lucky that it did not have any major projects underway when the recession began. He hopes the University takes advantage of the facilities currently under construction before embarking on new projects.

“Universities don’t exist to build buildings,” Brodhead said. “In fact, if you can, you usually avoid it. But sometimes you build a building to serve a purpose.”

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