Usually, a new Faculty member has a percentage of her salary guaranteed. This is known as hard money. The university is promising you, for example, 9 months salary support for the first 5 years of your career (that's the tenure track). The rest is made up by our new TT prof securing grants and picking up courses to teach etc. and that's the soft money. That's the bit that sucks because if you can't get a grant funded your salary is only 75% of what it should be. And if you're a postdoc, for example, on someone's R01, and it isn't renewed, you're fucked because 100% of your salary is soft money.
a young professor joins the tenure track and tries to negotiate his start-up with the dean...
There are as many variations on this funding structure as there are academic institutions. I have a friend who is a non-tenure track assistant professor who has 9 months of support, and is primarily in a teaching position. He can't write large grants to pick up the other 25% of his salary because he doesn't run a research program. So he picks up as much extra teaching as he can during semester to add to his pay check, because summer is hard to get through when the money dries up. What he wasn't told until after he joined his institute was that he isn't allowed 'unexcused' absences for longer than a few days, and even though he isn't getting paid for the summer, he still has to be there. So his dreams of traveling or working on his book during this time are scuppered by having to be present on campus.
My position, indeed my entire Unit is funded by a budget that is neither hard, nor soft. We could call it flaccid money. We're funded by State dollars while we vie for a large institutional award from the National Institutes of Health. (The NIH are the paymaster general to which most of us beholden, in case there are any non-scientists out there.) being funded by State dollars was great while we were the golden child of the program. Money was always there, we generally got what we wanted, when we wanted it, and we've used the beneficence of our administrators to grow in new areas. However, we just got our grant review results back from the Great Paymaster General in Washington, DC and things are not looking so good suddenly. Our latest application was, to all intents and purposes, shit all over by the review panel. In my opinion (worth less than one whole internets dollar) they missed a lot of the great stuff we're proposing and can deliver, and instead focused on the few tiny, insignificant negative aspects of the application. Like not having enough experienced leadership, or a good enough marketing plan for some of our 'products' and 'deliverables'. Like I say, mere details! Look at teh awesome science bitchezz111!!!q1
Anyway, suddenly working here has become less secure. Our studly and tumescent budget is beginning to wilt, friends are not returning phone calls and I kind of feel like the guy who gets caught punking the principle's office. Everyone is laughing and joking and offering encouragement until he walks in the room and suddenly you are very, very alone and friendless...
The work my unit does covers areas outside our direct scientific remit and we offer a lot of support to our administration, forming a kind of 'academic computing' division. I'm told we're probably OK for year, and the administration will support us for at least one more budget cycle while they try and figure out what to do with us all. This is great, if true, because I am nominally in charge of a team of 8-12 people and now trying to cover my ass while looking out for them too is already starting to tear at my nerves.
Right now we're waiting to hear from the Grand Poobahs at the Top of the Stairs about our budget. I think this part is the hardest because I don't know if anyone will get cut in the next month or two (myself included). I am working on the assumption that we're going to be OK for one more year (budget year, not calendar year). Once I have a budget I can develop a timeline and come up with some ideas on how to save my staff. I'm hoping that some can be saved as a whole and move to another institute in town that is looking to pick up the pieces of the pie we dropped. Some I can likely get into our IT division as we try and combine all of the IT services on campus.
As for me. I'm exploring a few different options, but I think my time here is drawing to a close. I can visualise several options and outcomes for my team over the coming months, but I am reminded of Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam warning to the Lady Jessica, at the beginning of "Dune".
"The boy may be worth saving, but for the father, nothing!"