Retirement incentive program announced

Today, the College announced the details of a one-time voluntary early retirement program that aims to reduce spending in a time of budget cuts across the board. These details were presented to 114 eligible staff and 85 eligible faculty members in individual mailings on Monday. Last Friday, Interim President Wagner announced the overall structure of the retirement incentive plan to all faculty and staff via e-mail.

The early retirement program was first announced on Jan. 31 along with the host of other budget-trimming programs – including the reinstatement of loans into financial aid packages and the continued postponement of construction projects.

According to Wagner’s e-mails, the voluntary early retirement program requires interested faculty and staff members to meet a number of criteria. In order to be eligible, faculty and staff members must, as of June 30, 2011 and June 30, 2010, respectively, be at least 58 years old; have at least 10 years of cumulative service to the College; and have at least a total of 75 years of age and years of service combined. Eligible faculty must also be actively employed in a regular non-visiting position, have a half-time FTE or greater and have no established retirement agreement with a set retirement date prior to June 30, 2012.

The criteria faculty and staff members need to meet do not differ from those that already exist for early retirement. According to Jim Kolesar, assistant to the president for public affairs, the pre-existing early retirement program allows staff members who meet the criteria to retire early and maintain benefits until age 65, while the program for faculty is open to those aged 62 to 65 and enables them to phase their retirement from active faculty membership. The new, one-time program maintains the aforementioned criteria while expanding the age eligibility for faculty and also offering a financial incentive.

Wagner’s e-mail explained that the different retirement dates for faculty and staff (June 30, 2012 and June 30, 2010, respectively) are due to the “lengthier horizon” necessary for faculty, “given that our curriculum is set a year or two in advance.” The longer period provides academic departments the opportunity to apply for and conduct searches to fill open positions.

In discussing the difficult decisions faced by eligible faculty and staff, Wagner noted the importance of sensitivity and privacy. “It is important that they be able to make those decisions independently, without any influence, conscious or unconscious, from the rest of us,” Wagner wrote in his e-mails. “It will be hard not to talk about this with the eligible people we know and care about, but for ethical and legal reasons it is vital that we not say anything that could be taken as a signal that we do or do not want someone to take advantage of the program.”

Wagner also acknowledged the unsettling nature of the process, citing concerns surrounding operating with reduced numbers of faculty and staff. “This is not simply about reducing our size as much as it is about rethinking our work and reorganizing the College around that work,” he wrote, adding that once the College knows how many positions will open due to retiring employees, decisions will be made as to which need to be re-filled.

Wagner’s e-mail explained that eligible faculty and staff will have until the end of March to officially express interest in the program. After expressing interest, faculty and staff will receive a formal letter of agreement and an additional 45 days to sign and return the letter. Once the letter is returned to the College, employees will have a period of seven days to reconsider their decisions.

According to Kolesar, the exact amount of money saved as a result of the retirement incentives cannot be determined at this time. “The budgetary impact will depend on how many people choose to take part, who they are and how many of their positions end up being refilled,” Kolesar said. “In general, though, there will be a significant cost up front followed by savings every year into the future.”
Full information is now available on the Web sites of the Human Resources Office and the Dean of the Faculty’s Office.

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