[lg policy] To Encourage Faculty to Retire, Consider Offering Social and Emotional Support, Presidents Say

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 8 16:45:09 UTC 2011

March 7, 2011
To Encourage Faculty to Retire, Consider Offering Social and Emotional
Support, Presidents Say

By Kathryn Masterson


What keeps faculty members in their 60s and 70s from retiring isn't
just finances, said several college leaders who spoke at a session
during the American Council on Education conference here on Monday.
Emotional and social considerations also come into play, and colleges
that want to encourage more retirements should seek ways to offer
faculty support in those areas.

Providing faculty members with office space, opportunities to continue
working with students by teaching freshman seminars or other courses,
and additional ways to keep tangible connections to their campuses,
such as assisting with alumni relations, can go a long way in helping
them prepare for the transition, panel members said.

"Retirement for many faculty members is social death. And if it isn't,
they think it is," said Teresa A. Sullivan, president of the
University of Virginia.

The issue of faculty retirement is a thorny one for colleges. There is
no mandatory retirement age for faculty members, and as a result of
the recent economic downturn, more faculty members are tending to put
off retirement for at least a couple of years. With little turnover,
colleges on tight budgets have less money to hire new faculty members.
Some institutions have offered buyouts or other incentives to inspire
more faculty members to start planning for retirement.

Universities that do offer attractive retirement incentives don't want
to lose all of their senior faculty at once, however, and need to find
a way to manage the process. ACE is running a project, with support
from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, that will identify best practices
for encouraging and managing retirement at colleges.
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At Monday's session, James H. Mullen Jr., president of Allegheny
College, described his institution's search for a systematic way to
deal with retirement and hiring issues. The college's new strategic
plan calls for increased diversity of the faculty and for professors
to do interdisciplinary work, and Allegheny must find ways to free up
more money to hire new faculty members who will help it meet those
goals, while being sensitive to the emotional aspects of retirement
for its current employees. A quarter of Allegheny's faculty are age 60
or older.

In 2008, the college offered three options for professors considering
retirement. They could take a transitional semester-long sabbatical at
full pay, do a phased retirement with a reduced teaching load for two
years at two-thirds salary, or retire and become a distinguished
professor, coming back to teach at a rate higher than the one for
adjuncts, Mr. Mullen said. Allegheny also gave retiring professors a
space of their own on campus, creating an office suite for them in the
new alumni building.

The introduction of the program coincided with the economy tanking,
and it was not as popular as expected. The college anticipated about
11 faculty members would take advantage of the program in the first
two years, but only three did. Mr. Mullen said he thinks more will
consider it as the economy improves.

Other approaches described at the session included recall
appointments, which allowed some retired professors at the University
of California to come back and teach part time. Lawrence H. Pitts,
provost of the system, said that 370 retired faculty members are now
teaching at slightly less than half their former salaries.

At the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where Ms. Sullivan was
provost before taking the top job at Virginia, the library worked with
faculty members to create digital archives of their work, thereby
helping them preserve their research legacy. Finding ways to improve
the culture of retirement, so retirees don't feel cut off from the
campus community, could help faculty members overcome their other
concerns about retirement, including the more technical challenges of
health-care and benefit payouts, she said.


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com


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