Even as faculty administrators begin looking for incentives to encourage retirement when mandatory age restrictions are lifted, some say there still might be hope that the University can get around the anti-discrimination law.
According to acting Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky, any attempt to keep the exemption after 1993 will most likely have to be done within the law as it stands.
Under the 1986 law, any person in a policy-making position can be subject to mandatory retirement. And some contend that academics, because of their role in tenure decisions, fit that role.
"Are they in a policy-making position? I would say yes," says Rosovsky. "Whether that will be reflected in the law, I don't know."
Clare Cotton, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Massachusetts, says that his organization, which also supports mandatory retirement, had not considered Rosovsky's angle. Cotton added, however, that it may be an issue when the group meets with affiliates in Washington.
Still, this interpretation will face opposition and it is unlikely to be upheld. Other groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, vehmently oppose the current exemption for academics and oppose its continuation on any grounds.
"Mandatory retirement is age discrimination," says Gabriel A. Maisels, an ACLU spokesperson. "Age discrimination, like any discrimination, violates the rights of each individual not to be judged by the group he belongs to."
Maisels says that the organization has not recently handled an age discrimination suit for a tenured professor. She adds, however, that the official ACLU position makes special note that scholars should also be free from mandatory retirement.
Given the difficulty of Rosovsky's proposal, Harvard--seeking to preserve a place for younger scholars--may find exception to the law impossible. Rather, the University may have to bite the bullet and make retirement more appealing.