Faculty Establishes Benefits Committee

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) now has a standing committee on benefits, FAS Dean Jeremy R. Knowles announced Wednesday at the last Faculty Council meeting of the semester.

The establishment of the committee comes after two tense Faculty meetings filled with faculty-administration conflict over staff benefits.

A University task force in November announced significant changes planned for the University's benefits systems. One of the most controversial shifts has been the intended one percent reduction in the University's contribution to faculty pension funds.

Professor of Sociology Peter Marsden will chair the committee.

Other members include McKay Professor of Mechanical Engineering Frederick H. Abernathy, Baird Professor of Science Gary J. Feldman, Professor of Economics N. Gregory Mankjw, Professor of Music Kay K. Shelemay and Assistant Director of the Core Program Elizabeth W. Swain.


"Everyone on the Faculty Council was surely pleased at the fact that Dean Knowles was able to successfully constitute that committee and do it with exceptional people," said Professor of Government Kenneth A. Shepsle, a council member.

According to a resolution passed at December's Faculty meeting, the committee will be an official avenue for communication on FAS benefits.

It will have the responsibility for monitoring conditions affecting faculty, professional and administrative staff benefits in FAS and will provide a review of trends and trade-offs affecting benefits every three to five years.

Abernathy said yesterday that he thought the committee would be helpful, especially given the changes that could occur in the Republican-controlled 104th Congress.

"My own personal view is that it is highly likely that there will be changes in tax structure for Medicare, for Social Security, and it's going to be unlikely that things will remain the same for 20 years," he said.

At November's Faculty meeting. Abernathy presented a report on benefits which he co-wrote with Gund Professor of Economics Richard E. Caves. The report stated that faculty members had not been adequately consulted when the University-wide task force on benefits revised the staff benefits plan.

The standing committee's first meeting will be in the next two weeks, Abernathy said.

"We may be a standing committee, but we're to be a running committee," Abernathy said.

Marsden said yesterday that the committee's agenda will be determined in the first few meetings.

There is no official world yet on whether the members of a University-wide standing benefits committee have been chosen, but Abernathy said he thought it was likely that at least one of them would be a FAS standing committee member who is younger than Abernathy.

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