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At their monthly meeting last week, members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences discussed the University Benefits Committee (UBC) first annual report, which recommends that Harvard increase its pension of faculty members under age 40. Although we applaud the much-needed focus on young faculty as well as the necessary increase in their pension benefits, the recent recommendation is sorely lacking.
The suggestion is a paltry attempt on the part of the University to recompense its hard-working junior faculty, an inadequacy that clearly reflects the disregard with which the University deals with its young professors.
The details of the UBC's retirement subcommittee recommendation are simple: increase the salary portion under the Social Security wage base for faculty under age 40 from four percent to five percent and the remainder to 10 percent. Although this may seem like a generous move on first inspection, do not be fooled; the "raise" was more of a restoration than an addition.
In 1994, Harvard reduced the percentage it contributed to the pension plan from five percent to four percent. To return the contribution to its original five percent is no great concession on the part of the University.
Moreover, five percent is an embarrassingly low percentage for the University to provide, especially considering the percentage it offers its other employees. As Mallinckrodt Professor of Applied Physics William Paul articulated, "It seems anomalous to me that we regard as a gain to recoup a five percent contribution...when members of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) receive a minimum 6.5 percent."
We believe the clerical and technical workers are of central importance, but it is a travesty that full-time professors receive so much less in benefits than their tenured compatriots.
The UBC's report reveals the attitude that characterizes the University's relationship with its junior faculty. The prevailing sentiment among the administration, this report seems to indicate, is that young professors should be so honored to have the opportunity to teach at Harvard University that no other remuneration is deemed necessary.
We are deeply disappointed with the inadequate recommendations of the UBC. Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles said, "If [the changes] begin to affect the recruitment of younger and more vibrant colleagues to the Faculty, I should be unhappy." So would we, Dean, so would we.
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