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Large Incentives Tempt Faculty To Retire-Now

* Professors Emeriti receive monetary rewards

By Adam S. Hickey, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

It pays to go to Harvard, but sometimes it can pay even more to leave.

Hilton A. Salhanick, Hisaw professor of reproductive physiology at the School of Public Health (SPH), was paid $250,000 in 1996 as an incentive to take emeritus status, according to University tax returns. He was 71.

The bonus is a University record for a lump-sum payment and was the result of negotiations between Salhanick and then-SPH dean Harvey V. Fineberg '67, who is now the provost.

And though faculty praise Salhanick's abilities, the use of such a large incentive caused concern among many who object both to the idea of paying a professor to retire and to the subjectivity involved in calculating such a bonus without a clearly stated policy or methodology.

It has also raised questions of how the University should deal with the 1994 end of mandatory retirement, which allows a tenured faculty member to stay on the faculty as long as he or she wishes--an attractive option, say those who object to how some schools within the University treat their senior and emeriti faculty.

"Somehow it seems morally wrong to pay someone for retiring," says Marvin Zelen, professor of statistical studies in the faculty of public health.

"It's like you're buying something at a premium," he adds.

Zelen was joined by other faculty who--shocked that any professor was given a bonus of that size--found the very idea of retirement incentives distasteful.

"My initial reaction is that it's a terrible idea [to pay somebody to leave]," says James P. Butler, lecturer in physiology in the faculty of public health. "If I am to leave at age 67 or 68, I would much rather leave because someone told me the truth, that [my] research is not as good as it used to be. That would be straight and honest."

"[A bonus] seems sort of an under-handed way to do it," he says.

What's more, Salhanick said the incentive, and moreover the way the negotiations were carried out, did not make for an easy transition to emeritus status.

Like professors at other schools with incentive plans, Salhanick was paid in cash, meaning he lost 39 percent to taxes. In addition, Salhanick says he received no raise the year before he retired, and he worked several months without pay in 1996, tying up loose ends.

Salhanick's 1995 salary was roughly $85,000, according to University tax returns.

Though SPH officials would not reveal the average salary for a chaired professor, tenured faculty and SPH administrators estimated that the average is more than $100,000.

A Departmental Shift

Colleagues described Salhanick as "eminent." In 1971, a $500,000 chaired professorship was established specifically to dissuade him from pursuing opportunities at other universities, according to the History of Named Chairs published by the Secretary of the University.

Salhanick said he felt pressured by changes in his department to surrender his chair.

"The problem was that there was a new head of a department going in a different direction. I was the only person doing biological science in the department," he says.

Salhanick was "bounced around a little bit," faculty in the medical area say, each time to a smaller office. His office was moved to another building, outside of his department, making it more difficult, he says, to pursue his research--which is particularly necessary in the SPH where professors are responsible for raising large portions of their funding for salary and research through outside grants.

Faculty say Salhanick's department was never particularly lab science-oriented but since a change in department heads, it became even less so. Its name was changed from the Department of Population Sciences to the Department of Population and International Health.

Salhanick is a lab scientist--his initial work was done at the Harvard Medical School, not the SPH--and this shift in the department meant pursuing his research interests was more difficult.

"As a department reorients itself, you get more and more reoriented in the grant process. The process of getting money was not as difficult as getting general support for those research directions from the department," he says.

Salhanick says he has observed a general shift in the philosophy and goals of faculty and administration.

"In my opinion, academic relationships don't conform to big-business relationships," Salhanick said.

"In business, you pay for a certain kind of productivity. It depends on how many apples you sell. In the university, it may depend on how many ideas you create and stimulate. If you put an apple on the balance, you get a weight. If you put an idea on the balance, you don't get a weight--or you may even get a negative weight," he adds.

No Standard

Other faculty expressed concern that the SPH has no standard for how much to offer a retiring professor.

"I think there should be a public, uniform policy. The school should say, 'Yes, we will create incentives [and] we've identified this formula,'" says Joseph D. Brain, Drinker professor of environmental physiology in the faculty of public health.

Robert H. Hayes, Caldwell professor of business administration and senior associate dean for faculty development, was on the committee charged with developing the incentive plan now used at the Business School.

"There has to be an objective formula so that all people feel they are being treated according to a rule that they understand, and not some friendship or deal," Hayes says.

The goal of the incentive plan, according to Hayes, was to facilitate faculty turnover, bringing new ideas into the institution. With the end of mandatory retirement, research universities face the possibility of rising faculty ages and a longer wait on the part of younger faculty for the opening of tenured positions.

At the Business School, a retiring faculty member is encouraged to retire before age 68 with a bonus of up to twice a faculty member's salary--also in the six-figure range--depending on age.

The bonus is paid over two years, however, so no faculty member could receive more than his or her salary as a bonus in one year, Hayes says.

The SPH's payment stands out on University tax returns because it is a lump sum, not paid over two years, and because the SPH faces financial obstacles that the Business School--one of the more affluent areas of the University--does not.

In an interview last week, Fineberg said an objective formula was avoided because of the different financial situations of each professor. He said that "fairness" to the faculty member is "fundamentally the perspective," and for this reason it was necessary to consider a professor's benefit plan and other factors before calculating a retirement bonus.

Hayes disagreed.

"[Faculty] have a certain amount of freedom to choose those plans, and we don't want the amount paid to faculty members contingent on the plan that they chose to adopt," he said.

Ware said the bonus paid to Salhanick "did not reflect an established school policy on [retirement]. That was an individual case and should not be viewed as a solution or a resolution at the school."

He says that the SPH faculty is comparatively young, and he does not expect the bonus to be seen as a precedent.

Harvard, Inc.

Other older faculty members see a commercialization of academia, with more and more emphasis placed on popular areas of research.

"There are bandwagons in research," says Richard Levins, 67, Rock professor of population sciences in the faculty of public health. "It's safest to apply for funding for research that is popular and that gives results in a short amount of time."

Levins, who is also in the Department of Population and International Health, has changed offices several times.

Older, tenured faculty with established reputations have the freedom and interest to pursue the dark horse areas of research.

To a University concerned with money, however, what serves academia may not be seen as practical. Outside funding--which is harder to get for less popular areas of research--subsidizes the administration's operating budget.

"The faculty may have their own salary support, but the schools are not in a position to underwrite the costs...associated with running a large laboratory," said James H. Ware, acting dean of the School of Public Health.

With age and reputation come a host of other responsibilities--committee work, mentoring--that can take time away from teaching and research. In addition, the grant process has become more competitive, making it harder and more time-consuming for faculty to find outside support.

Older professors face greater challenges than ever in obtaining the necessary funding to run their lab.

While competition for funding and space affects all faculty, these factors combined can place older faculty especially in an untenable position: unable to obtain funding for their interests or divided between other responsibilities, their labs may sit empty, creating pressure on an administration to give lab space to tenure-hungry assistant professors.

"The administration has degrees of freedom in pushing people out. It's partly the carrot, partly the club," Levins says, with the retirement bonus being the carrot and changes in space being the club.

Respecting Our Elders?

Zelen is 70, but he says he has no plans to leave anytime soon.

"I guess I'll wait until I fall off the lecturing podium or they carry me out," he jokes. "I don't think about [retirement]," he adds.

Part of the reason faculty may be reluctant to retire, he says, is the sudden change in status that faculty members undergo when assuming emeritus status.

He remembers several years ago he contacted all the emeriti at the SPH.

"Most of them had little contact with the University," he says. "They were paid no attention to, that was the sense that I got. I think that's just the way Harvard is, and probably most universities are like that."

With no parking space, no University phone book, no help with changes in information technology and no classes, faculty felt cut off from the institution where they had done their life's work.

"Most people whom I contacted would have preferred to have access to faculty and students and an office.... The University hadn't done very much to use this resource, to make the retired faculty feel they are still part of the University community," Zelen says.

The SPH is currently constructing offices for emeriti on a separate floor of one of its buildings. This is similar to a plan by the Business School, which constructed a separate office building for retired faculty.

"I don't know if I'd like that. It's like being in a retirement home," Zelen jokes.

"The whole point of being in a University is to mingle with all walks of life," he says.

An Uncertain Course

Though emeriti professors are still a part of the University, many older professors fear that their connection to the community and their ability to continue their work would be greatly diminished by a change to emeritus status.

In the days when retirement was mandatory at 70, older professors who kept actively pursuing their work did not have the opportunity to continue in the same fashion that they do now. But at the same time, universities could plan with certainty for the future of their departments, and professors could rely on a clear system.

Now, in a time of transition, schools are scrambling for a way to resolve the problems of an aging faculty and the opportunities of continued leadership from their most experienced professors. The Business School has taken a clear-cut approach: making incentives available only up to a certain point.

Though the size of Salhanick's bonus turned heads across the University, it is important less as a specific case or an indicator of future policy than as an indication of the many tensions confronting an administration eager to be on the cutting edge and older professors hoping to continue their lives' work.Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67 says the School of Public Health's retirement incentive policy is designed to reflect the individual circumstances of each professor.

Salhanick said he felt pressured by changes in his department to surrender his chair.

"The problem was that there was a new head of a department going in a different direction. I was the only person doing biological science in the department," he says.

Salhanick was "bounced around a little bit," faculty in the medical area say, each time to a smaller office. His office was moved to another building, outside of his department, making it more difficult, he says, to pursue his research--which is particularly necessary in the SPH where professors are responsible for raising large portions of their funding for salary and research through outside grants.

Faculty say Salhanick's department was never particularly lab science-oriented but since a change in department heads, it became even less so. Its name was changed from the Department of Population Sciences to the Department of Population and International Health.

Salhanick is a lab scientist--his initial work was done at the Harvard Medical School, not the SPH--and this shift in the department meant pursuing his research interests was more difficult.

"As a department reorients itself, you get more and more reoriented in the grant process. The process of getting money was not as difficult as getting general support for those research directions from the department," he says.

Salhanick says he has observed a general shift in the philosophy and goals of faculty and administration.

"In my opinion, academic relationships don't conform to big-business relationships," Salhanick said.

"In business, you pay for a certain kind of productivity. It depends on how many apples you sell. In the university, it may depend on how many ideas you create and stimulate. If you put an apple on the balance, you get a weight. If you put an idea on the balance, you don't get a weight--or you may even get a negative weight," he adds.

No Standard

Other faculty expressed concern that the SPH has no standard for how much to offer a retiring professor.

"I think there should be a public, uniform policy. The school should say, 'Yes, we will create incentives [and] we've identified this formula,'" says Joseph D. Brain, Drinker professor of environmental physiology in the faculty of public health.

Robert H. Hayes, Caldwell professor of business administration and senior associate dean for faculty development, was on the committee charged with developing the incentive plan now used at the Business School.

"There has to be an objective formula so that all people feel they are being treated according to a rule that they understand, and not some friendship or deal," Hayes says.

The goal of the incentive plan, according to Hayes, was to facilitate faculty turnover, bringing new ideas into the institution. With the end of mandatory retirement, research universities face the possibility of rising faculty ages and a longer wait on the part of younger faculty for the opening of tenured positions.

At the Business School, a retiring faculty member is encouraged to retire before age 68 with a bonus of up to twice a faculty member's salary--also in the six-figure range--depending on age.

The bonus is paid over two years, however, so no faculty member could receive more than his or her salary as a bonus in one year, Hayes says.

The SPH's payment stands out on University tax returns because it is a lump sum, not paid over two years, and because the SPH faces financial obstacles that the Business School--one of the more affluent areas of the University--does not.

In an interview last week, Fineberg said an objective formula was avoided because of the different financial situations of each professor. He said that "fairness" to the faculty member is "fundamentally the perspective," and for this reason it was necessary to consider a professor's benefit plan and other factors before calculating a retirement bonus.

Hayes disagreed.

"[Faculty] have a certain amount of freedom to choose those plans, and we don't want the amount paid to faculty members contingent on the plan that they chose to adopt," he said.

Ware said the bonus paid to Salhanick "did not reflect an established school policy on [retirement]. That was an individual case and should not be viewed as a solution or a resolution at the school."

He says that the SPH faculty is comparatively young, and he does not expect the bonus to be seen as a precedent.

Harvard, Inc.

Other older faculty members see a commercialization of academia, with more and more emphasis placed on popular areas of research.

"There are bandwagons in research," says Richard Levins, 67, Rock professor of population sciences in the faculty of public health. "It's safest to apply for funding for research that is popular and that gives results in a short amount of time."

Levins, who is also in the Department of Population and International Health, has changed offices several times.

Older, tenured faculty with established reputations have the freedom and interest to pursue the dark horse areas of research.

To a University concerned with money, however, what serves academia may not be seen as practical. Outside funding--which is harder to get for less popular areas of research--subsidizes the administration's operating budget.

"The faculty may have their own salary support, but the schools are not in a position to underwrite the costs...associated with running a large laboratory," said James H. Ware, acting dean of the School of Public Health.

With age and reputation come a host of other responsibilities--committee work, mentoring--that can take time away from teaching and research. In addition, the grant process has become more competitive, making it harder and more time-consuming for faculty to find outside support.

Older professors face greater challenges than ever in obtaining the necessary funding to run their lab.

While competition for funding and space affects all faculty, these factors combined can place older faculty especially in an untenable position: unable to obtain funding for their interests or divided between other responsibilities, their labs may sit empty, creating pressure on an administration to give lab space to tenure-hungry assistant professors.

"The administration has degrees of freedom in pushing people out. It's partly the carrot, partly the club," Levins says, with the retirement bonus being the carrot and changes in space being the club.

Respecting Our Elders?

Zelen is 70, but he says he has no plans to leave anytime soon.

"I guess I'll wait until I fall off the lecturing podium or they carry me out," he jokes. "I don't think about [retirement]," he adds.

Part of the reason faculty may be reluctant to retire, he says, is the sudden change in status that faculty members undergo when assuming emeritus status.

He remembers several years ago he contacted all the emeriti at the SPH.

"Most of them had little contact with the University," he says. "They were paid no attention to, that was the sense that I got. I think that's just the way Harvard is, and probably most universities are like that."

With no parking space, no University phone book, no help with changes in information technology and no classes, faculty felt cut off from the institution where they had done their life's work.

"Most people whom I contacted would have preferred to have access to faculty and students and an office.... The University hadn't done very much to use this resource, to make the retired faculty feel they are still part of the University community," Zelen says.

The SPH is currently constructing offices for emeriti on a separate floor of one of its buildings. This is similar to a plan by the Business School, which constructed a separate office building for retired faculty.

"I don't know if I'd like that. It's like being in a retirement home," Zelen jokes.

"The whole point of being in a University is to mingle with all walks of life," he says.

An Uncertain Course

Though emeriti professors are still a part of the University, many older professors fear that their connection to the community and their ability to continue their work would be greatly diminished by a change to emeritus status.

In the days when retirement was mandatory at 70, older professors who kept actively pursuing their work did not have the opportunity to continue in the same fashion that they do now. But at the same time, universities could plan with certainty for the future of their departments, and professors could rely on a clear system.

Now, in a time of transition, schools are scrambling for a way to resolve the problems of an aging faculty and the opportunities of continued leadership from their most experienced professors. The Business School has taken a clear-cut approach: making incentives available only up to a certain point.

Though the size of Salhanick's bonus turned heads across the University, it is important less as a specific case or an indicator of future policy than as an indication of the many tensions confronting an administration eager to be on the cutting edge and older professors hoping to continue their lives' work.Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67 says the School of Public Health's retirement incentive policy is designed to reflect the individual circumstances of each professor.

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