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FAS, Four Other University Schools Offer Retirement Plan for Faculty Members

By Noah S. Rayman and Elyssa A. L. Spitzer, Crimson Staff Writers

CORRECTION APPENDED

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences and four of the University’s professional schools offered a voluntary retirement program yesterday to eligible members of their faculties, marking the culmination of months of planning initiated by the fiscal troubles of the last academic year.

The packages, offered by the Harvard Medical School, the Harvard School of Public Health, the Harvard Divinity School, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, represent the first official faculty retirement program laid out by the University since the federal mandatory retirement law—which permitted Universities to force professors to retire at the age of 70—was repealed in 1994.

Under the terms of the program circulated by FAS, the University’s largest school, tenured faculty members 65 or older who have served at Harvard for at least 10 years are offered three retirement tracks varying by dates of retirement and accompanying benefits. The shortest term “1-Year Option” allows a maximum of a single year of paid sabbatical to faculty looking to enter retirement in 2011, while corresponding tracks make provisions for those indicating an intention to end their service in 2012 or 2014. Those faculty choosing to participate must accept by June 30, 2010.

The unveiling of the package—applicable to nearly one-fourth of the tenured faculty in FAS—comes less than a month after FAS Dean Michael D. Smith said in an interview that he plans to reduce the overall size of the FAS in upcoming years through attrition. Currently, 24 percent of Harvard’s tenured faculty is aged 65 or older—the average age of tenured faculty members within FAS is 56.

The proposal for a faculty retirement package surfaced as a possible cost-saving measure in the spring, when FAS learned that it faced a daunting $110 million deficit. In February, the University had opened an early retirement incentive program for staff members, 531 of whom ultimately took the package.

In previous interviews, Smith himself has framed the faculty retirement packages, which were in progress as early as this spring, as part of budget-saving effort aimed at resurrecting the Faculty from a financial deficit that yawned as wide as $220 million in April (the figure has since been cut in half, Smith announced this fall). If any of the 127 faculty members who were offered the package chose to accept it, the plan would open up positions that would only be filled again on a case-by-case basis.

The package is presented as a service to professors for whom retirement is already in sight. “The FAS faculty retirement program is designed to support faculty who are considering retirement,” wrote FAS Spokesman Jeff A. Neal in an e-mail to The Crimson Wednesday.

Neal added that there was no target figure for participation in the program or any projections relating to the amount of budgetary relief that could be in store for FAS.

“[W]e do not expect that there will be any savings related to this program in the near-term and we cannot estimate at this time what savings may accrue in the out years,” Neal wrote.

In the past, Smith has emphasized that over half of the Faculty’s budget is allocated toward compensation for staffers and professors.

Harvard professors are currently the highest paid in the country, according to a recent report by the American Association of University Professors, with an average salary of $192,600 per year. In the 2009 fiscal year, FAS spent $147.8 million on all faculty salaries, according to the Dean’s Annual Report.

The FAS package is a one-time offer, which, currently, the Faculty “has no expectation of offering...again at a later date,” according to page nine of the pamphlet sent out to eligible professors today.

Last spring, in the midst of budget troubles, the University offered an early retirement package to staff members aged 55 or older who had served at Harvard for 10 years or more. That package was expressly proposed as an early retirement incentive aimed at trimming numbers and cutting costs.

In the FAS faculty package, eligible professors are presented with three options—a one, two, or four-year retirement plan. All eligible professors will be given $1,000 to support their financial planning while considering their choices.

In the one-year plan, professors would maintain research and advising obligations while on paid sabbatical during the 2010-2011 academic year and retire fully by June 30, 2011.

In the two-year plan, professors would maintain part-time teaching positions for the next two academic years, including two semesters of paid sabbatical, and retire fully by June 30, 2012.

In the four-year plan, professors would teach and fulfill service obligations halftime and retire fully on June 30, 2014.

Under all three options, faculty members will be paid their full salaries during the 2010-2011 fiscal year, so the plan will not affect the budget plan for the upcoming year to be announced this spring.

Harvard’s creation of an early retirement option for faculty places the University in the company of many of its peer institutions, including Stanford, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, and Dartmouth.

—Staff writer Noah S. Rayman can be reached at nrayman@fas.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Elyssa A.L. Spitzer can be reached at spitzer@fas.harvard.edu.

CORRECTION

An earlier version of the Dec. 3 news article "FAS, Four Other University Schools Offer Retirement Plan for Faculty Members" incorrectly stated that Princeton had put in place an early retirement plan for its faculty. In fact, Princeton's early retirement package applied only to staff.

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