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FAS Introduces Retirement Package

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has introduced a new retirement program for faculty members that will make permanent a revised version of last year’s one-time retirement offer that allows professors to gradually lessen their teaching duties, according to an e-mail FAS Dean Michael D. Smith sent to faculty members yesterday.

The new retirement program, which became available yesterday and will last for “the foreseeable future[,]” according to the program brochure, provides two options to professors aged 65 to 72 and—in a deviation from last year’s program—only one option to those who are over 72. Professors must have served at Harvard for at least 10 years to be eligible.

The plan builds off of a temporary program offered last December that the administration established as it sought flexibility in long-term planning in the wake of the fiscal crisis.

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The details of the new program closely reflect those of last year’s. Professors between the ages of 65 and 72 can reduce their teaching and service obligations by half for either two or four academic years before fully retiring. In the two-year option, professors can choose to have two semesters of paid sabbatical if they teach full time for the other two semesters, and receive full salary for the entire two years. In the four-year option, they receive full salary in the first year and half during the next three years.

But, unlike with last year’s plan, professors over 72 can now only choose to halve their obligations for two years, during which they receive half salary.

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In addition to allowing faculty members to plan their retirement, the program also enables more accurate academic scheduling by FAS. But according to FAS spokesman Jeff A. Neal, the new launch does not have a target number of professors that FAS expects will accept the retirement offer.

“By knowing who plans to retire and when, we can plan for their departure in advance,” Neal wrote.

According to Neal, the program is also part of a larger process to “bolster our long term goal of supporting an increasingly diverse faculty.”

In last year’s retirement program, 40 of the 46 participants across the University—similar one-year programs were offered at four other schools—were white men, 4 were white women, and only 2 were minorities, according to the 2010 Annual Report from Harvard’s Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity.

One reason why the FAS administration decided to make the program permanent is the positive response from eligible professors who opted into last year’s program, according to the program’s brochure.

“We have learned that a significant number of eligible faculty did, indeed, find the plan useful in planning for their retirements,” Neal wrote in an e-mail.

History Professor Steven E. Ozment said that he was “not surprised” that FAS made the retirement offer permanent.

“You’ve offered a certain number of buyouts. Now you have to make the program fluid.” Ozment said.

“I think the administration is being really responsible... they might sweeten the pot to encourage people to retire,” he added.

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at gkumar@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Sirui Li can be reached at sli@college.harvard.edu.

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