Tensions build as offered retirement deadline nears
Students form silent protest
Published: Friday, March 11, 2011
Updated: Friday, March 11, 2011 13:03
According to a psychology professor at Lyndon State College, his retirement incentive came with a warning: accept the option, or expect cuts to your department.
"When I asked what the consequences would be if I didn't accept it, I was told specifically that a junior member of my department would have to be let go. When I suggested that that seemed to be putting a lot of pressure on me to make the decision, I was told that it wasn't," said psychology professor Ron Rossi. "But it's hard for me to figure out why that's no pressure on me because my choice would have meant somebody in my department would have been cut."
The junior faculty members in the psychology department are Meri Stiles and Peggy Sherrer.
Dean of Academic and Student Affairs Donna Dalton said the administration has not put pressure on the faculty and staff to retire in order to spare others.
"That's not accurate," she said, although she admitted if no one accepts the retirement proposals, there would have to be reductions. "In all likelihood, we would have to send non-reappointment letters to some of our untenured faculty. I don't know how many."
There are currently 26 untenured professors at LSC, with three of those working on one-year terms.
According to the chairman of the Faculty Federation, David Johnston, the idea wasn't to force retirement on anyone.
"Not having been a part of those individual discussions before, my sense is that what was intended to be informational in terms of the reality of the budget situation was interpreted as being undue pressure," he said.
A new retirement plan, although complete details have not been released, is an improvement, according to Johnston.
"We certainly think that it is a generous and reasonable offer that is again entirely voluntary on the part of the potential retirees," he said.
According to Dalton, the new plan extends the deadlines of when a retiree would need to retire, giving him or her the option to end this semester, in December, or in May 2012, instead of retiring at the end of this semester.
The revision is basically extending those deadlines to December or May," Dalton said.
The original retirement option, which is explained in the union bargaining unit agreement, allows for those wishing to retire to work for half a year for half the pay, and after that time officially retire.
Faculty and staff need to explain their intentions by March 23, in order for the administration to consider if more people need to be given non-reappointment letters. The faculty and staff who will receive non-reappointment letters will begin getting them on April 1, with some coming in later weeks, depending on how long each person has been working at LSC.
Despite the new additions to the incentive package, Rossi is unhappy with the way the situation is being handled.
"I understand the need for it," he said. "What I didn't particularly care for was how it worked out in case, how they did it in my case. I don't think other people were given the same kind of language that I was in terms of if you don't do this, somebody is going to have to leave in your dept. I don't know that they got that same message.
"The president said that even if I did accept it, there still might be cuts in my department. If I left, one more person may also," he added.
Dalton explained that the decision to not reappoint faculty and staff members will be difficult.
"It's a horrible thing to be thinking about," she said. "We have a financial problem that needs to be corrected that just keeps getting bigger over the next three years. It's a big enough problem that it requires that we potentially reduce the size of our faculty and staff."
Johnston said he believes the second version of the retirement plan is more appealing.
"My sense is that yes, those people thought it was a better plan, and at least one of them was inclined perhaps to take advantage of it," Johnston said.
Rossi is not interested in the plan yet.
"I think I'm still a year or so away from what the package is. Right now, financial security in retirement is important, and I've got to make sure I have that before I can decided to retire," he said.
The final decision on whether or not to keep faculty at LSC rests with President Carol Moore, with recommendations from Dalton.