14 faculty members confirmed to retire by June 2023

By Emma Loenicker

“A Sound Future” left few possibilities unexplored in the proposal to recover from the University’s ten-million-dollar budget deficit, which has been the source of campus-wide tension for months now. While strategizing to construct a sustainable and profitable financial plan for the University, the question of professors and programs has loomed large. The prospect of losing beloved professors and programs is overwhelmingly unpopular. This was apparent in the concerns and frustrations voiced during the last campus-wide town hall, on November 16 and during a student, faculty, and staff meeting — which excluded the administration — the day prior.

The administration has repeatedly clarified that program cuts are a last resort. 26 eligible professors over the age of 59, on the other hand, received incentivized retirement packages that offer an additional year’s salary, along with an additional sum to cover medical benefits, all of which would be paid out if they agreed to retire by the end of this academic year. January 3 was the deadline for this pool of professors to make their final decisions. This wave of incentivized retirement is an attempt to decrease longterm spending.

It’s no secret that the means by which the administration is attempting to recover from the budget crisis is a disappointment to some. Still, the effort to reduce the budget deficit through incentivized retirement may have restored enough financial stability to take program cuts off the table. Now, the campus community is looking to the administration to reveal the extent to which this wave of retirement has rectified the financial crisis, and how these outcomes influence the plans for recovery moving forward. According to the interim provost, Nick Kontogeorgopoulos, “another update is scheduled to be distributed to the campus following the meetings of the Board of Trustees in late February.”

On Jan. 27, President Crawford informed the campus community that 14 faculty members have confirmed their plans to retire by June 30, 2023. These 14 faculty members will retire via one of four courses of retirement offered to tenured faculty at the University: normal, early, phased, or the one-time incentivized retirement program. Kontogeorgopoulos shared that these 14 faculty make up “approximately 5% of the tenured/tenure-line faculty.” He and Julie Christoph, Dean of Faculty Affairs, are working to take the necessary hiring measures to ensure a continued high-quality academic experience.

James Jasinski, professor of communication studies, who has been teaching at this University since the fall of 1997, and John Hanson, professor of chemistry, who has taught here since 1990, are two of the professors retiring this coming June with the incentivized retirement program. Both professors expressed that this transition felt like the right next step for them personally and that they had been considering retirement well before the incentivized offers were distributed. The offer was appealing to both of them, in that it would allow them to each step into new chapters of their lives, and might even help somebody else working at the University keep their job. Hanson explained, “I’ve been on the chemistry track forever to get here, and I’ve loved it, but there are lots of other things I’d like to do, and lots of other opportunities.”

Jasinski and Hanson also shared similar hesitations when coming to a decision. Both were conscious of what made sense for their respective departments and considered this factor carefully in the decision process. Hanson described feeling a responsibility to his colleagues, and ultimately felt okay leaving because he knew that his retirement wouldn’t disrupt his department’s well-being and ability to function efficiently.

Professor Jasinski explained that his decision was split between taking a sabbatical that he would soon be eligible for, and teaching for a few more years afterward, or taking the incentivized retirement offer. He explained that a sabbatical is an important chapter in a professor’s time sequence, so it was difficult to leave that behind, but the faculty retirement incentive program made retiring a more comparable alternative to taking a sabbatical, in terms of long-term financial stability. Jasinski cleared up the speculation around pressure from the administration, saying that the Provost’s office has been protective of faculty members’ well-being, and sympathetic to each professor’s individual circumstances. “I know I’ll miss the classroom, so that’s why I’ve already had some conversations about possibly taking on an emeritus role next spring,” Jasinski said. This would allow him to teach a class at the University, remain a part of the community, and retain access to various facilities. The Provost’s office is actively working with retiring faculty to make this opportunity accessible, yet emeritus roles are contingent on budget and student demand.

As for the eligible faculty that declined the incentivized retirement packages, many of them have commitments that they would like to see through, such as student cohorts that have not yet graduated. While retirement was the right decision for numerous faculty members, others felt inclined to stay. The retiring faculty will be missed, but they remain an important part of our campus community, and in some cases, their presence around campus will continue. As Hanson explained, the professional aspect of campus relationships will change, but he plans to remain engaged in the social settings around campus, suggesting that not all connections will be lost.