College introduces phased retirement

Provost Carol Long sent out an e-mail to faculty earlier this week describing a newly-available option in which professors can elect a "phase-out" retirement choice.

The plan, which will be referred to as a "phased retirement program," is available for any faculty member who is at least 55 years of age or who has 10 or more years of teaching experience at the college.

"When I arrived here, I heard from a number of the faculty who were thinking they wanted to retire but didn't want to go cold turkey," Long said.

The phased retirement plan provides professors the option of continuing to work with a 25 percent workload for up to three years, receiving compensation equivalent to 25 percent of their pre-retirement salary provided that amount is not above the $30,000 maximum allowed by retirement and Social Security laws as of 2009. Long said that $30,000 is well above the per course salary that an adjunct professor would earn.

"Before this plan, [becoming an adjunct] was the only option faculty had to stay around in a reduced role after retirement," Long said.

The proposed plan is optional for professors and discretionary for the college; faculty can still retire in a traditional manner and the college reserves the right to reject applications to the phased retirement program. Negotiations concerning what the reduced workload would entail - for example, teaching one class per semester or performing its equivalent in scholarship, research or service - will take place between the candidate, the respective department chair and the Provost's Office.

"I'm not at all interested in it," education professor Ernest Balajthy said. "But it's great for professors to have options."

"This is aimed to be a support for faculty and not designed to automatically reduce the size of the faculty," Long said.

Stacey Edgar of the philosophy department said she was concerned about health care and retirement benefits, as well as the effects of the phased plan on future retirement incentives. "It doesn't appeal to me," she said. "But it is still a good option to have."

"As retirees, participants will be enrolled in the health insurance program," Long said in the e-mail she sent to faculty. "There will be no further contributions or service credit to the retirement systems. Participants will be retired from SUNY Geneseo and will not be eligible to participate in any legislated retirement incentives."

Although President Christopher Dahl acknowledged in his all-college budget presentation on Dec. 2 that the phased retirement plan would be a good idea from a budgetary standpoint, Long said that the plan is not intended to be a long-term solution to budget cuts but will help to provide "short term financial flexibility."

"Departments would benefit from having the senior faculty around to mentor the junior faculty coming in," she added.

"I think this is a positive option for our faculty," Long said. "It helps them maintain an active presence in the college after they retire and be compensated better than if they were an adjunct, and helps departments out as well."

Applications are already available and professors are welcome to apply for the program.