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Faculty question URI retirement incentive

December 7, 2011

Some faculty at the University of Rhode Island say they are insulted by a plan to phase out older professors through a retirement incentive. URI faculty Union Executive Director Frank Annunziato says he thinks it unlikely that any professor who is not already considering retirement would take the deal.

“It basically says we want to get rid of these old people because we don’t believe they’re gonna be able to adjust to the demands of the modern world here,” Annunziato said. “It’s insulting.”

The university argues that the program is needed to re-focus funding on growth areas like biomedical research and international studies. Annunziato warns that the loss of veteran administrators and professors could come at a cost.

“We have concerns about what it would mean if a large number of senior faculty left in terms of the university’s ability to carry on teaching,” Annunziato said, adding that there is also the question of how to protect institutional memory if large numbers of senior staff retire.

University officials have not specified how many professors and professional staff they are hoping will take the incentive, but a total of 370 employees would qualify.Those employees are all at least 40 years-old and have a minimum of 10 years with the university.

If they take the buy-out, professors and other staff would receive a one-time payment equal to 40 percent of their current salary. The State Board of Governors for Higher Education has to approve the proposal, but the group has also directed officials at Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island to draft similar policies.

URI Faculty Senate President Nancy Eaton says she does see a need to re-deploy university funding. Eaton says if managed properly, the retirements could allow popular departments to better meet student demand.

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