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An incentive to retire?
Campus, seeking savings and improved planning, offers senior faculty one-time-only benefits if they retire this year

| 12 November 2003

Faculty members considering retirement may find making that decision a bit easier this academic year, thanks to a recently developed, albeit modest, incentive program.

The Berkeley Retirement Incentive Program (BRIP), says Jan de Vries, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Faculty Welfare, is designed to appeal to faculty “who are contemplating retirement but don’t know just when they want to do it.” Retirees will not receive a cash payment, as was offered in the Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive Programs (VERIPs) that the campus adopted during the budget crisis of the early 1990s. Instead, they will potentially receive three more low-key benefits: an extended appointment as a Professor in the Graduate School; a more straightforward path toward approval of recall-teaching assignments in the 2004-05 academic year; and access to a fund intended to support their post-retirement research.

The benefits to the campus are primarily budgetary, says DeVries. “The average retiree salary is well above $100,000. Our aim is to increase the number of retirees from less than 30 a year to just about double that. The difference in salary savings would be more than $3 million, at a cost [in funding for the incentive program] of $900,000, some of which we would have spent anyway [to pay] for replacement teachers.” The money not used for that purpose will be used for the support of graduate students, he added: “The money is getting plowed back into the campus; it’s not going into the pockets of the retirees.”

The other benefit that de Vries foresees would be making overall budgetary planning a bit easier. “We know that a lot of our senior faculty will retire over the next several years,” he says, “but we can’t predict their timing with any certainty. That uncertainty is a planning problem that we hope this modest program will help alleviate.”

Threefold benefits
Not only are the program’s incentives modest, they will be extended only to faculty who announce their retirement during the current academic year. The threefold benefits (all of them subject to some form of approval by departmental deans or other senior administrators) are these:

Appointment as Professor of the Graduate School (PGS). This designation, last accorded as an element of a 1994 VERIP, will be revived. Retirees may be nominated for an initial appointment of up to three years, rather than the annual renewal that current PGS appointees must secure. “It makes a difference for some faculty,” de Vries observes, “whether they have to use the title ‘emeritus’ — an honorable, ancient title that nonetheless, to some people, means ‘over the hill’ — or ‘Professor of the Graduate School,’ which signifies you’re still an active faculty member.” Not every retiree will be eligible for PGS appointment, he notes: Such appointments will remain subject to normal campus review of such factors as the individual’s current research activities and involvement with graduate students.

Recall-teaching agreements. The campus will commit to retirees teaching an agreed-upon course the following year, subject to departmental needs and available funding (and, of course, the desire of the retiree to participate). This change from normal practice, says de Vries, “addresses the interest of many faculty who continue to want to have some teaching role, while addressing the concern of students that these retirements not greatly reduce the number of course offerings.”

$15,000 in funding for research or teaching. For one year only, retirees will have available for their use a $15,000 fund for use in two general ways (or a mixture of them): as a research fund, which would primarily be used to pay for graduate-student assistance; or to pay for some or all of their recall- teaching assignment, as supplemental funding for normal departmental Temporary Academic Staff resources. “These funds cannot be used as salary support [otherwise],” says de Vries; “they won’t show up on any retiree’s paycheck.” Approval for the use of these funds will be made by the relevant dean.

In the special case of a retiree currently holding an endowed chair, the chancellor may allow him or her to keep the all or part of the income from the chair for up to three years, exclusively for research expenses and the support of graduate students. No funds from an endowed chair may be retained by the retiree as compensation.

“There’s not going to be a VERIP” during the current budget crisis, says de Vries, who insists that “waiting for one is futile.” BRIP, he says, “is not an early-retirement program, because it doesn’t provide a cash incentive. But it does lower the barrier to entering into retirement for faculty who are approaching that point, and allows them to focus on their needs and interests in that regard now rather than later.”

The details of the BRIP are contained in a Council of Deans memo issued last week. Interested faculty should consult with their deans accordingly, says de Vries.