An anonymous faculty member provided a copy of then-president Bill Wagner’s March e-mail about the early retirement program. Entire e-mail is below the break. (Where else besides EphBlog can you find these insider documents?) Related Record coverage here and here. Comments:

0) Keep in mind the big picture: Williams wants to save money by either a) getting rid of faculty and not replacing them or b) getting rid of expensive faculty and replacing them with cheaper (read: junior) faculty. Examples:

Jay Pasachoff       $207,000
Jean-Bernard Bucky  $206,000
Charles Dew '58     $179,000

Those total compensation numbers are from the 2005 Form 990. There have been raises since then and several other professors (5? 25?) now make at least this much.

1) I (and many/most other business folks?) are highly skeptical of early retirement programs. We think that, at least as a first pass, you should fire your worst workers and try to keep your best. Call us crazy! That is not really possible with the faculty, but the underlying trade-offs are the same because of adverse selection. Who is most likely to leave? Precisely those who can easily get a similar or better job elsewhere, i.e., the people that you most want to stay. The more generous you make the program, the more that you exacerbate this problem. Who is most likely to stay? Precisely those so lousy, or teaching in fields so unpopular, that no place else would ever hire them.

The key programs to watch are economics, computer science and statistics. The College already pays these professors more (using various subterfuges) and has a great deal of trouble in recruitment and retention. These departments are all understaffed, so any departures would require replacements, new professors who might not be much/any cheaper than the ones they would be replacing. Unfortunately, these are also the professors who have the most options elsewhere.

2) According to the Record, 85 faculty members were eligible — Don’t forget that the average faculty age is 50 — and 18 expressed an interest in the program. How many will sign up once they get the details? I don’t know. It seems like a program that is not nearly generous enough relative to what a faculty member is giving up.

4) Most interesting paragraph from Wagner’s letter:

In a way, the Program involves all of us, not just the 114 staff and 85 faculty who are eligible. They are the ones who have to make a big decision about their futures. It is important that they be able to make those decisions independently, without any influence, conscious or unconscious, from the rest of us. It will be hard not to talk about this with the eligible people we know and care about, but for ethical and legal reasons it is vital that we not say anything that could be taken as a signal that we do or do not want someone to take advantage of the program. This includes saying what we would do if we were eligible or asking whether someone intends to take part. It will be up to those individuals to decide what they ultimately say to colleagues about their decision.

Interesting. What are the legal/ethical aspects? Presumably, the College is not supposed to put undue pressure on anyone to take the package . . .

Entire letter below. I trust that future historians will thank us for preserving these documents. What do current faculty members think about the plan?

Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I am writing to let you know that the College’s voluntary Early Retirement Program will be launched on Monday when materials will be mailed to eligible faculty and staff.

Eligible faculty are those who, as of June 30, 2011, will be actively employed in a regular non-visiting position, and

– have a half-time (0.5 FTE) appointment or greater,

– are at least 58 years old,

– have at least 10 years of cumulative service,

– have an age and years of service that add up to at least 75, and

– have not already established a retirement agreement with a specified retirement date before June 30, 2012.

If you believe that you are eligible and have not received this mailing at home by Wednesday, please contact the Dean of the Faculty’s Office at x4351.

As explained in the mailing, eligible faculty and staff will have until the end of this month to officially express interest in the program. Doing so will not commit them to taking part. Those who do officially express interest will then receive a formal Letter of Agreement, which they will then have 45 calendar days to sign, if they choose to. Those who submit a signed Letter of Agreement will then have up to seven calendar days to revoke it, if they change their minds.

Please note that the Early Retirement Program works differently for staff than for faculty. The retirement date for staff who choose to take part in the program will be June 30, 2010; for faculty it will be June 30, 2012. The lengthier horizon for the faculty is necessary given that our curriculum is set a year or two in advance. This schedule will also give the departments and programs the time needed to request replacements for their colleagues who accept the Program, and then, if authorized by the CAP, to search for and appoint those replacements.

In a way, the Program involves all of us, not just the 114 staff and 85 faculty who are eligible. They are the ones who have to make a big decision about their futures. It is important that they be able to make those decisions independently, without any influence, conscious or unconscious, from the rest of us. It will be hard not to talk about this with the eligible people we know and care about, but for ethical and legal reasons it is vital that we not say anything that could be taken as a signal that we do or do not want someone to take advantage of the program. This includes saying what we would do if we were eligible or asking whether someone intends to take part. It will be up to those individuals to decide what they ultimately say to colleagues about their decision.

Details of the program will be posted on the morning of Wednesday, March 17, on the Web sites of the Human Resources Office and Dean of the Faculty’s Office.

I understand that this process can be unsettling, not only for some of those individuals now making a retirement decision, but for all of us who face the prospect of operating with reduced staff and faculty.

This is not simply about reducing our size as much as it is about rethinking our work and reorganizing the College around that work. Once we know how many positions open up through the Early Retirement Program and which ones they are, the College will need to decide which to re-fill. Assuming that some will not be filled, we will then have to determine how to reorganize the work that we do. Those discussions will need to be widely inclusive and be channeled through department and program chairs, the appropriate faculty and staff committees, and administrative office heads. Several of us will be meeting soon with managers to discuss reorganizing our operations and with faculty to discuss the curriculum. As I announced at the Faculty Meeting this week, the meetings for faculty will be on March 17 at 4-5 p.m. in Griffin 3, and March 18 at 7-8 p.m. in the 1964 Classroom in Hopkins basement.

While this exercise is new to us, many organizations, including colleges, have gone through it. We have sought to learn from their experience. Given the thoughtful and collaborative way the College community has been navigating the recent fiscal challenges, I am confident that Williams will emerge from this reorganization process freshly positioned to thrive in the new financial world we now face.

With regards,
Bill Wagner
Interim President

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