Faculty retirement deals grow

A new option aims to ease faculty into retirement in exchange for tenure status.

Taylor Nachtigal

Faculty at the University of Minnesota will soon have a new option that will allow them to ease into retirement.

With the new “tenure trade” retirement policy, some faculty — in return for their tenure status — will be able to gradually retire while working part time or completing any ongoing work, allowing them to leave the school without abandoning any of their long-term projects or research.

The policy, currently in a 30-day review process, aims to offer an “in-between” option for faculty who are preparing for retirement, said Joseph Konstan, chair of the University Senate’s Faculty Affairs Committee.

“Going from a full-time faculty member to retirement feels like a big jump they’re not often ready to make,” he said.

The policy is open for comments until Oct. 19. It will likely be put into effect soon after, Konstan said.

The University currently has two existing retirement options: a traditional terminal agreement and a phased retirement option, which allows faculty to work below full time while continuing to receive full benefits.

George Sell, a mathematics professor and member of the Faculty Affairs Committee, said tenure trade is a variation on the phased retirement option and makes it easier for faculty members to leave the University through a more gradual retirement process than other options.

With the option, faculty can receive a cash payment equal to two years pay not exceeding $500,000.

The Office of Human Resources developed the option after talking with a number of college deans, Konstan said.

The Faculty Affairs Committee has worked with human resources on the policy change and updates, he said. And so far, he said, the committee supports the additional option.

Jackie Singer, director of the University’s retirement programs, said the average retirement age at the University has consistently been between 67 and 69 in the past few years.

Because there is no mandatory retirement age, Konstan said the Faculty Affairs Committee had to consider a variety of things to make retirement options appealing to faculty to encourage them to retire at a reasonable age.

“They decided that this would be a valuable option to have in certain circumstances where people feel they can’t retire because of lingering circumstances,” Konstan said. “It will benefit some who are on the cusp of retirement and induce them to feel comfortable retiring.”

Though the option’s purpose is to encourage faculty of age to retire, Konstan said, the policy doesn’t aim to reduce the number of tenured faculty at the school.

He said there are University policies in place to ensure there’s a balance between tenure and part-time faculty.

According to University policy, colleges can’t appoint more than one-fourth of their teaching faculty to a position without tenure opportunity.

The plan will assist many faculty members who have ongoing responsibilities, whether it be research or grant money that they are still committed to, Konstan said. The option allows them to phase out other obligations while they finish their work at the school, he said.

For example, a faculty member might quit teaching or gradually reduce the number of classes they teach while finishing research from a long-term grant that entails yearly allocations.

“The tenure trade doesn’t force faculty to put a line in the sand in terms of a retirement date,” Singer said.

She said this option allows faculty to choose what they want to focus on during their final years at the school.

“Some want to focus on research, work with Ph.D. students [or] teach, [and] some have grants,” she said. “We wanted to offer different ways to transition into retirement.”