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USF adds option to buyout application

University officials are creating multiple avenues so faculty members whose chance to grab an early retirement buyout plan have the best possible way of applying.

Initially, USF was going to accept in-person applications at 8 a.m. on March 15 on a first-come, first-serve basis. But then rumors surfaced that some faculty members were planning to camp outside the Office of Financial Aid, said Sherman Dorn, president of USF’s chapter of the United Faculty of Florida.

So USF administration decided this week to add e-mail as an option to apply. Dorn said the camping out thing was probably just a way for some faculty members to “poke fun at the situation.”

“It’s just a minor tweak that will give faculty the option to send their application through e-mail,” said Dorn, who contacted administration via e-mail about his concern for faculty members who may be unable to stand in line for a long period of time. 

The e-mail method enables faculty to fill out an application and send it as an attachment to an e-mail address specified by the University, said Dwayne Smith, senior vice provost. USF is unsure how many faculty members will opt for the in-person method, Smith said.

“I’m calling (in-person turn out) the X factor,” Smith said. “I know there was a lot of chatter about it, but we really don’t know how many people are going to come forward with an application.”

About 700 faculty members are eligible for the program, Dorn said. Of that number, he said only 100 to 200 faculty members are close to retirement age.

Smith said about 40 faculty members have made inquiries about the program so far. Using cash reserve funds, USF set aside about $2 million for the program.

And that’s all the University can offer.

“It’s not a matter of getting more funds,” Smith said. “It’s what we have. There is no more pot of money to draw on.”

The application period will end March 17, and a seven-day withdrawal option will immediately follow. Those not accepted into the program will be notified by March 29. Accepted applicants may choose to retire in May, August or December.

USF’s biggest concern with the retirement program is that too many faculty members from one department may apply, Smith said.

Should this happen, faculty was notified in a supplement to the USF Early Retirement Incentive Program Description Guide that the University has the right to defer a person’s retirement, he said. The retirement will still be honored, but the deferment grants USF time to find replacements for those positions.

Instead of determining program recipients based on their experience at the University, administrators were advised to choose the first-come, first-serve method to prevent the implication that they show an age preference among faculty members, Smith said.

The early retirement program — offered to professors who have worked at USF for 10 or more continuous years — was established to help ease university budget cuts, which included the state slashing $28.6 million in general revenue from USF in May.

The bulk of the University’s budget comes from state-given recurring funds, Smith said. Faculty payroll makes up a portion of the recurring funds, so the early retirement buyout is a way to anticipate any future cuts from the state by taking people off the payroll.

Professors teaching on a semester basis will receive nine month’s salary multiplied by 1.33. Those who teach on a yearlong basis will receive a year’s salary multiplied by .818 and then 1.33, according to the guide.

Those numbers were calculated to ensure that both faculty teaching on a nine-month basis and faculty teaching on a yearlong basis would receive a full-year’s salary, Smith said.

There is a broad range — $40,000 to $100,000 — in faculty salary, Dorn said.

Smith said the state technically gives yearlong faculty 11 month’s salary and one month of vacation. All faculty members are receiving the maximum amount the University is allowed to give.

“Some 12-month faculty may fear that a nine-month person is getting a bigger bump, but there’s a ceiling,” he said. “We’ve taken the 12-month people to the ceiling that we can, and we’ve taken the nine-month people to the ceiling that we can.”

Additional reporting by Amanda Stone