Faculty turn out to try and snag retirement packages

Rumors of faculty members camping outside the Office of Financial Aid circulated in the last month, but only 24 people showed up to apply in person Monday morning for faculty retirement packages.

That’s thanks in large part to an e-mail option added to the process by administration in February allowing 45 others to apply, bringing the total number of applications to nearly 70 available, said Senior Vice Provost Dwayne Smith.

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 May in general revenue, the largest component in the University’s budget.

“The application period started at 8 a.m. (Monday), and we had a flurry of activity for roughly the first hour and then it dropped off pretty substantially after that,” Smith said. “So I’d say that at about 4:30 p.m. approximately 70 people applied.”

Smith said the total number of applicants is not finalized because some faculty members submitted an application through both methods.

Although the camping rumors were seen as a way to “poke fun at the situation,” the e-mail option was created out of concern for faculty members who may be unable to stand in line for a long period of time, Sherman Dorn, president of the USF chapter of the United Faculty of Florida said, to The Oracle on Feb. 17.

University officials did not set a cap on the amount of faculty who could receive a retirement buyout. They’ll take about two weeks to finalize the packages, Smith said.

“Some people could withdraw, so we won’t even have a firm look until next week sometime and then we have to go in and start sorting out things like the deferrals because there are some people that we may not allow to take the package at this time,” he said. “We’ve got about two weeks of sorting to do before we get any definitive figures.”

Faculty were notified through a supplement to the USF Early Retirement Incentive Program Description Guide that the University has the right to defer a person’s retirement, Smith said. The retirement will still be honored, but the deferment grants USF time to find replacements for the position.

Faculty members have until Wednesday to submit an application with a seven-day withdrawal option. Those not accepted will be notified by March 29. Accepted applicants may choose to retire in May, August or December.

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. Using cash reserve funds, USF set aside about $2 million for the program, Smith said.

“If we see that there is considerable demand for it right now, we might extend some of that non-recurring money and go as deep as we can into the pool. If we do that, it’s going to reduce our ability to do it again,” he said. “Or we might cut off now and see what the future holds and then offer it again. I don’t think we’ll be doing it again anytime soon.”

Because faculty payroll makes up a portion of the recurring funds, eliminating paychecks through the early retirement buyout is a way to anticipate future cuts from the state, Smith said. Administrators chose to use a first-come, first-serve method to avoid implications that any preference is shown among faculty members.

“All of the news out of Tallahassee is of concern, so we have to be proactive in our planning and this is simply one piece of a rather large puzzle of strategies that we have to utilize to try to really just engage in some budget management in hopes that we can make things work by fall,” he said.

Professors teaching on a semester basis will receive nine months’ salary multiplied by 1.33. Those who teach on a yearlong basis will receive one-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.