Faculty Assembly may cut merit-free raises

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February 2, 2010

2:22 AM

A long-standing faculty retirement option, which grants large, merit-free raises to retiring College of William and Mary professors, is being reconsidered by the Faculty Assembly.

Currently, a retiring professor is given the option of an 8 percent merit-free raise in his or her penultimate
year of employment, followed by a 7 percent increase during his or her final year. Originally designed as an incentive for early retirement, the policy developed into an open option available to all professors, including those retiring later in their careers. However, some say that the option’s accessibility has made it ineffective.

The assembly also said the policy is no longer necessary since professors are able to reach individual raise
agreements with the deans of their departments.

Salary increases are financed by a set pool of funds determined by the Board of Visitors. College Provost
Michael Halleran said faculty members are concerned that before traditional merit-based salary increases can be given to non-retiring professors, money must be allocated for this policy. As a result, less money would be available for rewarding younger faculty.

Halleran added that the College’s recent financial concerns have “intensified interest” in this issue.

“This is not a direct consequence of budget cuts,” he said. “But if you have a lot of money, you don’t worry about the absolute best way to use it. When there’s less, you ask if this is the best way to use the resources we have.”

In December, the Faculty Assembly proposed a gradual phasing-out of the policy to allow time for individual financial adjustment. The proposal stipulates that a professor intending to retire by Jul. 1, 2020 must decide whether he or she would receive the salary increase by Dec. 31, 2015. This time frame provides for those who are counting on the increase for their immediate futures, while giving younger faculty members sufficient time to make the necessary changes to their retirement plans.

The plan states that retiring professors may still opt to receive their final raise merit-free after the current policy is phased out, but that any additional salary increase reached through individual negotiation must be
funded from outside the set salary pool.

The proposition has prompted many professors to express their own views. English and philosophy professor Terry Meyers is the head of the working group charged with gathering faculty opinions and reporting them to the assembly.

“I’ve received about 20 replies from faculty who wanted to express an opinion,” he said. “Virtually all of them are in favor of phasing [the policy] out.”

The main debate seems to concern the phase-out’s time-frame.

“Some of the younger faculty think that it should happen fairly quickly,” Meyers said. “Most of the older faculty … have planned their finances for retirement with the assumption that the bump-up would occur, so they see a rapid removal as being an abrupt change that they don’t have time to plan around.”

The group will submit a report by April, after considering faculty comments. Halleran said he believes this matter will not be resolved until the end of this academic school year at the earliest.

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