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College pitches Voluntary Retirement Incentive

Faculty and staff offered special retirement benefits for the 2018-19 academic year. Plan in motion since early November.

Saeed Husain

News Editor

For the first time since 2010, the College is offering a voluntary retirement incentive plan for faculty and staff who are at or near the typical retirement age, according to President Sarah Bolton.

In an email to the Voice, Bolton explained that the plan was designed in a way to provide resources that make it easier to retire if an individual chooses to do so. Discussions about the voluntary retirement package began with the Board of Trustees in the spring of 2018 and were prompted in part by some staff near the retirement age who wished that they could retire, but could not yet afford to do so. 

Bolton also talked about the development of the program, writing that it was shared with all staff and faculty that the College was considering this plan. After the initial announcement, ideas and input were requested while the proposal was being discussed. 

“We met with each individual academic department, and every staff department as well, for a total of over 40 meetings with hundreds of staff and faculty. In those meetings, we asked both what would be most helpful and important for those who wished to retire, what concerns people had, and what support departments would need if there were to be additional retirements,” explained Bolton. 

Possibilities were also discussed with the Strategic Planning and Priorities Advisory Committee (SPPAC), which includes staff, faculty and students.

Henry Mai ’20, a student member of SPPAC, said that he found out about the plan in his first meeting around late October. About the plan, he said, “A voluntary retirement incentive plan [according to SPPAC] was the best course of action to promote a diverse faculty body as well as retain experience.”

Meanwhile, Bolton denied the claim that some members who were eligible for the plan had been individually approached for negotiations.

“I want to be clear that there were not individual negotiations or arrangements, but rather a plan for all who were eligible, based on the overall needs, concerns and preferences that we learned about in conversations with hundreds of staff and faculty in the early fall,” she said. 

When asked how competitive Wooster’s voluntary retirement incentive plan was relative to other colleges, Bolton replied that the College’s regular retirement benefits, and the benefits of this particular program were very competitive when compared to similar institutions.

 “We talked with peers who had recently offered voluntary retirement programs (Kalamazoo, Allegheny and Oberlin, for example) as we planned, so that we could have the benefit of their experience in shaping the program in the best ways,” she said.

According to Bolton, the eligibility to participate in the program was based on age and years of service. Faculty and staff members who could choose the option for an early retirement were informed in early November, with detailed documents that contained specifics shared by early December. In terms of how long individuals had to decide on the plan and for any information about it, Bolton explained, “There are legal frameworks that set times for people to consider the specifics and make decisions, which we followed, of course. Throughout the fall and winter, individual and group meetings were available for all who had questions as they considered their decisions, and many took advantage of them.”

Bolton stated how this voluntary retirement incentive plan was a one-time option, with the last time the College offering an option like this was in 2010. The benefits from this plan were not to replace the benefits from a regular retirement option, but would rather supplement it. 

In terms of the future for departments across campus, Bolton explained how the College was planning in advance with all of the departments with retirees, so that student experience could be supported and Wooster’s ongoing work could continue. She also wrote how the retirements could bring new expertise to advance the College’s mission and develop new areas of the curriculum. 

“Whenever someone retires, they are missed.  However, those openings also sometimes provide the opportunity to shift ways of working as people with different skills are hired, or to develop new areas of our curriculum that align with our mission and are of growing interest for students,” Bolton wrote.

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