The follwoing white paper was written for presentation at the Academic Senate Retreat on August 25, 1995 and published in the Academic Senate Forum Vol. 3, No.1, 1995

Faculty Rejuvenation and Retirement

Authors: Joseph Hellige (Coordinator), Robert Cole, Jean Keene, Donna Shoupe, and Barbara Solomon

As of January 1, 1994, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act eliminated the mandatory retirement of tenured faculty. This change provides senior scholars and the University with the opportunity to continue a mutually beneficial partnership indefinitely. At the same time, the elimination of a mandatory retirement age also poses significant problems that must be identified and addressed. It is imperative that there be meaningful faculty involvement in the identification of issues, development of proposals to deal with those issues and evaluation of the effect of any new proposals that are implemented. To this end, discussion at the Academic Senate Retreat has led to the identification of the issues outlined in this report and generated the recommendations presented herein.

As more faculty members postpone retirement beyond age 70, it will become more difficult to find the funding to hire new colleagues at the junior level. While there is much to be gained by having highly-productive senior colleagues remain at the University, the ability to bring in new colleagues is also essential to the intellectual vitality of the University. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that, in some units, colleagues over age 70 will typically have large salaries relative to the salaries of newly hired junior colleagues. In addition, without sufficient incentives to retire, the elimination of a mandatory retirement age may encourage and permit some faculty members to continue their full-time employment at the University despite a considerable decrease in commitment to teaching, research and service. To the extent that this happens, it serves to undermine the positive features of tenure and is unfair to the remaining members of the faculty who have to carry a heavier share of the load.

In view of the fact that USC no longer has in place any early retirement plans or incentives, it is particularly important to consider ways of dealing with the situation described above. Accordingly, this report contains several recommendations concerning incentives to early retirement. In considering these recommendations it is important to keep in mind that the goal is to make it possible for individuals who choose to retire to do so in a way that is to their own greatest benefit and advantage. To the extent that this can be accomplished, it will be to the benefit of both the individual faculty member and the University.

A second topic considered in this report concerns what has been referred to as Faculty Rejuvenation. This topic is, in some sense, different from the topic of early retirement. Nevertheless, the absence of a mandatory retirement age in conjunction with our system of tenure increases the importance of faculty development and rejuvenation. The more general topic of faculty development is the subject of a different report and will not be discussed here. Instead, the present report focuses on the following problem.

Occasionally, a member of the tenured faculty becomes less productive over time and remains at a low level of scholarly productivity indefinitely. This is not ideal for either the University or for the faculty member invovled. To a large extent, the issue of faculty rejuvenation is driven by an interest in returning such faculty members to their previous, higher levels of productivity in a way that is rewarding to them and beneficial to the University. Productivity can fall off for a number of reasons. Consequently, strategies for rejuvenation should be sufficiently varied to address as many of these reasons as possible. Reasons include the following:

(1) a career shift that leads the faculty member away from previous areas of expertise;
(2) reaching a cul-de-sac in research;
(3) changes in University priorities or failure of University organization to keep pace with changes in the intellectual landscape;
(4) dysfunctional relationships between the faculty member and administrators (e.g., department chair, dean, etc.);
(5) a decision by the faculty member to "retire in place," doing the minimum necessary to retain a full-time faculty position.

Several steps that might be taken to accomplish rejuvenation in situations such as these are suggested in a subsequent section of this report.

Post-Tenure review

In the absence of a mandatory retirement age, there is increasing pressure to implement periodic post-tenure review over and above annual merit review. Detailed discussion of this important issue is beyond the scope of the present report. Nevertheless, in view of the importance of this issue, we recommend that a Faculty/Administration committee consider whether, and how a system of post-tenure review for tenured faculty should be developed. It is essential that there be faculty input regarding the desirability of post-tenure review, the process by which such reviews should occur and the criteria for evaluation of productivity. The system should continue to reward and foster productivity, perhaps channel productivity into new areas and minimize the potential abuses of the tenure system.

Recommendations Concerning Faculty Retirement

1. Standing committee on retirement issues

Issues surrounding retirement require ongoing attention and will become even more important in the future as greater numbers of tenured faculty members move into higher age categories. For example, the table at the end of this numbered section indicates the number of tenured faculty members falling into 5-year age brackets from 31 through 70.

In view of the long-term significance of this problem, we recommend that the Provost and Academic Senate establish a Standing Committee on Retirement Issues, with membership consisting of current faculty, retired and emeritus faculty, and University administrators. The work of this committee should be coordinated with that of the University Benefits Committee. Among other things, this committee would continue to develop, implement and evaluate programs such as those identified in the remainder of this report.

Number of Tenured Faculty in Five-Year Age Groups, September 1994

Age Group Number of Tenured Faculty
31 to 35 26
36 to 40 113
41 to 45 207
46 to 50 224
51 to 55 244
56 to 60 207
61 to 65 152
66 to 70 56
All Ages 1229
Prepared by Office of Budget and Planning

2. Develop early retirernent options

We recommend that the University create a new set of early retirement options and incentives and that the following options be considered.

Among the material reviewed by the Working Group was the report of a task force on faculty retirement published in University of Chicago Record (November, 1992). Although the situation at USC is not identical to that at the University of Chicago, we find the general recommendations of that task force to be both thoughtful and relevant. Accordingly, we would make similar recommendations for USC. At the very least, these recommendations can serve as the starting point for discussion - which will undoubtedly lead to revisions and refinements. A copy of the Chicago report can be obtained from the Academic Senate office.

Among other things, the Chicago plan proposes a cash bonus to individuals who irrevocably commit to retirement between the ages of 65 and 69 and give at least 24 months of notice of this commitment. We find merit in the general startegy for providing a bonus to faculty who irrevocably commit to retirement at some specified future time. At the same time, we believe that the details of such a plan at USC must be worked out by the Standing Committee on Retirement Issues. As this is done, special care must be taken to develop a plan that does not push our most productive faculy members into premature retirement.

We also believe there is merit in permitting tenured faculty members to reduce the percentage of time that they are employed (e.g., to 50 percent), in a manner that is similar to some of the past early retirement options at USC.

3. Benefits In retirement (Especially health benefits)

Anticipated termination of health care benefits is often cited as the sole reason for deciding against early retirement. This being the case, we recommend that the University provide adequate and satisfactory post-retirement benefits, with special emphasis on health care benefits for retired faculty members and their spouses. One step that should be considered immediately is to allow retired faculty members and their spouses to remain a part of the various group medical plans that are available to faculty - with retired faculty paying the entire cost of group membership. Beyond this, the University should consider contributing to the maintenance of these post-retirement health care benefits, coordinated with Medicare and other insurance plans where applicable - including paying part of the cost of group membership.

4. Space, services and other amenities for retired faculty

We recommend that the University establish guidelines for the allocation of office space to retired faculty who remain in residence and who are actively engaged in research, teaching or student supervision. Consideration should also be given to providing certain other services and amenities to such people (e.g., postal and phone privileges).

It is important to recognize that our retired faculty are an active, vital group of individuals who have a great deal to offer the University if given both the chance and a bit of encouragement. Accordingly, we recommend that the University reconsider any present policies that would prevent such individuals from returning to teach a course from time to time (e.g., as a part-time instructor) and so forth. Indeed, such prohibitions may serve as a disincentive for early retirement.

5. Financial retirement counseling

We recommend that the University provide personal financial counseling, especially for individuals who wish to explore early retirement options. Ideally, such counseling would begin early in a faculty member's career so that the individual can plan most effectively for eventual retirement.

6. Retired "Experts" Directory

In view of the many talents of our retired faculty, we recommend that the university maintain an "Experts Directory" of retired faculty who would be available for consulting and so forth.

Recommendations Concerning Faculty Rejuvenation

The best strategy for faculty rejuvenation is to prevent the need for rejuvenation in the first place. This will involve various programs of faculty development. Nevertheless, there will sometimes be real or apparent reductions in productivity, commitment to scholarship, teaching and service. With this in mind, we make the following recommendations.

1. Identification of candidates for rejuvenation

Mechanisms should be available to facilitate identification of candidates for rejuvenation. At the moment, annual merit reviews might be used for this purpose (actually, for tenured faculty this is typically a review once every three years).

To the extent that additional post-tenure review is instituted, it should be used to assess continued productivity and the productivity assessment might be used to identify candidates for rejuvenation. Mechanisms should also be considered that would encourage faculty to nominate themselves for various programs of Faculty Development, thereby heading off problems with productivity.

2. Role of department chair or equivalent administrator

Department Chairs and equivalent administrators must play an important role in faculty rejuvenation. In particular, administrators must resist the temptation to write off faculty members who are perceived as unproductive or alienate such individuals further by consistently relegating them to positions of inferiority without first attempting to work with the individuals to increase productivity. We believe that the vast majority of faculty members who appear to show a marked decrease in productivity want very much to increase their contributions to the university in a way that garners the respect of their colleagues and administrators. This being the case, department Chairs and other administrators must look for ways to assist them. With this in mind, we make the following recommendations:

a. consistent use of the Spitzer Faculty Workload Profiles, acknowledging explicitly changes in the percentage of effort devoted to teaching, research and service;

b. rewarding individuals in accordance with their profile, in a way that does not penalize an individual who, by mutual agreement, takes on additional teaching duties while devoting less time to research;

c. obtaining from faculty information about what additional resources of time or budget would be necessary to help them accomplish a specific program of rejuvenation (e.g., submit a grant proposal in a new area);

d. ensure that evaluations of productivity are conducted in a fair and impartial manner and that such evaluations take the workload profile into account.

3. Striving for excellence In teaching

We recommend that faculty be encouraged throughout their career to engage in activities and programs designed to continually refine our teaching skill. Just as faculty need to be aware of significant advances in their fields of scholarly research, first-rate teachers need to be aware of technological advances that affect our ability to offer the best possible courses of instruction. Perhaps the Center for Excellence in Teaching could be used for this purpose.

4. Community outreach programs

Some departments and programs have developed instructional programs for the community at large as well as other forms of community outreach. As individual faculty members reduce their level of research activity, they might be encouraged to develop innovative community education/outreach activities.

5. Internal research fund for tenured faculty

When faculty members reach a cul-de-sac in their present research program or change their research interests for other reasons, it is often very difficult to establish new research directions. It is often the case that some preliminary research needs to be conducted in the new area of interest prior to seeking funding from external sources. This being the case, we recommend that there be a pool of University funds set aside especially for the purpose of providing seed money to tenured faculty to conduct preliminary research in an area that is new to them.

There is, of course, just such a category associated with the Zumberge Research and Innovation Fund. The problem is that proposals in this category are rarely funded because doing so would take money away from funding for the proposals of new, untenured faculty. To deal with this problem, a specific proportion of the Zumberge Fund could be set aside each year for funding change-of-direction proposals submitted by tenured faculty. We do not, however, want to reduce further the amount of funding for untenured faculty. Consequently, we recommend that additional monies be placed into the Zumberge Fund expressly for this purpose. It is also important to acknowledge that it is virtually impossible to obtain external funding for scholarly research in some areas. As noted in the report on Faculty Development, allowing faculty who work in such areas to compete for funds internally is likely to reduce the need for rejuvenation.

An additional issue concerns the possible promotion of long-term Associate Professors - who continue to make significant contirbutions to teaching and service but, for a variety of reasons, are not likely to meet the current scholarship criteria for promotion to Professor. We recommend that a consistent set of guidelines be developed and applied to such cases.

Rejuvenation of academic structures

Although the present report deals with the rejuvenation of faculty, it is important to recognize that faculty productivity can suffer when an organizational structure that served us well at one time becomes outdated or unsupportive. This being the case, we should be mindful of the need to review organizational structure at all levels and to develop plans for the rejuvenation of those structures that need it.

Concluding comments

As indicated throughout the present report, there are a number of important issues surrounding faculty rejuvenation and retirement. It is clear that many of these issues must be addressed immediately. It is also clear that the most important issues are complex and that at least some of the recommendations and solutions are likely to generate controversy. This being the case, it is especially important that faculty in general and the Academic Senate in particular take an active role in proposing solutions, implementing those solutions and monitoring their effectiveness.