News | Administration

Provost eases gradual retirement process for faculty

  • RETIRE HIRE | Douglas Chalmers, a special assistant to the provost on faculty retirement and a professor emeritus of political science led the creation of the new plan.

A new incentive plan will allow tenured faculty members to retire more gradually over multiple years, the provost’s office announced Friday.

University Provost John Coatsworth said the plan will allow faculty over the age of 65 to receive 100 percent of their salaries upon retirement and phase out their retirements over five years.

It’s the first new policy created by the Office of Faculty Retirement, which was established this fall at the recommendation of a working group within the provost’s office to oversee the changes to the University’s retirement plans.

“It will allow people to think about what they want to do with the rest of their lives,” Douglas Chalmers, a special assistant to the provost on faculty retirement and a professor emeritus of political science, said of the new incentive plan.

“Retirement used to mean going off to rest on the beach. For some people, that’s still the objective,” he said. “But for many of us—most of us, I would guess—retirement involves doing things that we want to do in our professional life, which may mean teaching, writing, doing research, and many other kinds of things.”

Chalmers said that though the components of the new plan have been options for faculty all along, past retirees had to negotiate the terms of their plans individually with the deans of their schools.

It was “something that was available but had to be negotiated separately and never outlined in any detail for the faculty—and that is the possibility of arranging for some kind of incentive, some kind of pattern of phased retirement, as opposed to retiring all at one time,” Chalmers said. “It is meant to be a kind of explicit offer to faculty of the schools that have accepted it.”

The plan is available to faculty members in Arts and Sciences; the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation; the Business School; the Journalism School; the School of Engineering and Applied Science; the School of Social Work; and the School of International and Public Affairs.

Faculty members who participate in the incentive plan must commit to retiring by the age of 74. 

In recent years, the age of retirement among faculty members has steadily gone up. In 1991, the average age of retired tenured faculty at Arts and Sciences was 64. By 2011, that number had increased to 73.

The incentive plan is just the first step in making retirement more accessible to Columbia faculty members, which the working group identified as one of the biggest problems with current retirement policies when it released its final report in December 2012.

“One of the problems that Columbia faculty had was in getting information,” Chalmers said. “It’s all online … but it’s scattered and difficult to get a hold of.”

“When I accepted the job, I told the provost that I wanted to work on making—not only in the sense of the incentive plan—but making the retirement experience for those who wish to stay connected with Columbia more attractive,” Chalmers said. “I’m hoping there will be possibilities of providing more opportunities and more resources to faculty.”

samantha.cooney@columbiaspectator.com  |  @sammcooney

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