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Trustees approve new retirement program

A new Board of Trustees-approved program gives university departments new incentive options to provide faculty and staff looking to retire or leave Ohio State.

The program consists of two components: separation incentives and phased retirement. The programs will not be available to all faculty and staff at OSU because individual departments will determine criteria for incentives.

The Office of Human Resources worked on these programs for a year and a half and put them in place so individual colleges within OSU can decide if they want to adopt these incentives.

“It can be offered by one college that needs to create vacancies, and another (college) right next door might not offer it,” said Larry Lewellen, vice president of OHR.

If a college decides there is a need to create some vacancies to assist in budgetary savings or simply wants to restructure its department, the dean or vice president will submit a plan to OHR. The Office of Academic Affairs, OHR and the Office of Legal Affairs must approve these plans. The Office of Business and Finance sets a framework the plans must follow before implementation of a plan will occur, Lewellen said.

The plans from each college must be shown to be beneficial.

“It has to have economic and programmatic benefit, nothing that has an effect on a single group or individual,” Lewellen said.

Phased retirement will be a one- or two-year program in which incentives would include working for 75 percent of the time for the first year while still receiving 100 percent pay with full benefits. The employee would then work 50 percent of the second year and be paid 75 percent with full benefits. Continued health coverage and dependent tuition coverage for a defined period would also be included.

Separation incentives are for faculty and staff who wish to leave the university but are not eligible for retirement.

These incentives include a single payment of up to 12 months of salary in addition to payment for continued health coverage and dependent tuition coverage for a defined period.

The new plan is completely voluntary for not only faculty and staff, but for individual colleges. Colleges will assess their priorities and situations, decide if it is in their best interest and decide on employee criteria for such incentives.

The fact that this will be on a case-by-case basis and not university-wide is important to Lewellen.

“In the past we’ve offered university-wide incentives; this is a unique approach to it at OSU,” Lewellen said.

Previously OSU offered retirement incentives twice, most recently in the early 1990s.

“It took seven years, actually, to work our way out of it financially and talent-wise,” said Lewellen, who has worked at OSU for 24 years. “We lost talent we didn’t intend to lose.”

Charles Gribble, a recent retiree and 35-year OSU professor in the center for Slavic and East European studies department, said he would have thought about taking advantage of these incentives if they would have been in place before he retired.

“I would consider it, but it would have to be the right circumstances,” Gribble said. “A lot of people don’t want to teach indefinitely. It’s a good way to phase teachers into retirement.”

As for the reasons of retirement and separation incentives, Lewellen emphasized the need for budgetary savings and the high number of retirement-eligible employees.

“We always have had and always will that a unit will need to reduce positions to achieve budget savings,” Lewellen said.

Thirty-nine percent of faculty are eligible to retire within five years while 26 percent of regular staff are currently or will become eligible in five years, according to OHR’s proposal submitted to the Board of Trustees.

“We know we have a significant number of retirement-eligible faculty and staff and we should be considering methods to shape the outcome of talent in mutually beneficial ways,” Lewellen said.

A Feb. 11 OSU press release said mutually beneficial refers to a system that, “allows for knowledge transfer to occur, replacement recruiting or appropriate time to make changes in program offerings.”

It is not clear yet which colleges are interested and what number of employees are in favor of the programs.

Lewellen is scheduled to meet with faculty leaders in two weeks to discuss further plans and recognizes that the process will be far from easy.

“I don’t want to say that it’s not going to be without some level of complexity going forward,” Lewellen said.  

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