Wright State offers faculty members retirement incentives

Wright State University is offering some faculty members incentives to retire.

The offer is limited to the first 60 retirement-eligible non-bargaining unit faculty members who submit an eligible application, the university said in a campus-wide email Thursday. Applications beyond 60 will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis based on university needs and anticipated demand in college departments, the university said.

In the email, university leaders said they are “in the midst of strategically positioning itself for the future.”

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“Two of the most critical initiatives vital to the university’s success are increasing student enrollment and improving student retention. Those efforts are underway. Until the university is able to realize improvements in enrollment and retention, we must continue to pursue ways to balance expenses and revenue in the context of a sustainable forward-looking plan,” the email said.

The plan is a one-time offer to “retirement-eligible non-bargaining unit faculty members, excluding special contract employees,” Wright State said.

The university said the offer is “both people-friendly and uses a best practice approach ... offering a retirement program that is voluntary and creates a benefit for both the university and the employee.”

The university said its representatives met with the union representing faculty members, the AAUP-WSU, and “agreement was not reached with them to support the” retirement incentive.

This is the second voluntary retirement incentive program offered by Wright State. A similar plan was offered in 2016.

“Looking ahead, the university does not anticipate offering additional retirement incentive programs,” Wright State said.

Specific criteria, details and decision packets will be distributed to eligible employees no later than March 13, the university also said.

Noeleen McIlveena, president of the AAUP-WSU, said Friday that the university did raise the issue with the union, but not until about Feb. 12, which she considered “the last moment.”

She did not want the union to be bound by what she felt was an “artificial deadline.”

“That was really somewhat distressing to us,” she said.

She said the union does not oppose retirement incentives, but members want assurance from the university in writing that over time, “tenure-track” faculty members will be hired to replace those retiring.

Even there, McIlveena said the union did not seek a “one-to-one replacement.”

“We wanted about half of them (retiring faculty members) to be replaced,” she said.

The people WSU would rehire would not necessarily join the union, she added. But she maintained that to ensure a “quality education,” tenure-track “experts” should be hired.

“We’re people with a vocation, if you like,” McIlveena said. “We’re teachers.”

Beyond that issue, she said relations with the university are better. But she termed the university’s handing of this issue “a strategy to sow discord among members.”

“It won’t work,” she added.

In an emailed response, the university said: "The idea of a faculty-focused retirement incentive program was first presented to the AAUP-WSU in August and again in November 2019 by Dr. (Susan) Edwards (Wright State president).”

The university said it drafted and presented a memorandum of understanding this week that stated at least 25 percent of the those accepting the retirement plan would be replaced. The memorandum also outlined the opportunity for higher faculty replacement numbers depending upon increases in enrollment and retention, the university said.

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