University News

Faculty votes to add URC lecturer position

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 5, 2012

 

Faculty membership on the University Resources Committee will increase from six to seven following a faculty vote Tuesday. The vote was part of the last scheduled faculty meeting this semester. 

The change creates a membership position for a lecturer or senior lecturer on the committee, which makes annual budget recommendations to the president. The proposal was brought by the Faculty Executive Committee and met with no discussion or questions before being brought to a vote. 

The motion’s rationale stated that after the URC added two undergraduate student members this year, raising its total student membership from five to seven, “(a)n objection was raised that faculty should not be a minority on a faculty committee.” The number of undergraduates on the committee was increased as a response to concerns that the URC’s budget recommendations ­- which include determining tuition hikes – are of particular relevance to students, The Herald previously reported.

The motion is also part of continuing efforts from the FEC to include lecturers and senior lecturers, who are not tenure-track faculty, in faculty governance committees. Last month’s faculty meeting saw the passage of a motion to add a lecturer or senior lecturer to the FEC’s membership.

The incentive option for immediate retirement of tenured faculty – which offers a year’s salary to encourage older faculty members to retire – will end in June 2014, pending a proposed one-year extension and enhancement to the current program, Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 announced. While the incentive option will not be replaced, phased retirement plans, where faculty members gradually scale back their work and take less pay, will continue, Schlissel said. The University is seeking ways to encourage older faculty members to retire in order to recruit new, younger scholars while maintaining a relatively consistent ratio of tenured professors. 

Schlissel said he and other administrators and faculty members analyzed how many eligible faculty members were actually choosing the incentivized retirement option, and they concluded incentives did not have any effect on the number of faculty members retiring. The change has not yet been approved or put in formal language, Schlissel said, but he added that he is ready to give up on the incentivized system.

The current plan, ending June 2013, provides one year’s salary to tenured faculty members retiring in their late 60s. The plan proposed to extend to June 2014 is an enhanced offering: It will provide a lump sum of a year and half’s worth of the retiree’s current salary, in addition to a $20,000 lump sum to subsidize special costs like health insurance as well as a $2,000 annual fund for three years. The annual fund is intended to ease the transition to retirement, providing funds to travel, complete publications and continue scholarly work. Schlissel added that the University will also work to provide office space to faculty members entering retirement.

Hal Roth, professor of religious studies and FEC member, noted that for the last 18 years, the University has offered incentives for retirement but not benefits. While the enhancement to the plan is an important step in supporting faculty members as they end their time at Brown, it does not provide continuous benefits, which most other institutions offer, he said. 

Schlissel responded that a long-term benefits plan would impose costs that would be reflected in salaries, tuition, financial aid and the University’s ability to improve. He added that other universities are backing away from their retirement benefit plans for this reason. 

The proposed changes to faculty retirement plans sparked a multitude of questions, but Schlissel put an end to the discussion with an anecdote from when he was a dean at the University of California at Berkeley. Though some of his colleagues were hurt financially by staying on during the 2008 financial crisis, they didn’t consider retiring from academia. “It’s not a question of pay, it’s a question of your identity,” Schlissel said.

The FEC recently established an ad hoc joint committee to explore issues surrounding faculty benefits, said Mary Louise Gill, chair of the FEC and professor of philosophy. In particular, the ad hoc committee is charged with making recommendations on child care, tuition aid and retirement benefits afforded to University employees. The ad hoc committee comprises two members each from the FEC and the Committee on Faculty Equity and Diversity and one from the Committee on Faculty Retirement. Gill said the new committee would collaborate with the Committee on Faculty Recruitment, Career Development and Retention, but the committees would not be duplicates of each other.

A separate committee on child care was formed after the closure of the Taft Daycare Center this August and distributed a survey to employees about their child care needs. The committee will report its findings to the FEC and will then present the recommendations to the provost, Gill said.

President Christina Paxson and Schlissel gave updates on the strategic planning process. Paxson clarified the role of two ad hoc committees of Corporation members and alums, which are tasked with campus planning and digital technology. The committees represent an effort to get constituents involved as informed ambassadors who would collaborate with the faculty and student committees on campus, but not to duplicate these committees. 

Schlissel said his office is planning a day-long retreat in January for the six campus committees to present their progress and look at overlap between their findings. He said an “enormous pleasant surprise” was the number of proposals submitted to the Academic Priorities Committee for the Signature Academic Initiatives, which will choose two or three interdisciplinary projects  for the University to emphasize over the next decade. Since 79 proposals were submitted, the APC may try to combine projects to incorporate more of the campus, Schlissel said.
The University may find other ways to support projects not selected as signature initiatives, since many more projects were submitted than he had anticipated, Schlissel said.

Gill also announced a faculty forum to discuss criteria and procedures for the promotion of an associate professor to a full professor. The forum will likely be held in February so the FEC can have a proposal ready by April’s faculty meeting.