Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

A New Role for Emeritus Faculty

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

A New Role for Emeritus Faculty

Article excerpt

Since Bismarck retired his soldiers of labor at age sixty-five during the Franco-Prussian War, age sixty-five has seemingly become the arbitrary age that marks a life passage and separates workers from non-workers. This "retirement" age has become so accepted that both policies and practices have been implemented which underscore its importance as a time of fundamental change. However, as life expectancy has increased from thirty-five years in 1800 to today's projection of almost eighty years, retirement at sixty-five is considered by many to be outdated and no longer realistic. People who retire at age sixty-five today could spend 25 percent of their adulthood in retirement! Aside from the obvious financial implications for the individual and society, such a "brain drain" in the workforce is simply wasteful.

Heretofore, retiring faculty were often seen as an asset to institutions because their retirement opened up the opportunity for new directions, more diversity, and younger hires with fresh ideas and lower salaries; however, this situation is no longer true. Today's retiring faculty can put the institution into an untenable situation. With unprecedented budget cuts and a continual loss of state support, many public colleges and universities are finding it very difficult to replace retiring faculty. In some instances, an entire discipline or specialty area may be in danger of elimination because of the loss of a critical mass of faculty. Additionally, salary lapse from retirees often provides the only funds available for raises and in many instances is used simply to balance the budget rather than to make new hires, thus exacerbating the problem. When an institution does find itself in a position to replace a faculty member, the salary needed to be competitive, particularly in high-demand areas, is often more than that of the retiring faculty member. Therefore, many institutions are seeking ways to keep emeritus faculty involved.

In 1980, a study undertaken by the author looked at an amendment (which made age seventy the mandatory retirement age for faculty) to the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and noted that alternatives to retirement needed to be identified on college campuses. …

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