MU announces buyout plan for tenured, retirement eligible

Basi said the UM System and MU currently estimate to spend about $10 million in buyouts.

MU announced Friday a voluntary buyout program that will allow tenured faculty who are retirement eligible to take a one-time payment to separate from the university.

According to an MU news release those who are eligible are tenured faculty who are retirement eligible and who will be 62 by Aug. 31, 2015.

Those who take the deal will receive a one-time payment that equals 1.5 times their base salary, but not more than $200,000.

MU currently employees 261 faculty members and 28 academic administrators, such as deans, who are eligible for the buyout.

MU spokesman Christian Basi said there is currently no estimate for how many faculty will participate in the separation program, but estimates that up to $10 million will be spent in one-time payments if all those eligible participate. Payouts will come from the UM System and MU budgets.

Basi said the plan would allow MU to save money on salaries and benefits for the eligible and allow the university to invest the savings in faculty raises and potential new hires.

“The plan would allow us more flexibility in a challenging financial environment,” he said.

Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin said in the release that the plan would also allow the university to “recognize significant contributions made by tenured faculty members during their time with the university.”

Basi said the amount of savings generated from the plan would depend on the number of participants.

Payments for faculty are scheduled to be made between Dec. 31, 2014, and Aug. 31, 2015. A separate timeline will be offered at a later date for academic administrators who take the deal.

Faculty Council Chairman Craig Roberts said not every member of the council, including himself, were presented the details of the plan prior to the announcement on Friday.

Roberts said he speculates that another reason for Loftin to create the plan could be to improve MU’s rankings in the Association of American Universities, a group of 62 prestigious research universities across the U.S. and Canada.

“The chancellor is tasked with improving our AAU ranking,” he said. “This requires him to ensure that our tenured and tenure-track faculty generate metrics of research productivity, (including) citations, publications, federal grants.”

Roberts said while he is in favor of raising faculty salaries to help retain valuable faculty, MU should be careful not to lose too many professors in “high teaching appointments.”

“A professor’s career follows an arc,” he said. “Toward the end of the arc, the professor spends his or her final years assuming responsibilities like governing, mentoring, visioning and other forms of high level service that cannot be assumed by younger faculty. These responsibilities are critical to the success of the next generation faculty and the campus.”

The newly announced plan is separate from the Looking Forward to 200 Committee — a new committee announced by Loftin during his inaugural speech Thursday to improve MU’s long-term planning — and the MU Strategic Operating Plan, which cut 2 percent of all general operating budgets across campus in July to improve MU’s standing in the AAU.

Basi said administrators weighed the possibility of losing valuable faculty members from the buyouts but do not expect that the plan will compromise MU’s standing in the AAU.

Basi said there are no plans to expand the voluntary buyout plan to tenured faculty who are not retirement eligible or non-tenured faculty at this time.

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