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Over 600 Take Retirement Incentives

By Brett Altschul
staff reporter

Over 600 retirees - including 79 faculty - who accepted the special early retirement plan offered this spring will have retired officially as of Sept. 30.

The retirement plan was offered to faculty and staff members who are at least 55 and have worked a minimum of 10 years at MIT. The benefits of the plan include a $500 per month stipend for people between 55 and 62 to last until they turn 65 and can receive Social Security benefits. There is also a separate one-time pension piece for all retirees equal to roughly one year of a retiree's salary and to be paid out in annuity, said Vice President for Human Resources Joan F. Rice.

While the plan was aimed at lowering the number of non-academic staff, it was not intended to decrease the number of faculty members, said Chair of the Faculty Lawrence S. Bacow '72.

"We have an aging faculty," Rice said. "You've got to be able to do the renewal" necessary to keep MIT a fresh and changing academic place, and turnover in faculty is part of that, she said. "It was a very good thing for MIT to do."

"The estimates of how many would elect to take the plan ranged from 40 to 80," Bacow said "There were some bets among the faculty on how many it would be."

Retirees stave off lay offs

The program's success prevented the administration from having to make a tough decision, Rice said.

"We probably would have had to lay off" staff had it been the case that not so many accepted the incentives, Rice. The high number of retirees "makes it less likely that we would have to be letting go people."

Many faculty members - a maximum of 49 percent - will be hired back by their departments to work part-time, Rice said. They will receive pension as well as a salary for their work, she said.

The arrangement will involve higher costs in the short-term, Rice said. It will take somewhere near but under 10 years for the Institute to break even on the costs of the retirement plan.

Rice said that it is important that faculty stay on to some extent. "You need some sort of continuity" and a transition, she said.

"Previously, the retired professors were given the title of professor emeritus and senior lecturer if they continued teaching," Bacow said. "We wanted a way to retain retirees as part of the intellectual community."

Staff members can not be hired back in that way, Rice said. "We're pretty much holding that we can't have more than a 50 percent replacement" for staff, she said.

This will mean to a large extent consolidation of work in departments. For now, "it feels like more work" for fewer people in many affected areas, Rice said. "They feel stressed out because there is a lot to do."

But many of the changes being made through the re-engineering process are supposed to be cutting out time-wasting activities, Rice said. In the long term, this should reduce the inefficiencies of the old system, she said.

Some departments more affected

"Some departments are impacted more heavily than others," said President Charles M. Vest.

Some other areas around the Institute, like Physical Plant, were especially hard-hit by retirement. Over 150 people from Physical Plant are retiring, although "they have a large contingent" to begin with, Rice said.

However, the departments that had more retirees generally had more eligible faculty members, Bacow said. The percentage of professors who retired was reasonably uniform, he said.

"Faculty positions will be filled carefully by departments and schools, using their normal careful search processes over the next several years," Vest said.

The replacement will take place over the next five years, with professorships gradually being filled as the part-time professors depart permanently, Bacow said.

Ahmet Isik contributed to the reporting of this story.