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Gibson details faculty renewal proposal

Lorna Gibson
Lorna Gibson

At the Oct. 17 faculty meeting, Associate Provost Lorna Gibson outlined proposals being considered for a faculty renewal program. Below is a Q&A with Gibson that provides more information.

Q: What exactly is the Faculty Renewal Initiative?

A: This initiative focuses on supporting the transition of retirement-ready faculty (and those beginning to think about retiring) to open up tenure-track slots for recruiting junior faculty. By continually "renewing faculty," MIT will be better able to respond to changing fields of education and research and will be able to move more quickly in building a diverse faculty. In addition, the initiative will provide opportunities for retired faculty to continue their valuable contributions to research, teaching and student-development activities.

Q: How will it work?

A: The details are still being developed, but in general the program would be voluntary and faculty who have reached normal retirement age (65) and have accumulated a certain number of years of service at MIT would be eligible to participate. The program is expected to provide a menu of options and services; under consideration are postretirement resources and support as ways of continuing connections with MIT; transition planning services; posttenure title; financial incentives; gradual reductions in workload leading to retirement; and financial counseling.

Q: When can I find out specifics and when will this program begin?

A: It is hoped that the details will be announced sometime in spring 2008; at that time comprehensive materials will be available. The program itself is expected to take effect around July 1, 2008.

Q: Didn't something like this take place about 10 years ago?

A: In 1996, MIT offered the Early Retirement Incentive Program, which was a one-time voluntary program that provided funds and other financial benefits for faculty who decided to retire. Unlike the 1996 program, the Faculty Renewal Initiative is intended to be an ongoing and sustainable program.

Q: Can staff participate in the Faculty Renewal Initiative?

A: No. This program applies only to faculty. Faculty typically have different modes of transition to retirement than staff and often different postretirement goals. There are a finite number of faculty slots across the Institute and therefore a dynamic process is necessary to make sure there are sufficient openings for new hires.

Q: Who is heading up the Initiative?

A: This is a cross-campus initiative led by Associate Provost Lorna Gibson in collaboration with Vice President of Human Resources Alison Alden. To ensure that the program will cover the needs of retiring faculty, all faculty have been invited to give input. Focus groups of senior faculty from all five schools were organized and have met, with the assistance of the Faculty Policy Committee.

Q: "Retired" means different things to different people. What does it mean in this case?

A: Each retiree will make the transition from tenure to retired in his or her own way, and according to different timetables. The Faculty Renewal Initiative is committed to providing retired faculty with opportunities to remain connected with the MIT community--by continuing to teach, write and pursue research--or by participating in other activities, such as student life, mentoring or community service programs. Options such as access to campus parking and the Internet are being explored. In addition, office space for retired faculty is currently offered in some but not all of the schools. Over the next few years we will work to provide office space for retired faculty in the schools that do not currently provide it.

Q: Is this an MIT thing or are other universities doing it?

A: Several of our peer institutions have established a faculty retirement program, including Brown, University of Chicago and Stanford.

Q: Besides the focus groups, how else can faculty provide input?

A: Feedback, comments or questions (which can remain confidential) can be sent to Faculty input has also occurred at meetings of the school councils, at a faculty dinner and the October faculty meeting.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 5, 2007 (download PDF).

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