Faculty speaks out against trustees passing early retirement resolution

Faculty+speaks+out+against+trustees+passing+early+retirement+resolution

Serena Guentz, News Editor

As the Board of Trustees discussed the option of offering a Supplemental Retirement Plan to City College employees at its special meeting Tuesday, several faculty members took to public comment to express their concerns.

If the plan proceeds, eligible employees would be allowed to retire on either Dec. 31 or June 20, 2020, depending on their employment classification and which enrollment window they choose, with a benefit level of 70% of their final pay.

Eligible full-time faculty would be able to take advantage of the SRP in the second enrollment window, resigning on June 20, 2020, while all eligible employees excluding faculty could enroll in this window or the first enrollment window with a resignation date of Dec. 31.

“The financial benefit of the SRP is literally built on destabilizing the instructional departments and student support services at this college,” said Patricia Stark, Academic Senate president and journalism department chair. “We will be losing experienced faculty college-wide and the SRP’s financial benefit depends on those faculty members either being replaced with less expensive adjuncts or not replaced at all.”

City College has been exploring different ways to cut down on costs in light of budget cuts and the $3.25 million deficit. 

Some options already in play include a hiring freeze and looking to employees for ideas, such as a survey that was sent out to faculty for budget suggestions and the recently Budget Input Subcommittee created out of the College Planning Council.

Maureen Toal, senior vice president of Public Agency Retirement Services gave a presentation on SRP at the special board meeting, showing the retirement incentive would result in a projected savings of over $7 million over five years.

“I am today arguing against my own personal self-interest because I could take advantage of this SRP,” Stark said. “In many ways that would be a blessed relief, but I’m the only full-time faculty member in my department. 

“If I leave, who replaces me? Who will be the department chair? Who will hire the adjuncts needed to replace me and teach our classes?”

Last week, multiple department chairs went to the Academic Senate requesting 14 new or replacement faculty.

“With the SRP, these departments will not be able to meet the demands for classes because they won’t have instructors to teach them,” Stark said. “And turning away students — how does that save us money?”

Cornelia Alsheimer, president of the Faculty Association spoke during public comment with concerns of the lack of communication. 

“This is a proposal of great magnitude, not only fiscally but in terms of impact on the college,” Alsheimer said. “There was literally no communication [about the SRP] whatsoever with anyone on campus outside of the president’s cabinet until yesterday… This total lack of communication, I believe, is a serious problem.”

Alsheimer reminded the board that “any retirement incentive is a mandatory item of collective bargaining.”

After deliberation amongst the trustees, the resolution to offer the retirement incentive was approved pending collective bargaining for each bargaining unit. 

The motion was passed by a vote of 5-2, with Student Trustee Kenny Igbechi and Trustee Jonathan Abboud opposing.

The Supplemental Retirement Plan is currently a contingent plan that will proceed once the board conducts a fiscal and operational analysis after the enrollment windows are closed. The board will then determine if the plan will proceed or be canceled.

The Board of Trustees will reconvene at its next regular meeting on Nov. 14.