Administration, faculty conflicted over supplemental retirement idea

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Administration, faculty conflicted over supplemental retirement idea

Serena Guentz, News Editor

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At the special Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 15, the board passed a resolution to offer a Supplemental Retirement Plan to employees in an attempt to resolve the budget crisis, but many City College faculty and staff have mixed feelings.

The Supplemental Retirement Plan is an early retirement incentive program that allows eligible employees to retire early with a benefit level of 70% of their final pay. The two enrollment windows currently have resignation dates of either Dec. 31, 2019, or June 20, 2020.

Cornelia Alsheimer, president of the Faculty Association, said that the association recognizes both the benefits and drawbacks of the SRP. She said that the faculty who are considering taking up the SRP do understand the consequences that could come from it.

“The Faculty Association has concerns but has to see the benefits,” Alsheimer said.

Normally, department chairs could go to the Academic Senate to request full-time replacements for retirees, but they won’t have that option for those who retire under the SRP.

“It is not an ideal transition,” Alsheimer said.

To solve this issue, the Faculty Association brought up the idea at an open Faculty Association Executive Board meeting on Oct. 25 to give faculty the option to retire with the SRP in June 2020 or in June 2021, Alsheimer said. 

This would allow faculty to take advantage of the SRP while still having time to plan and provide a smooth transition for the department.

Alsheimer’s main concern was the lack of communication between the administration and the rest of the college.

The last time an SRP was offered, a survey was sent to employees to gauge interest in the program at least a month before it was officially announced.

This time around, nobody outside of the superintendent-president’s cabinet knew about the SRP until the day before the special board meeting, where the board voted on the resolution.

“Here we had no information, no discussion,” Alsheimer said. “This lack of communication is a problem.”

Faculty who do not want the SRP to be offered have pointed to the last SRP, offered in 2016, as an example of why they are concerned.

“I cannot overstate how much damage the last SRP inflicted on our college,” said Patricia Stark, Academic Senate president and journalism department chair, at the Oct. 15 board meeting. “We lost more than one out of three managers and administrators, often replacing them with far less experienced outsiders.”

With that SRP, along with normal retirements, several administrators and deans retired from City College, including then-Vice President of Human Resources Patricia English and then-Executive Vice President Jack Friedlander.

Many classified staff members, however, want the SRP offer to proceed.

“People are always skeptical,” said Jason Thornell, technical services specialist in the user support department and chief union steward of City College’s California School Employees Association. “Many people are in favor of it… It gives opportunity to people on the fence [of retiring].”

Of the 53 classified staff members who voted on the SRP, 50 voted to have the plan be offered, according to Thornell.

While Thornell did acknowledge the amount of upper management that retired with the last SRP, he said the early retirement incentive would be better than the alternative of laying people off.

“If we can make it work, I’m all for it,” Thornell said.

One of the main suggestions Thornell had for dealing with the budget was to focus on bringing in revenue, such as increasing the number of international students.

“The board doesn’t listen… We’re just little guys at the bottom,” Thornell said. “But we have to go back to ‘what are we all here for?’ Oh right—you, the students.”

Alsheimer has said that the Faculty Association still has to approve the SRP. If the early retirement plan is offered, it is contingent on the Board of Trustees’ fiscal and operational analysis after the enrollment windows have closed.

Editor’s Note: “The Board of Trustees and the rest of the college,” was changed to “The administration and the rest of the college,” at 6:57 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2019.

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