Early retirement program’s future still full of questions

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The Faculty Early Retirement Program’s future will be discussed in ongoing bargaining sessions between the California State University and the faculty union that could change the program for future participants and perhaps invite new employees to enroll.

The future of FERP has been pending for several months as members from both sides have weighed the positives and the negatives of a program that a member of the CSU Board of Trustees called to be eliminated earlier this year.

FERP allows tenured faculty and librarians who are least 55 to work half time for up to five years while receiving retirement benefits, according to CSUN Faculty Affairs. Half time means participants work 50 percent of the hours they worked the year previous to their enrollment.

John Travis, California Faculty Association president and head of the bargaining team, said the most important proposal the CFA has pushed for recently was to include counselors on the list of qualified candidates for FERP.

“Hopefully, we can get this one passed by the end of this academic year, sometime in (the) spring,” Travis said. He said the CFA’s goal after it is approved is to try to get athletic coaches eligible for the program.

CSU trustee William Hauck earlier this year called FERP into question during a board meeting, citing an aging faculty and the need for younger professors to be more integrated into the academic environment as reasons for the termination of the program.

The CSU and CFA issued a joint statement Aug. 29 that detailed the current status of FERP in ongoing contract negotiations, reiterating that the program may change from its current status as negotiations continue.

The statement said employees who have applied for and been accepted into the FERP program for Fall 2005 will remain unaffected in current terms and conditions. If a person has already applied for and been accepted for winter or spring 2006 terms, the FERP program will likely remain unchanged, though there is still a possibility as negotiations continue.

It is possible the program may change for Fall 2006 applicants, which employees will be applying for in the coming months, as applicants must make notice at least six months prior.

If the program changes in a way undesirable to an applicant, that person can choose to not retire and decline the conditions of FERP, according to the CSU-CFA statement.

Christie Logan, communication studies professor, said she was encouraged to sign up for FERP because other professors were in it and she felt it offered benefits to her advantage.

“I read the materials on it and had talked to colleagues who were already in the program,” she said. “It’s a wonderful way to ease into retirement, given the five-year-period of teaching half of my schedule.”

Richard and Vicki Sharp, professors in the Elementary Education Department, also praised the program for the way it has changed their lives.

Their relocation to a new faculty office, however, was somewhat unpleasant, said the couple, who now share a small office with a colleague in the Education Building.

Part of the reason for their relocation was to provide room for new faculty members who are involved with active faculty business. Since the Sharps no longer sit on departmental committees, for example, their space has been consolidated, they said.

The couple agreed that current conditions in the FERP office – ED 3103 – were not what they expect, but added that it has brought them closer together.

“We all know each other here. We’re like family,” Vicki said.

Richard said that due to their reduced workload, they have more time to dedicate to more important aspects of their work.

“I have longer office hours for my students to come in and talk to me,” Richard said. “That’s very important to me.”

He also said he is more concentrated on his class lectures because of the time away from faculty-related tasks, such as serving on departmental committees.

“We love FERP,” Vicki said. “It’s a good program, and we’re enjoying every minute of it.”

Some current FERP participants are concerned about the future of the program, but partly out of consideration for other professors and employees.

“However, given the budget crisis, I do think FERP will be reduced in the number of years faculty can do it,” Logan said regarding the program.

Logan, who is currently on leave, said she is also fine with FERP.

“I’m enjoying my time off, and will be ready to come back in the spring,” she said.

She said she is also concerned with what the collective bargaining will resolve, because she wants other members of faculty to eventually experience FERP.

“I hope CFA can prevail in improving the situation for all of us – students, faculty and administration,” Logan said.

Jelly Mae Jadraque can be reached at jelly.mae.quilantange.jadraque@csun.edu.

Sources:

Richard Sharp: Elementary Education, ext. 2551.

Vicki Sharp: Computer Science Education, ext. 7888.

Christie Logan: Communication Studies, ext. 2859.

Joint CSU-CFA Statement: Status of FERP during Bargaining, Aug. 29, 2005. (Provided by

Penelope Jennings, Associate VP for Faculty Affairs, ext. 2962).

John Travis: CFA President and head of the bargaining team.