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AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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University offers buyout packages to 101 natural science, social science professors

The University is offering buyout packages to 101 full-time professors in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, as part of recent efforts to increase the school’s research presence, a top-level University official confirmed last week.

Full-time faculty on active status were mailed letters explaining who was eligible and the benefits included, and professors offered the package – those who joined the Columbian College staff before 1994 – have until June 18 to accept the voluntary separation program, Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said.

The 101 faculty members offered the package comprise about 21 percent of the faculty in the school, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research’s Web site. The Columbian College has 464 faculty in three disciplines – the sciences, social sciences and humanities. Professors in the humanities were not offered the buyout.

The University offered buyout packages to 39 professors in the School of Engineering and Applied Science in October following recommendations released in 2008 by the Commission on the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“What we’re basically doing is implementing a recommendation that was in that commission’s report,” Lehman said last December.

Six professors in the School of Engineering and Applied Science accepted the packages. The Columbian College program is not based off a commission and was started after the SEAS program.

Lehman said it has not been decided if the University would offer buyout packages to other faculty and does not have a goal in mind for how many CCAS professors they hope will accept the buyout.

“We can’t set a goal, it would be meaningless. It would be different it were mandatory… but it’s not. It’s totally voluntary,” Lehman said. “It’s going to depend a great deal on what people think is happening with the economy. If they don’t think they have sufficient resources, they are not going to take it.”

The buyouts, Lehman has said, are not because GW is in a perilous financial situation. By offering long serving faculty the packages, GW will be able to hire new research focused professors.

“We almost never these days hire anyone who doesn’t have an active research and scholarship agenda. We have a goal, as you already know, to raise our standing as a research university,” Lehman said.  “And the whole objective, in the long-term, is to have all of our faculty be very involved with research.”

Improving the University’s research status has been one of Knapp’s focuses since he came from Johns Hopkins University – one of the country’s premier research institutions – in 2007. The Innovation Task force was launched in part to provide additional funds to research. Knapp appointed Dr. Leo Chalupa to the newly created position of vice president for research in 2009. The Science and Engineering Complex – a project which was in the works before Knapp’s tenure – is expected to improve research, as it will provide a physical space the University hopes will be used for top-tier studies.

The University of Florida and Northern Arizona University offered buyout options to members of their faculty this fall but, according to the newspapers at both universities, the buyouts were spurred by budget deficits, not administrative agendas.

While the prospect of losing teaching faculty might concern students, Lehman said faculty who accept the packages will be replaced after a year. This may create a void in the Columbian College if a significant number of professors accept the packages. Traditionally CCAS has around 15 to 18 active searches each year for new faculty, Lehman said. Columbian College Dean Peg Barratt said the college often works to cover courses when faculty members leave.

“We are used to having vacant positions with regular resignations, retirements and sabbatical leave,” Barratt said in an e-mail. “We work in various ways to cover courses — some courses are taught by other full time faculty, others are taught by part-time faculty, and others do not need to be offered in a particular semester.”

The amount offered in each package varies by time served at GW. If a faculty member came to the University from Aug. 1960 to July 1979, he or she will receive double his or her 2009 base academic-year salary. From Aug. 1979 to July 1986, 1 1/5 the 2009 base academic-year salary; from Aug. 1986 to July 1990, the 2009 base academic-year salary; and from Aug. 1990 to July 1994, half the 2009 base academic-year salary.

The American Association of University Professors released a report for the 2008-2009 academic year that said GW pays full-time professors an average of $134,700 a year.

If faculty members choose to accept the proposed buyout plan, they will be able to keep the retirement benefits they have incurred while working at the school.

At GW, employees contribute to their own retirement plans, but after they have worked at GW for two years of full-time service, they are eligible to enroll in a base retirement plan where the University contributes up to four percent of their base salary to the plan. Additionally, for each percent of salary that employees contribute, GW will contribute an additional amount equal to 1.5 times the employee’s contribution, up to a total University contribution of 10 percent.

If faculty accept the packages, they can choose their retirement dates, starting with December 2010 and ending in December 2011.

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