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Report urges active role for retired faculty, staff

by Sherry Fisher - December 12, 2005

The day has finally arrived. The appetizers were tasty, the speeches gracious. You’ve shaken more hands than you can remember. You are now officially retired from the University – but you’re not ready to give up academia. What now?

A University Senate subcommittee has been working on that.

“Many retired faculty and staff members have a strong desire to remain active in their fields and in the University community,” says pharmacy professor Michael Gerald, chair of the Provost’s Committee to Study Issues of Retired Faculty and Staff. “But often when they retire, they have little contact with the University, and it’s not by choice. Some are taken off mailing or e-mail lists. They’re no longer invited to seminars or other events. Suddenly they’re left with a huge void.”

The committee’s report urges the University not to sever ties with former faculty and staff, but rather to keep them engaged.

Gerald says many retirees would like to continue teaching, conduct research, or in some way use their skills and participate in University activities, but they’re not clear about their options.

The committee, established to address the needs and concerns of University faculty and staff retirees, recently presented its report to the Senate. It recommends retirement processes consistent with peer institutions.

“Many people have made significant contributions to their departments for 35 years and are mentally and physically able to continue to make them,” Gerald says. “Retirees have something to offer UConn, and UConn has something to offer retirees.”

The report says, “The University has instructional, scholarly, and service needs that are not fully satisfied for lack of resources, both financial and personnel. It is in the mutual best interest of the University and its faculty and staff retirees that formal and informal contacts be maintained.”

Key recommendations are:

  • Retirees should be encouraged to maintain formal and informal contacts and interactions with the University, such as classroom instruction, research, scholarly and professional activities, service on committees and commissions, mentoring junior faculty, advising students, participating in the first year experience and senior year seminars, individual scholarly activities, participating in the recreational, educational, and cultural offerings on campus, including alumni and development activities, and interacting socially with former colleagues.
  • Each school or college should establish a written policy regarding the nature of post-retirement options or opportunities available and the process to be followed.

  • Deans, department heads, and directors should be encouraged to provide working space (carrel, office, lab), telephone, equipment, computers, library access, and support services to encourage and promote instructional and scholarly activities.
  • The perquisites available to all retired faculty and staff should be widely publicized. Discounts should be offered for parking garages, recreational facilities, and athletic events.
  • Group meeting space should be allocated for retirees for presentations, social interactions, and informative programs.
  • The feasibility of developing a phased retirement process should be explored, to ease the transition by working part-time for a number of years before retiring. The title emeritus should be awarded to senior professional staff in recognition of their accomplishments.
  • Create a self-supporting retiree association that has an active affiliation with UConn.

The report also recommended updating the Handbook for Emeritus Faculty, last revised in 1990.

Gerald says the recommendations would be of minimal cost to the University, and would generate good will and active support.

Provost Peter J. Nicholls says, “I am most appreciative of the work done by Mike Gerald and the committee to consider the University’s relationship with its retirees.

It is important that the University builds and strengthens its ties to retired faculty and staff who have contributed, and continue to contribute, in such vital ways to the life of our community.”

Adds Gerald, “When someone retires from the University, it shouldn’t mean the end of their career. UConn and universities across the nation have become increasingly conscious of the value of retirees, and the importance of keeping them engaged in the academic community. That’s our continued goal.”

The Provost is reviewing the recommendations, and will respond to the Senate by the spring.

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