The new Voluntary Separation Incentive Policy, introduced April 2, will offer a select 280 University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point employees an opportunity to retire with a severance and will be used to reduce costs and minimize layoffs and terminations.
Employees were selected by Chancellor Bernie Patterson, and he must approve each applicant.
Eligible candidates are those appointed as a faculty member or academic staff member with an “indefinite rolling horizon or fixed-term renewable contract,” or are an “unclassified limited appointee or classified permanent staff member.”
Applicants must be at least 55, have at least five years of service with UWSP and be vested with the Wisconsin Retirement System prior to July 1, 2015.
Employees who previously gave written notice of intent to retire or resign prior to the start date are ineligible.
Options for payment include a one-time separation payment, which will be equal to 50 percent of the employee’s April 2, 2015, base salary. This percentage will not include overload, overtime, winterim, summer, interim assignment or any other payment above the base. Other options include a contribution to the employee’s Health Savings Account or similar plan.
Interested employees must submit completed applications by April 20, 2015. Deans and vice chancellors will evaluate applicants and make suggestions to Patterson, whose final decisions will be announced no later than May 15, 2015.
“We are one of several campuses offering this for their employees, and each one is a little bit different in terms of eligibility requirements, the parameters, timing and that sort of thing,” said Pam Dollard, director of human resources and affirmative action. “UW-Eau Claire was the first institution that implemented this. Before that, we didn’t think this was an option for us.”
The planning spanned several weeks, and the program was reviewed by UW System Legal and UW System Human Resources.
“People have a lot of questions about it, but I think this will be a good option for a good population of people,” Dollard said.
There is not a goal number in mind, and not all applications will be accepted.
“If a department has 12 people and they can handle it with 10, we would probably be accepting two applications, so there’s a mechanism in place to monitor and manage the situation,” Patterson said.
Dates of separation will fall between July 3, 2015, and January 31, 2016. Participants will be ineligible for employment at UWSP two years from the separation date unless authorized by Patterson.
The policy has been met with concern regarding larger class sizes and fewer faculty members.
“The implications for class size, advisees and student organizations hasn’t really been talked about,” said Chris Sadler, communication professor. “The same courses will be taught with fewer instructors. It’s also important to recognize the importance of career and advising services because that’s not what most faculty has been trained to do.”
He said the program’s suddenness could cause emotions to run high at a time when morale is low.
“We’re the fifth campus to do this, but for some reason we haven’t publicly announced it,” Sadler said.
Communication Professor Karlene Ferrante said she was not planning to retire so soon and enjoys teaching, but will give the incentive serious consideration.
“It would be interesting to see what campus would look like in two or three years with fewer faculty and fewer services,” Sadler said.
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