Approximately 150 Brandeis University staff members were left to weigh their options after they received an email last Tuesday, signed by Provost Steven Goldstein '78 and Chief Operating Officer Steven Manos, offering a "voluntary early retirement incentive program" which would require those who opt in to leave the University by May 30.

The email from Manos and Goldstein stated that "Brandeis is carefully assessing its organizational structure, seeking to meet or exceed the best practices in higher education and address Brandeis' current budget deficit," and that the incentive program is intended to "facilitate this goal and provide opportunities for reorganization, streamlined business processes, and more consistent workloads."

The email promised that individuals who choose to retire would receive "12 months of severance at their regular base pay and a $15,000 transition allowance." This offer is applicable to staff members on Brandeis' payroll who are 60 years or older and will have worked here for at least 10 years by April 1 of this calendar year.

The identities of the exact recipients of the email were unclear.

One staff member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that she and many others questioned whether or not they would be fired if they did not take the deal offered in the email.

"I really do not want to [leave]," the individual said in an interview with the Justice. "I'm very invested in Brandeis.

"I think it's unethical, I think it's shameful," she added. "We teach courses [at Brandeis] that address this sort of thing. ... We're approaching ['Deis Impact], which really rings hollow to me."

This staff member said that she received the email and is eligible for the early retirement program.

Senior Vice President for Communications Ellen de Graffenreid responded to staff concerns in an email to the Justice. "As you know, we have been looking at the administrative operations of Brandeis to make them more efficient, provide better service, and get more for our dollars," wrote de Graffenreid.
She compared the program to the initiative to streamline procurement services, giving the example of narrowing down the number of printing vendors that the University used from over 600 to about a dozen over the past year.

"Administrative staffing needs change over time, which can lead to some areas that are overstaffed and-frankly-some areas that are understaffed," she wrote. "The voluntary early retirement program is intended to help balance out staffing and workloads to make our operations both efficient and effective."

Prof. Gordon Fellman (SOC) speculated that most of the eligible staff members "would be women, over 60, so you're facing possible ageism and sexism both.

"The University is modeling itself more and more after the corporation, which is not an appropriate model," he added. "We are not a profit-making institution."

The staff member said that the viability of continuing health insurance in particular was "a huge concern."

The email stated that staff members would be contacted "in the next ten working days with details specific to their situation, including their options for continuing health care coverage," but did not specify what those options would be.

De Graffenreid wrote in an email to the Justice that "each individual's situation is different" and that Human Resources staff would be available for one-on-one counseling.

With the future uncertain, the mood among staff was tense, according to the staff member. "That's what I hear from everyone on campus, how demoralized people are," she said.

Fellman agreed. "You tell people who have been working in [a] place for 10 years or more, 'we might get rid of you.' What does that do to morale?" he asked.

-Phil Gallagher contributed reporting.