University employees opt into retirement
Approximately 80 staff members who received an early retirement incentive package that was announced early this semester will leave Brandeis at the end of this month.
The deal, which was announced via an email from Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Steven Manos and Provost Steven Goldstein to an undisclosed list of recipients on Jan. 28, was open to staff on the Brandeis payroll who were 60 years or older and had worked at the University for at least 10 years as of April 1—a total of about 150 people.
The email stated that the purpose of the incentive was to address the school’s budget deficit and to “provide opportunities for reorganization, streamlined business processes, and more consistent workloads.”
Senior Vice President for Communications Ellen de Graffenreid told the Justice that there was no specific target number of staff members expected to leave under the program.
While some who opted into the program claim that many more women than men were eligible, de Graffenreid said that she did not know the ratio of men to women who were eligible or had taken the offer.
Statements that most of the eligible recipients were women could not be independently confirmed. One employee interviewed by the Justice speculated that at a recent retirement planning meeting, eight out of nine people were women.
“I do feel that most of us, with the possible exception of the Facilities people, are women,” said another employee. However, she said, “I don’t really feel that we were targeted. I just feel that there’s a lot of women that work here.”
Some staff are retiring with the package—12 months severance at their regular pay and a $15,000 “transition allowance.” They say that while it is generous, they sensed that they might have had to leave Brandeis whether they took it or not.
“It’s a package that you can’t refuse,” said one employee— who asked to remain anonymous since she will be at Brandeis through the end of the month— of why she accepted the package, in an interview with the Justice.
“The other reason I took it was because the feeling among us retirees was that if we don’t retire, we’re going to get laid off at some point,” she said.
When asked where the feeling stems from, the employee said that the people covered under the package are “old blood."
“We’re old, because we’re over 60 and that’s, I guess, not a good thing nowadays, and we’ve also been here for a long time, and that’s sort of ‘old school’ Brandeis, when things are changing,” she said.
She said she had been at the University for about 20 years.
“It tells you that the landscape is going to change pretty dramatically,” said another employee, who asked to remain anonymous, in a separate interview with the Justice.
The first, who is leaving May 30, said she will be working part-time at a job she has held for several years and plans to search for full-time work at the end of the summer.
Until then, however, she said she was looking forward to “just relaxing, regrouping and enjoying the time off.
“I have grandchildren, so I’m hoping to spend time with them, and maybe do some trips,” she added.
The second employee, whose last day of work was Sunday, said that she is not sure what she is doing, but that she would be looking for another job. She added that she had been her family’s sole “breadwinner” for many years.
Both employees, who opted in to the “voluntary early retirement incentive program” said they had not planned on leaving Brandeis so soon—nor did they intend to retire.
The second interviewee also spoke to the Justice for a Feb. 4 article about the initial announcement of the early retirement package.
“I really do not want to [leave],” she said at the time. In the most recent interview, she described her supervisors as “stunned” that she ultimately took the deal.
The first, who was not interviewed for the Feb. 4 article, said that “I do have some feelings of resentment, because I was not planning on retiring right now. I was hoping to have two, maybe even three more years here. I wanted to retire on my own terms, when I was ready, not when they wanted me to go.”
Scot Bemis, vice president for human resources, did not respond to requests for an interview with the Justice.