Seventeen professors in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences accepted the University’s buyout offers this summer, clearing the way for GW to hire additional research-focused faculty.
In June, 101 professors were offered packages through a voluntary separation program to help clear the way for the University to hire more faculty to boost GW’s research presence. The vacancies will be filled within the next 12 to 18 months, a University official said.
Ten social science professors and seven natural science professors accepted the offer, University Provost Steve Lerman said.
GW has put extra emphasis on hiring research professors. The University may spend $275 million to build a science center and last October incentivized six professors in the School of Engineering and Applied Science to retire to clear payrolls.
The faculty turnover is part of an effort aimed at improving the University’s research status – one of University President Steven Knapp’s focuses since he came to GW from Johns Hopkins University in 2007.
The University launched the Innovation Task Force to provide added money for research and academics. Knapp appointed Dr. Leo Chalupa to the created position of vice president for research in 2009. The Science and Engineering Complex – a project that was in the works before Knapp’s tenure began – is expected to improve research, as it will provide a physical space the University hopes will be used for top-tier studies.
The buyout was aimed at faculty who came to GW before 1994, and offers ranged from half of the faculty member’s 2009 base salary to double their salary, depending on how long the professor had been teaching at the University.
Several professors who spoke with The Hatchet characterized the voluntary separation offers as a positive step toward adding more research.
“I think it’s a good thing, as [hiring practices are] constrained by size” of the campus and the student body, one professor said. “The only way to get more faculty is to encourage turnover.”
Another professor added that faculty members did not feel pressured by the buyout packages, nor did they find them particularly concerning.
“[Such packages are] very typical for an organization of this size to do,” the professor added.
Charles Craver, a GW law professor who specializes in labor and employment law, said buyouts are completely optional, because the Age Discrimination and Employment Act makes forcing someone to retire illegal.
“It’s very common for companies to offer people who have been around for a number of years an incentive for voluntary retirement,” Craver said.
“Sometimes it is based on the fact that you’re trying to shrink a particular department,” he added.
Anita Levy from the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance at the American Association of University Professors, said buyouts are common for longer-serving faculty.
“It sounds plausible that they’ve been using this as a means to revise the science and engineering faculty,” Levy said. “It’s not uncommon that these kinds of packages are offered to longer-serving faculty.”
Those who chose to accept the buyout have one year to retire, from December 2010 to December 2011.
“In all our strategic recruitment decisions, we seek faculty members who possess research strengths reflective of the University’s research areas and high standards for teaching, while maintaining a balance between seasoned faculty members and new faculty,” Lerman said.
There are no immediate plans for future buyouts in other schools across GW, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said.