At age 58, Pitzer College professors are asked to make a decision about whether they would like to retire between the ages of 60 and 64. If so, they must specify the date of their retirement, and in return, the college offers a financial bonus, meant to encourage faculty turnover.
Most professors take the offer, wrote Pitzer Dean of Faculty Nigel Boyle in an email to TSL. Professors receive 197.5 percent of their normal annual salary during their penultimate year of teaching, and 262.5 percent of their annual salary in their final year.
“I see this as a way of rejuvenating the faculty,” Boyle wrote.
Pitzer, founded in 1962, initially had a stagnant set of faculty. The college had hired a group of young faculty members who gradually made their way through the system. As a result, there was a long period of time when the college was not hiring new professors. Just two years ago, the last professor of the founding faculty retired.
“Although it is nice to have faculty who have lots of experience and knowledge about the institution, I think it’s important to have a good mix of faculty with a balance of assistant, associate, and tenured professors,” Boyle wrote.
Pitzer used to have a mandatory retirement age, but required retirement policies were outlawed about 20 years ago, so the college began working on new methods of encouraging voluntary early retirement. The current policy was accepted in 2007.
New faculty bring in new perspectives and fresh knowledge, Boyle wrote, especially those hired immediately after graduate school. As the student interests continually change, a constant stream of new professors ensures that Pitzer is able to offer students the courses and personnel to support their changing ambitions.
An unexpected but positive aspect of the policy, Boyle added, is that it increases the faculty's diversity.
Furthermore, the early retirement program allows Pitzer to minimize total spending on its faculty. Pitzer has a straight seniority system for professors, meaning each year, professors receive a set percentage raise equivalent to their peers of the same rank.
“In a system like this, the longer [a professor] is here, the higher their pay, so replacing them with a junior staff member is strategic financially,” Boyle wrote.
But retiring for a Pitzer professor does not mean a complete disassociation from the college; many continue to stay involved on campus. Even after they have retired, professors are still entitled to conduct research on campus, apply for awards, and teach classes as adjunct professors.
“Over half of [Pitzer’s] retiring faculty have come back to teach and they’re paid as an adjunct for those courses,” Boyle wrote.