Behind closed doors, University creates controversial buyout plan

Daniel Zhao, Senior Photographer

Faced with financial uncertainty brought by the coronavirus pandemic, the University hurriedly drafted a faculty buyout retirement plan, which a faculty working group has now responded to with a list of concerns — the most notable being that the plan was developed without faculty consultation.

In August, University Provost Scott Strobel announced the retirement plan, which offers tenured faculty age 70 or older payment equal to $200,000 if their yearly salary is equal to or greater than $200,000. If their salary is less than $200,000, faculty members can receive a payment of 125 percent of this year’s salary up to $200,000. To receive the compensation, faculty have to retire by the end of June 2021. 177 faculty members are eligible for the compensation, provided they sign on by Feb. 28, 2021. 

But in creating the plan, the administration did not consult any faculty members. The Inter-school Faculty Working Group’s response to the plan cited financial complications for the faculty that choose to retire under the plan as well as the implications of asking faculty to quickly make a clean break with their longtime place of work.

“I found the ‘offer’ insulting and cold-hearted, also very unattractive,” T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies Carlos Eire wrote in an email to the News. “Glad to see Faculty Senate reaction [and] suggestions.”

University spokesperson Karen Peart said that though some of the concerns and suggestions in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences response are “well-placed,” others are based on an incomplete understanding of the plan. The Provost’s Office and FAS Dean’s Office are working with the Benefits Office to draft a document of clarification, which they will distribute to faculty in the first weeks of December, Peart added.

Additionally, faculty discussed the plan at the Nov. 19 FAS Senate meeting. The report, drafted by the Yale Inter-school Faculty Working Group, raised numerous concerns with the incentive plan, and suggested they could have been avoided with faculty consultation.

Firstly, the working group’s response noted that faculty should have been consulted, particularly because the plan will have a significant impact on their lives. This lack of consultation “devalues faculty input,” the working group wrote. For matters that affect faculty, the report added, they have traditionally been consulted — a practice that is also used at other universities.

Peart said that administrators used input from several deans, who are faculty, in creating the plan. When asked why more faculty were not consulted, Peart explained that the University wanted to unveil the plan as soon as possible.

“With the disruption and underlying uncertainties of the pandemic, it was determined that the plan should be available as soon as possible following those conversations,” she wrote in an email to the News.

Under the plan, faculty would receive a buyout comparable to other universities. However, the one-time pay structure means that faculty will have to pay more taxes on the money than if it were spread out over multiple years. Additionally, because

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Through These Doors: Domestic violence support and education

The Cape Elizabeth Police Department has a display of purple lights up in support of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Through These Doors, the domestic violence resource center for Cumberland County has partnered with local business owners, law enforcement agencies, health care facilities, municipalities, and community members to make October “glow purple.” Courtesy photo Paul Fenton

CAPE ELIZABETH — With October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, organizations through Cumberland County have shown support for survivors and victims, including Cape Elizabeth.

Through These Doors, a domestic violence resource center that serves Cumberland County, wants the public to be aware of domestic violence and know that everyone plays an individual role in addressing and ending the problem, said Rebecca Hobbs, executive director.

“We all have a role to play in addressing and ending this problem,” Hobbs said. “It’s not up to professionals solely, but as neighbors and friends, as coworkers. Each one of us can see when we’re concerned about somebody who we might think is a victim, and we might be able to see if we think someone is a perpetrator. And there are things we can all do.”

Since 1977, Through These Doors has expanded, engaging with community partners, and provides individual services as well as a full range of community education and training in schools, law enforcement agencies, and workplaces, Hobbs said.

“Now we have 35 staff members and are doing lots of work to support victims and survivors of abuse and also to change common attitudes and beliefs and coordinate responses so that we’re all doing the best we can to keep people in Cumberland County safe from domestic violence,” she said.

Through These Doors provides individual assistance through a helpline, Hobbs said. In the center’s 2019 fiscal year report, there were over 5,300 helpline calls made.

In 2020, Through These Doors has several goals for October of 2020 in an effort to broaden domestic violence knowledge, Hobbs said.

“When someone is abusive, you’ll often see they are showing controlling behaviors of their partner.” she said. “They’re attempting to control where they go, who they see, what they do, maybe what they wear, maybe what they eat. Those controlling and dominating behaviors are tactics of abuse and sometimes they show up in public places, or if you know someone well, you can start to see those. And you have an op to talk to the person exhibiting the behaviors and say, I see what you’re doing that’s not ok. Or to talk to the person living with it and say, I’m concerned about you — how can I help?”

Through These Doors is partnering with Portland City Hall, Cumberland County, local business owners, law enforcement agencies, health care facilities, municipalities, and community members in Purple Light Nights, a global campaign, she said.

“The idea is to increase awareness of domestic violence through something that’s relatively easy to do, which is just shining purple lights,” Hobbs said.

The Cape Elizabeth Police Department has displayed purple lights in front

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