Retirement Incentives for WMU Professional Support Staff
To: WMU Board of Trustees, President Edward Montgomery, Vice President Jan Van Der Kley, and Provost Jennifer Bott
From: WMU Community
Re: Retirement Incentives for Professional Support Staff
WMU staff are at the quiet center of much of what we do as an institution. Professional support staff provide untold services to students, faculty, and administrators. These dedicated employees are necessary to all university functions, from recruitment to tutoring to advising to managing budgets. As the Think Big initiative meetings this past year made clear, staff are among the most enthusiastic and loyal members of the WMU community, representing us, caring for us, and promoting our message and mission.
Currently, we find professional support staff are among those hit hardest by the COVID-19 budget crisis. These employees are among the least paid at WMU and, because they are not unionized, among the most vulnerable. Part of the solution to the current budget crisis could be to extend retirement incentives, like those already offered to faculty, to WMU’s professional support staff.
Several universities across the country have begun offering retirement incentives to staff, including Ohio University, Kent State University, Muskegon Community College, Pennsylvania State University system, University of Florida, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Brandeis University, University of Idaho, University of Tulsa, Ithaca College, and University of North Alabama. Eastern Michigan University, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro, and Kalamazoo’s city government have also recently utilized retirement incentives to address budget shortfalls and minimize layoffs.
Considering alternatives to layoffs is especially important now, in the midst of a pandemic that is causing historic health and financial hardships for individuals, families, and our community. Arkansas State University-Jonesboro’s offer of retirement incentives to staff was motivated by their “recogni[tion] that [such] employees have committed their professional lives and have made invaluable contributions to the University over their many years of service.”
How the university treats its employees and responds to this crisis affects Western Michigan University’s reputation and ability to recruit and retain students. If WMU wishes to continue to be a respected institution in this community, recognizing the dedicated contributions of—and providing equity to—its most vulnerable employees should be an important consideration. We strongly urge you to extend retirement incentives to WMU’s professional support staff.