Chancellor Schmidt’s proposed separation incentive hits faculty and staff inboxes

Departing university members



Story by Raina Beutel, Staff Writer

How much money would it take for you to leave your job at the university? Chancellor James C. Schmidt is hoping 6-months pay will be enough.

In the midst of talks of looming budget cuts to UW-Eau Claire Schmidt extended a voluntary separation incentive to 324 faculty and staff to combat the projected $13 million dollar cut to hit the university over the next biennium.

According to the email sent to eligible faculty and staff, the incentive comes in the form of a one-time payout of 50 percent of an employee’s base salary as of March 12, 2015, in exchange for their departure from the university by the end of the year, Schmidt said.

Faculty and staff received an email Monday outlining the specifics of the offer.

Eligible recipients must be 55 or older and have been a part of the UW system for at least five years. Schmidt said he expects a quarter or third of those eligible to apply.

Professors teaching classes in the fall semester would be allowed to stay until Dec. 31 because it would be “unmanageable” to fill already picked classes, Schmidt said, but others would be required to leave as early as Aug. 31. Positions of departing staff members would remain unfilled, he said.

“We have the opportunity to control our future,” he said. “We have to make the decision whether to be the victim in this.”

Schmidt is giving faculty and staff three weeks to come to a decision, but said it may take an additional three or four weeks to determine who will be accepted.

He said a new revenue forecast from the Legal Fiscal Bureau, the agency who made the original projections of the system wide cuts, should be available in early May.

Schmidt said after the university has an idea of who would be interested in the incentive, they will combine information from the Rapid Action Task Forces and the impact of projected 10, 15 and 20 percent cuts throughout the university to “align a strategic plan forward” in deciding where the university will be able to make changes.

Schmidt said any delays in notifying applicants about their status in accepting the incentive would occur if the university decides to wait for an updated revenue forecast. Due to the “enormous size” of the proposed cut, Schmidt said it would be “bad stewardship” to wait until he had a clear number to act.

“I cannot wait for legislature,” Schmidt said, “I need to make decisions based on what’s right and what I can afford.”


Jeremy Hein, a sociology professor who is eligible for the payout, said two major disincentives stand in the way of accepting Schmidt’s offer: three-decade-old advice to work until 65 and low earnings.

Hein noted many of the professors accepting the incentive will not qualify for Federal benefits, such as Social Security, and would not be able to afford living on half a year’s earnings.

“All incentives favor late retirement,” Hein said. “Not many can retire at 55.”

Hein said an additional concern if he were to leave would be focused on the workload of those who would remain, and whether they would be able to meet quotas for offered seats.

In his own department, Hein said the removal of two academic staff positions will result in approximately 200 students in need of a professor or class.

Younger staff would have an easier time finding a job, Hein said, especially after a year of planning. He said a semester of pay does little to further the careers of those who fit the qualifications of the incentive, and should have been offered to all staff.