UWO announces buyout revisions

Kevin Berger

A week after the announcement of a new retirement incentive program for UW Oshkosh faculty and staff, Chancellor Andrew Leavitt revised the program in order to lower the eligibility requirements. The Voluntary Retirement Incentive Options Program will provide eligible personnel with a one-time payment equal to 50 percent of their current base salary. In a statement released Tuesday, Leavitt said the minimum age for eligibility has been lowered from 60 to 55, and the minimum years of service to the UW System has gone from 25 to 10. The date by which retirements must take effect has also been moved from Aug. 31 to Dec. 31 of this year. “The extended retirement timeframe will allow departments to better prepare and rehire critical positions,” Leavitt said. “We do not want to leave gaps in the workforce that could impact course availability or hinder student success.” The statement said the changes were made in response to feedback received during open sessions held last week. Jordan Schettle, Oshkosh Student Association president and a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Council where budget deliberations are taking place, said the changes came as a surprise to him. “[The Leadership Council] all agreed ato support the old plan last week,” Schettle said. “This new plan came out of nowhere Monday, and we had less than two hours to comment.” Schettle said time considerations necessitated that the plan move forward as soon as possible. Assistant Vice Chancellor for Integrated Marketing and Communications Jamie Ceman said eligible campus employees have until May 1 to take part in the program. “The goals of the updates were to increase the amount of people that qualify and to give the University more time to manage the changes,” Ceman said. “If we need to fill a position that an individual retires from we want to make sure we have enough time to do that while not impacting students.” The budget reduction plan released by Leavitt’s office estimated that a reduction of 80 full-time staff positions over a three year period will be necessary to manage the full budget cut included in Gov. Scott Walker’s executive budget proposal, which is currently under debate in the state legislature. Some empty positions would remain unfilled with their responsibilities reconfigured and assigned to other staff. Adjunct instructors would fill other positions and there would be staff hired for lower fixed term contracts. Ceman said staff reaction to the Program has been positive so far. “If individuals were considering retirement already, this is a nice benefit to help them make their decision,” Ceman said. “With any major life decision, there are many reasons why people would or would not choose to retire, so it’s hard to guess what their personal circumstances are.”