In recent weeks a few of my colleagues and I have had the unpleasant task of trying to find ways to cut a department budget that is already very lean. Nevertheless, cut we must, and reduce the department budget to a level mandated by the powers that be. After two weeks of meetings and looking under every budget rock and cutting everything that could reasonably be cut, we are left with a situation in which we cannot cut anything else without harming the core functions of the department.
We could, however, reach our target cut if:
- We vote ourselves pay cuts, or
- One well paid senior faculty member retires.
None of the senior faculty are willing to retire owing to the recent devastation of their retirement accounts.
The topic of pay cuts was extremely upsetting to my fellow budget-cutting committee members. I didn't argue for a pay cut, but I was willing to discuss the possibility. I'd rather not have my pay cut, but I would be OK at a lower salary for a year or three if necessary. My husband and I both have good salaries, one child, and thrifty cats (when they aren't falling out of trees).
Some of my colleagues, however, have more precarious finances owing to being in a one-income couple, having > 1 offspring, and/or having other important expenses (mortgage, college) that would be endangered if they endured a pay cut.
So that leaves us where? I think that leaves us with begging the Dean for mercy and/or winning the lottery.
None of us would want to be in the position of having a vastly reduced retirement account just at the time when retirement would be a reasonable option owing to age and low(er) level of activity in the job. Even so, everyone in the department knows that the retirement of any one of a number of faculty of advanced age and salary would save the department. I would not want to be one of these faculty right now.
Whether these non-retiring faculty are viewed with sympathy or contempt is somewhat dependent on their level of activity, and perhaps also on the age of the person holding one of those opinions.
In a previous post I discussed whether tenure-track faculty were more or less vulnerable owing to the budget crisis, but inactive senior faculty who would most benefit the department by leaving now are also in an uncomfortable position, even if it is nearly impossible to make them leave.
7 months ago