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  June 23, 2003

Retirements Leave Gap In Workforce

More than 450 faculty and staff, including 365 employees at the Storrs campus, have accepted the state's Early Retirement Incentive Plan (ERIP).

The total includes 95 faculty at the Storrs and regional campuses. There were 121 retirees at the Health Center.

List of Storrs-based retirees

"We have lost hundreds of extraordinarily talented people," President Philip E. Austin said last week. "While we wish our colleagues the best in their retirement, their departure will create tremendous challenges throughout the University."

As this issue of the Advance was going to press, the state legislature had not decided how much of the savings from the 486 retirements would be retained by the University. Without knowing that amount, UConn administrators could not say how many or which positions could be refilled.

In a May 28 letter that went to all members of the state Senate and House of Representatives, however, Austin was clear that anything less than an 80 percent return would be devastating:

"We simply cannot meet the needs of our growing student population without replacing employees who provide critical services. At the Health Center É we could find ourselves unable to meet patient care responsibilities. We ask, therefore, that we be permitted to retain 80 percent of the state dollars saved through the ERIP, in order to enable us to meet clinical and research demands, and to provide educational, residential, and support services for the record 26,371 students expected to enroll this fall," Austin wrote.

Many of the retirees have agreed to continue performing their jobs under contract until a smooth transition can be effected.

In his letter to the legislature, Austin said UConn employees and students and their parents have already contributed much to help the state through a period of economic instability, and to demand more savings from the University community would be wrong.

"We believe that our contribution to the effort to balance the state's budget has been substantial ... Almost 75 percent of our employees (faculty, professional staff, and managers) have stepped forward with a wage freeze for the coming year. Should additional significant cuts be imposed, either through appropriation reduction or ERIP restrictions, the message to our unionized employees - who voluntarily gave up contractually mandated increases in the belief that their contribution would help both the state and the University - is that their sacrifice was for naught ... Finally, our students and their parents are seeing major tuition and room and board increases. There is a limit to how much we can ask them to contribute as well," he said.