Though I generally try to avoid posting during the summer , this is rather important.
Brandeis has decided, after considering some apparently rather unpleasant options, to suspend payments to its faculty and staff retirement accounts for FY 2010, a move it expects to save $7.4 million in an effort to make up a projected budget deficit of $8.9 million. Generally, the University matches individual donations (up to a certain percentage) to private retirement accounts, much as all employers are required to do with Social Security. Such benefits are standard at universities and in most of the nonprofit sector. Alas, no more. Read the detailed Justice article about it.
The NY Times has also picked up the story, and both esteemed publications are ambivalent to the merits of such a move.
From the Justice’s characterization, the faculty seem to be reluctantly accepting the decision, seeing it as a progressively fair way to deal with the problem, as the lowest paid staff members are generally not members of the retirement fund. From a human psychology point of view, losing theoretical future money is probably easier to cope with than losing money due to a pay cut, say, next year. The timing of the announcement – right after the onset of summer, when students and faculty are no longer naturally organized in one place – is also quite fortuitous. Probably, this one will slide by without major incident. Good thing for Peter French and his merry band of budgeteers those aren’t union contracts!