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Science Careers Blog

September 22, 2009

Retired Profs to Plug Teaching Vacancies from Budget Cuts?

The Raleigh News and Observer (N&O) today has a story about retired professors in North Carolina's "Triangle"--Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill--offering their services to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill as a way for the school to make up for budget cuts that threatened to eliminate classes on that campus. The offer was made back in February, and according to the N&O, the university has been cool to the idea.

Andrew Dobelstein, president of an association of retired UNC-Chapel Hill faculty members, says his group offered to help teach classes, write grants, supervise dissertations, and mentor students. Dobelstein says many of the retired faculty, 600 of whom still live in the region, have kept up with their fields. But the school has made little use of their services.

Ron Strauss, the university's executive associate provost, told the N&O that even with the budget cuts, the school wants to make sure there's a good fit for the retired faculty member, and not just throw a body into a classroom. But he admitted there was no formal campus-wide mechanism for connecting retired faculty to open positions, leaving those placement decisions to the individual departments.

UNC-Chapel Hill's political science department did bring back a faculty member to fill in during the budget crunch. The chair of that department asked Jurg Steiner, a 40-year veteran of the faculty who retired in 2000, to teach an honors seminar in European politics. Steiner, who continued doing research after he officially retired, told the N&O that he was happy to help out without compensation.

That experience may explain why other departments are leery of using volunteer teachers. What's to stop administrators from asking recent retirees to volunteer their time after the budget crunch is over? You can imagine the impact on morale of faculty members still drawing a paycheck.

Hat-tip: Terra Sigillata

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