Our view: The university incentive plan: an analysis

In an effort to keep this historically critical space upbeat and forward looking, we’re not going to damn the Kent State employee buyout – just yet. Rather, let’s consider the effects of 148 fewer faculty and staff on campus.

Here are the facts: On March 19, employees who have been around at least 15 years received a memo from the executive offices detailing the “University Incentive Plan.” It offered them as much as $65,000 distributed throughout five years for retirees or eight years for non-retirees, and all they had to do was agree to leave at the end of June.

The university projected 215 employees would participate in the “plan,” but 148 did. Among them, about one-third is faculty.

In the projected outcome, about three-fourths of those released were to be replaced for a savings of about $33.5 million throughout eight years. That number will presumably be less given their overestimated participation.

If that money is enough to keep the university in the black, then this buyout scheme will have been a success. President Lester Lefton et al. are doing everything short of forfeiting their five-figure bonuses to keep the university afloat.

At a time when construction projects are being put on hold, every million is critical. Renovations on the Sahara Des–we mean, Risman Plaza – are moving along at a snail’s clip. And the former site of Small Group is going to be ugly for a while until the university has some money to turn it into athletic fields.

While we’re at it, can the first $5,000 of this saved cash go toward getting rid of those damned slippery faux bricks on the Esplanade?

Then there are the negative effects of thrift at a university. Unfortunately, these aren’t as easy to perceive -until you’re in a class with a professor who isn’t used to speaking to a roomful of people.

Then there are the young professors who think they can encourage a spark of passion for their subject by assigning lots of homework or by talking about themselves.

Those faculty with 15 or more years under their belts are the good ones. Many of them, however, were planning to retire within a few years, but the buyout pushed them to do it sooner. We would have lost them anyway.

Likely, most students won’t notice that anything has changed. Risman tundra will still be windy. Principles of Microeconomics will still be boring.

Moreover, Kent State isn’t the only university opting for an incentive plan. Harvard announced 531 employees were taking a buyout earlier this month and they have a lot of other places they could have cut without affecting human capital: Their annual operating budget is $3.5 billion.

Ours isn’t even $500 million, so the few million we put away from this deal may be worth it.

Or it may not. A good professor can be the difference between being bored in Principles of Microeconomics and sleeping through it in a puddle of drool.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Summer Kent Stater editorial board