Are faculty myopic?

Facing devastating financial losses related to the coronavirus pandemic, colleges and universities are cutting costs just about everywhere they can. Increasingly, that includes faculty and staff retirement benefits.

Duke, Georgetown, Northwestern and Texas Christian Universities are some of the institutions to announce cuts to retirement contributions in recent days. Some of these decisions have been more severe and more controversial than others…

Georgetown president John J. DeGioia also announced that the university will suspend all contributions to its employee retirement plan for the coming year, starting next month.

Does this mean they think their faculty are myopic, and also liquidity-constrained low savers?  Are the faculty myopic?  Especially if faculty are myopic, isn’t this worse for faculty welfare than just cutting nominal wages a bit?  What would Cass Sunstein say?  How should we model this response in terms of an underlying dynamic for admin.-faculty relations?  If this “works,” what will the next move of admin. be, with or without coronavirus in the world?

What might this possible myopia imply about the associated defects of faculty research and teaching?

I thank Bryan for an underlying conversation relevant to this post.  Here is the full article.

Comments

Myopic post-secondary faculty? in the United States? in the twenty-first century A. D. and CE?

Say it ain't so, Ty, say it ain't so!

Right, this has got to be up there in the all-time list of least self-conscious posts on the Internet, which is really saying something.

I do trust Tyler, nevertheless, to report in timely fashion the moment the first Progress Studies Department gets entirely lopped off (with its faculty) amidst post-secondary cost cutting zeal.

It seemed that for 30 years we have sort of had a fetish for higher education. It was to cure nealry everthing, from poverty to terrorism, to bigotry. But lets be honest, the bulk of academics are very unimpressive people and they need to downgraded in status.

It's not the status that's the problem, it's the position.

Being a university professor is rightly a noble profession, but it seems today too many of them let that go to their head. You throw in the compensation/benefits, the tenure, and the general use of the university today as a subversion tool and money laundering scheme, and it becomes clear that most of the allure in joining the faculty is landing a cushy and secure job disseminating whatever agitprop your heart desires to a captive audience.

That's why my patented monastery model is such an elegant and simple solution. You ship these guys off to a mountaintop somewhere for them to live in an empty room and juggle teaching with harvesting their food, maintaining their buildings, etc. and we'll find out real quick who's in it for the love of teaching and who just wants the benefits.

Where is this job? I want it. I've never seen one like it in any of my interactions with my mentors and colleagues in the science and engineering disciplines. Most of us work 60+ hours a week juggling teaching, research and service. Not saying it isn't a good gig, but it isn't a fairly land picnic either. I would get paid more in industry for less work (and I have a rejected job offer to prove it).

Haha, 60+ hours a week! Holy moly! That’s a lot of summertime yard work! And a lot of planning to make the most of all those holidays and vacations!

Pay =/= compensation. Your average professor would not find higher compensation in industry. Far from it, they tend to straggle along as individual contributors with slightly elevated pay, due only to the rudimentary titling schemes of equally inept HR departments.

As always, it depends on the field. While most creative writing professors would struggle to make as much as they do in academia, I moved from a job in industry to academia (I teach chemical engineering) for half the salary. True, that is a 10 month salary, but I work many more hours as a professor than I did as a designer of chemical processes and their control systems.
Faculty unions (dominated by those who would make less outside of a university) fight hard for pay schemes that treat all professors equally, no matter what their market value is outside of academe. This is sustainable because the people in the professor business really don't want to leave the professor business. There's no shortage of applicants for professor jobs, in part because we create a big surplus of people with PhDs and other advanced degrees every year.

It was a long time ago, but a firm wanted to hire me from my first academic post.

Him: "I'll pay you twice what the university pays you." Pause. "What do they pay you?"

Me: I told him.

Him: "Hell's bells I can't pay you that. I'll pay you thrice what they pay you."

Mind you that was in Britain where academic pay is, and was, low.

Some managers have employees attend to the manager's personal duties, much to the chagrin of those employees.
Time that an employer spends distracting an employee
from his or her essential duties costs not only the organization, but also the employee.

Employees are hired to perform specified duties at a specified
salary. By focusing on one's essential tasks, employees gain familiarity
and experience in their chosen field, increasing their
productivity and increasing their marketability.

Attending to the care of a new baby is one such personal errand that
some managers assign to employees. While some employees may be happy for the manager on a personal level,
most employees would prefer to work towards fulfilling
their annual objectives. Unfortunately, refusing to glorify the manager's new offspring can bring his or her ire.
To make matters worse, there is little that employees can do about such menial tasking.

At-Will Employment

Most workers in the United States are employed at will.
This means that the employer or the employee may terminate the employment arrangement at any time without any prior warning for any lawful reason. If an employer makes an employment-related decision based upon a person's membership in a protected
class, such as a particular race, religion or ethnicity, the company will be liable for
wrongful termination. However, no law protects an employee's right to refuse to perform a trivial task.

This is not to say that employees have no recourse.
If a manager is tasking employees with personal work while the employee is
on company time, the manager is effectively using corporate assets to enrich himself or herself.
If a highly paid or indispensable employee
is being tasked to address the manager's personal issues, the
manager's superiors may stop the conduct. If the manager is well liked or if the employee's duties are vaguely defined, going
over the manager's head is likely to backfire.

Another option for employees who unwillingly become babysitters
is to seek employment elsewhere. This may
not entail leaving the company; many companies prefer to hire employees
already familiar with their processes, and transferring
to another department is often a possibility at larger companies.
Managers who task employees with personal errands rarely have
a focus on departmental efficiency and moving yourself
away from what could become a financial time bomb could
be a wise move if it is feasible.

Employment Contracts

Employment relationships are often governed by strict employment contracts.

Some of these contracts allow employers to terminate the relationship only for specified reasons,
but not all do. Most such contracts allow managers to
terminate the employee for insubordination and employees who
refuse to perform their assigned tasks are
likely to be terminated. However, not all contracts are drafted properly.

If the clauses of the contract specifying the employee's duties or
the permissible reasons for termination are ambiguous or
clearly confine the employee's duty to specified tasks, the employee may be able to refuse without being lawfully terminated.
Ambiguous contracts are typically construed in the light least favorable to the party who
drafted the contract and performing personal child care for the employer is
generally not a provision in most employment contracts.

The employee's options hinge upon the exact wording of the employment contract.
Anyone who has been threatened with termination for refusing to care for the
supervisor's child should seek an attorney experienced in both employment and contract law.
If the employee is wrongfully terminated, he or she may sue for wrongful termination.

Hey Tom, cool story. The word “average” carries weight in my comment above.

And yes, “you” (and your colleagues) are what creates the surplus of PhDs, not the incentives...

I know of not a single professor who is paying for a graduate student out of their own pocket. Graduate students are paid for by you, the American tax payer, through various research grant organizations. True, we could do research with permanent research staff, but graduate students are cheaper, because graduate students work for practically nothing; it helps that so many of them are foreigners.

@John Smith -- Tom Meadowcroft is right, and most of what you say is pure ignorance. I don't get summers off. I just have to raise my own salary for 3 months of the year, and I'll get fired at tenure review if I haven't raised enough. And I don't know where the mockery of average 60 hour weeks comes from, but it's true. I know how to count.

And I don't care about an average of whatever strawman department you have picked. I said science and engineering in my comment and I stand by it. Take a swing at gender studies departments all you want. But that is not indicative of me or my colleagues. The average engineering professor that I know would be quite well compensated in industry (pay and otherwise). Many consult and sit on boards in industry. Again ... pure ignorance.

As for "surplus" PhDs: The PhD grads in engineering that I know seem to have a pretty easy time getting and keeping a job. I'm confident of the value we're adding for these young men and women.

These comments are also true of economics. Young economics Ph.D.s work extremely hard -- 60 hours per week is probably a good estimate -- from the time they go on the job market until they get tenure.

As for salaries, academic salaries for economists are high -- sometimes controversially so -- precisely because of market forces. Good candidates will get hired by the private sector either directly out of graduate school or else a few years after graduating unless academic salaries are competitive enough.

The real myopia is never noticing how bad TIAA-CREF is.

Administrators see faculty as myopic old f*rts who would react more to salary cuts than to cuts to the employer contribution in terms of a 403b contribution. Since old faculty never retire anyway, this is not much of a cut in the lifestyle.

Changing contributions in the short term is different than committing to lower benefits in the long term.

If this is a pretty bad year and they want to make it up later, that's not so bad.

"There is nothing so permanent as a temporary emergency measure"
Not sure who to attribute that quote to but I think it encapsulates what is happening here.

If your boss asks you to take a pay cut during the day you need to be looking for work that evening. I would normally make a joke at the expense of academics here but it just feels gratuitous now.

> in terms of a 403b contribution

Are we sure it's 403(b)'s and not a defined benefit pension?

If the later, I could imagine a risk that the pension liability would get shifted to the feds, who would proceed to cap payouts at some lesser (but still outrageously generous) amount than they were expecting ala airline pilots

As a retired person I may not be that up on salaries in America but this seems a lot of high earners:

"While cutting retirement is “painful,” he said, it affects only deferred income for a year. Approximately 300 university employees who earn more than the federal 403(b) contribution threshold of $285,000 also will have their salaries reduced by 10 percent of the amount above the threshold."

Not exactly old men in cold Cambridge apartments making cheese and toast in the fireplace.

According to this page that University has 300 people in the top 1.17%

https://thekeesh.com/whichpercent/

Maybe administration should look into cutting... administration. There are probably plenty of dollars to be spared by stepping back and reconsidering how many administrators and non-teaching personnel are needed in these mega universities

God, I hope this happens.

This. Tyler and many of the responses here don't seem to have actually read the cited article. Tyler actually frames this as an administration-vs-faculty thing. Two quotes ("...the university will suspend all contributions to its employee retirement plan" and "...the university will suspend all contributions to its employee retirement plan") indicate this will affect BOTH administrators and faculty.

When I was at UCLA a professor pointed out that when he started at the school the faculty/administrator ratio within the UC system was basically 1:1. Over a few decades it had grown to approximately 1:3.

It appears that the administrators at the schools listed in the article are taking the inadequate step of cutting benefits across the board in a bid to preserve the current bloated system. There is little educational value added by the majority of administrators, and moving back to a more balanced ratio of administrators/faculty would seem to be low-hanging fruit. But then that would mean top administrators shrinking their fiefdoms, and when does that ever happen voluntarily?

I'd guess that just about all outsiders would agree that the administrator class has become absurdly bloated, and a reduction is the obvious place to look to reduce spending.

But (of course) it's the administrative class tasked with finding cost savings. And the political fallout of reducing the number of assistant assistant diversity facilitators from 55 full-time equivalents to 54 would be sure to ignite a political firestorm. Whereas cutting faculty retirement contributions carries little political risk.

In any case, I'd think faculty would retain a choice between maintaining present consumption vs retirement benefits either by increasing their contribution to the 403(b) plan, or via some other means such as a Roth or standard IRA.

Wouldn't it make more sense to cut the salary, since then you save on payroll taxes?

Welcome to the real world!! This has been happening in the private sector for the past 20 years. Why should university faculties be surprised that it's now hitting them. I've seen stories about adjunct faculty cuts in anticipation of enrollment drops. Will tenured faculty be at risk?

Huzzah! The relative position of adjuncts compared to that of tenured faculty is improving! Because... the universities are screwing tenured faculty....

More like the universities are letting the tenured professors screw the students *slightly* less. Consider it a double-win for greater equality and less campus rape culture.

Why doesn't faculty just increase their personal contribution/payroll deduction? If they are worried about retirement, they can do that (I doubt they are maxing their contribution). If they need the money now, they don't do anything - their current income stays the same. I think this is a good way to cut compensation.

Why doesn't faculty just increase their personal contribution/payroll deduction?

You can't. If you're already maxed out and the university is matching $0.50 on the dollar then you were contributing $19k and the school was kicking in $9,500k. Now with the cut you're only allowed to put in $19k. You have no method of tax deferred savings above that since you likely can't contribute to an IRA either.

Yep, nailed it. Different universities have different rates of matching and different maximum dollar amounts, so the exact numbers vary but the principle described here is exactly correct.

What's the context here? What is the typical university retirement plan like compared to the private sector? The public sector?

If it's like the public sector, then retirement benefits were already underpriced and unsustainable, and COVID is just the kick to bring things back to the real world.

If retirement benefits are already pretty lean like much of the private sector... then these universities aren't exactly giving themselves a vote of confidence on whether they have a future.

Cuts to retirement contributions are not a new thing in higher ed, it is not as if we have been shielded from broader changes.

The typical university plan is the typical plan for state employees. It therefore varies a lot from state to state. My state matches, up to 5%. Private universities are typically more generous, especially the wealthy ones.

All my friends working for large corporations receive far, far better benefits than any friends working at public universities.

This is all wrong.

Private universities are subject to relatively stringent private-sector rules for pensions, so, like in much of the private sector, pensions have shrunk or disappeared, tho they still remain more common than in broader corporate America.

Private universities tend to have average to above-average "defined contribution" retirement programs (401(k), 403(b), etc) compared to corporate America. I think the article is talking about temporary suspensions of these contributions, a very common private-sector tactic in The Great Recession.

State universities and their employees largely remain covered by pensions (as well as receiving defined contribution benefits in many cases). In this sector, plans can basically ignore the fact that over the past 38 years long-term interest rates have fallen from 10% to 3%, which means $1 of pension promise costs 3-4 times as much as it did in 1982.

Large employers tend to have decent benefit packages, on a par with private universities and much less generous than most public universities (cuz pensions).

Of course, a huge portion of the workforce does not work for private universities, large corporations, or the state, and they generally have much worse benefit packages than all of the above.

I have friends who are fellow faculty at literally dozens of public universities, and I don't know a single fellow faculty member (who doesn't work in California) under the age of 50 who is on a defined benefit pension plan. Some states give you the choice to access the public pension plan, but I don't know anyone who has done so, because they (a) don't trust it to be solvent in 40 years; and (b) don't expect to still be working in the same state, because faculty are not "lifers" anymore at a given public university, due to the fact that the only way to get an actual raise is to move universities (as merit raises have been completely/almost non-existent since 2008, and competitive retention offers are increasingly rare).

Granted, this is the perspective from the R1/R2 world, perhaps faculty at directionals who don't expect to ever get outside offers/move think differently.

My wife's university retirement plan matched 300% up to 1.5%. IE she put in 1.5% and the University put in 4.5%. My current plant matches 25% up to 10%, ie if you put in 10% they'll and another 2.5%.

It's been my experience that Universities have high compensation retirement plans.

Cutting bloat first: Maybe the six-figure post of the Associate Vice Provost for Diversity, Inclusion and Global Warming, with staff, will now be considered a non-necessary expense.

Agreed. First cut the counter productive posts, then the non productive posts, then the one that aren't associated with learning anyways. We're likely down 50% of administrative staff.

They'll go to the safe space of the unemployment line.

What's non-necessary depends on your perspective. The younger population believes that diversity begets progress -- and that Physics and Economics support systemic racism.

If you accept this premise, then Physics and Economics are the non-essential fields, and Diversity Depts. should be 'invested in'.

This is nonsense, of course. Unless you want to appeal to your audience. Makes perfect sense. And that's the real nonsense.

If you want fewer Deans of Diversity, you might want to try teaching economics in grade school -- where our kids are daily told the Diversity is the alpha and omega.

(Worth noting that elementary teachers like teaching Diversity. Since its a very soft field, they can teach it without spending their Professional Development time learning Physics or Economics.)

My guess is it is contractually much easier to cut retirement. It is fine print on a link. Nominal wages are stated in letters. I think this is about the law/litigation rather than about behavioral economics ;)

They certainly live in a bubble. I’ve lived through 30% budget cuts in R&D. Highly unpleasant, but it forces setting priorities.

While probably not applicable to top tier schools, all the money spent on remedial classes and associated admin is an obvious cut.

Lots of administrative bloat that doesn’t directly support instruction should go. As long as the junk remains, they obviously don’t have a budget problem.

What if one of the casualties of the shutdown becomes the insanely high price kids are willing to pay for a piece of paper?

I have been through several restructuring efforts at Mobil and ExxonMobil. One principle is to cut costs on the parts of the business that do not produce revenue. Tell me how administration, now 70% on average for colleges generate revenue. The Foundation, yes but I see duplication of processes and wasteful programs adding costs every day. Don't cut salaries or benefits overall because that causes a moral problem and entices your best performers to leave. Eliminate costs which unfortunately means programs and staff. Ask for regulatory relief from Washington for programs not providing a ROI. Something tells me you would get their attention. If you don't stop doing something to costs will remain. Cutting salaries does not make you leaner but it does make you meaner. I am pro-bono and generate revenue for the school through the ExxonMobil foundation and by teaching students who pay tuition and I take no salary. I am a profit center.

> Tell me how administration, now 70% on average for colleges generate revenue

A long time ago, college existed to forge future leaders for society--the new engineers that would go on to build construction companies that built our dams and bridges. Or lawyers that would write our laws.

In those days, it made sense to be very hard on the student. After all, the professors were training the people that would ultimately look after them and us in old age after the torch had been passed. And the professor didn't want to drive on bridges that collapsed, or live under a government that put people in jail willy-nilly.

But at some point, society stopped being the customer and the student became the customer. And if the student wasn't happen, they could report a professor to the administration and bring pain to the professor.

Administrators responded with nearly everything the students demanded: Coffee carts, climbing walls, safe spaces. Costs climbed, but as long as you kept lowering standards you could readily find the next sucker to pay. After all, a kid that graduates high school at the middle of her class with wealthy parents is a pretty good score for the school IF you dumb-down the curriculum enough.

And so, here we are. Colleges are money machines. They pretend to educate and kids pretend to care. The parents pay on command, and the kids go on to do jobs that didn't really require a degree in the first place.

The system will collapse because it doesn't add value. It can only be propped up for so long.

It's a racket beyond words. There are a few degrees that are worthwhile anymore, but they, too, will be destroyed by the administrators who will continue to mine society for under achievers with deep pockets who pick easy, squishy topics like "equality" to be their life's work, ensuring they will destroy everything they come into contact with.

>But at some point, society stopped being the customer and the student became the customer.

I think you are misreading the landscape. The professors are the customers now, not the students. The professors are happy to keep string students along for 6, 7, 8 years...along as long as they keep paying tuition.

If students were the customer, everyone would be done in < 2 years.

Not my experience. It is possible to graduate from college in three years if you really want to, with a few exceptions (e.g. pharmacy, engineering). Most students don't want to.

When it's "us" or "them", "us" wins.

As the nefarious rent-seekers that they are, university staff and the tenured class have been highly successful in appropriating to themselves the financial rewards of their employers' tax-exempt status. Eliminating tax-exempt status for the credentialing industry should be a priority in addressing the debt crisis being fueled by virus spending.

But it is anyone's guess how much of the retirement contributions reductions will be offset by the CCP: https://www.thecollegefix.com/universities-try-to-block-congress-from-accessing-documents-detailing-their-ties-to-china/

Maybe maintaining salaries (for now) seems myopic, but I think it's mostly because retirement benefits are a pretty simple place to target for a first cut. You can cut them now and reinstate them a year from now without really impacting anything else (other than the size of the ultimate retirement amounts). Salary has much more riding on it as there are many things (real and perceived) that build of it. There are all sorts of calculations based on percents of salary. Future salaries are often calculated based on percents of current salary. Mortgages, credit approvals, engagement rings, rental applications....all consider salary.

I think so. It’s deferring the pain. No one will miss it in the short term except perhaps those close to retirement and it gives people time to adjust.

are academics myopes? try our free eye test!
watch the short half dozen meme zombie media clips of susan rice dissembling about that made up video tape & lybia. watch them twice. count her many bigly tells. if you can see five of the big ones and 2 of the little ones you are not myopic!

Maybe I'm missing something, but my strong guess would be that it's simply a structural constraint: that tenured faculty cannot have their salary reduced, but that their benefits do not have the same protections

you should try free myopia test #2
can you spot
evelyn farkus fraughting&dissembling on msnbc
if not you could need eye surgery

+1 also nice postmodern example of farkus (tufts) using circular reasoning!

Myopia? Is this like gambling in Rick's Place? Down here in the South certain views among faculty are not tolerated at universities and colleges. Not for long, anyway. It's often pointed out that Republicans behave like insurrectionists. And yet they dominate national politics and the politics in every state in the South. Insurrectionists? That's how Republicans create the sense of persecution and, thus, a willingness to destroy the village in order to save it. And so it is in the university. Creating a sense of insecurity is how one dominates thought. I've pointed out that the Hessians would make that point by placing the severed heads of patriots on the point of a stake. That was a point well taken. Never let a crisis go to waste. And in this crisis, it's adios for heterodox political thought among faculty. Point taken.

now is the right time to quickly and skillfully apply the bonesaw to some of sillier limbs of academia

"[Duke's cutting of retirement contributions] follows a hiring freeze, suspension of salary increases, new construction holds and other measures."

Might this be (yet more) evidence of nominal wage stickiness rather than myopia? If it was about myopia, then cuts to real wages ("suspension of salary increases") would have also been replaced by even deeper cuts to retirement contributions. It would take an extreme coincidence for the myopia-driven balance between retirement contributions vs. real wage cuts to just so happen to correspond to zero nominal wage change. A better explanation is that it's easier to cut everything else (real wages, retirement contributions, other non-wage benefits, amenities/facilities) other than nominal wages.

"If it was about myopia, then cuts to real wages ("suspension of salary increases") would have also been replaced by even deeper cuts to retirement contributions. "

They are zeroing out university retirement contributions, so I believe you misread something. That's exactly what they're doing.

I am fairly certain that TC is using myopia to mean something like "has money illusion," which creates the nominal wage stickiness. The administration believes that nominal wage stickiness is appropriate because of myopia/money illusion, but retirement contributions, unlike non-wage benefits like amenities, seem the least likely to be subject to money illusion (but still can be) since they have a dollar value attached that is easy to compare to the wage. However, compare to the treatment of "bonuses" by both executives and media even in industries where annual bonuses are a typical and expected part of compensation for doing one's job adequately; they're still viewed as easier to cut.

You are just restarting what Cowen is saying.

It's good to see that Georgetown is protecting their trillion dollar endowment, just in case there's ever an emergency in which they would have to spend some of it to keep the university operating. Maybe an alien invasion, or a nuclear war.

From what I understand most of these massive endowments are earmarked for very specific BS. What a waste.

It's only myopic if you actually expect to retire. And receive retirement benefits. Retirement benefits have been eliminated for new faculty hires for a long time now.

What does myopia have to do with it? They have the power. What are you going to do about it? It's not like the goons running the institutions have myopia.

And yet they're not cutting nominal wages*; freezes on raises, yes. The question is why does "the power" stop the administration from cutting nominal wages but allows them to cut nominal wages through benefit cuts that really have an explicit money number on them? Money illusion yes, but the difference between one number with a dollar sign and another number with a dollar sign seems like it would have less money illusion unless the faculty are very myopic.

Thus the comment that the administration must think that people are myopic.

* - No wage cuts for faculty and ordinary employees; some highly paid administrators are getting flat out wage cuts, specifically people whose income is so high that they weren't getting the full percentage of company contribution to the 403b and often got some kind of plus up.

The only reason an employer offers defined benefit pension instead of defined contribution is to hide the true cost of employment. Pension reform (ERISA 1974) made it impossible for corps to hide, so they mostly dropped them. Governments like to hide costs from taxpayers, so they are common in government sector. I assume private universities also like to hide costs.

These are largely 403b plans, which are defined contribution.

I love when people who worked for promises bemoan the modern self directed defined contribution plans as bad for workers. Anyone dumb enough to believe that a 20 to 40 year old promise is worth the paper it's printed on lacks the financial acumen to survive on outside an institution. When PBGC shows up it's too late if you believed the promises and count on them to live it's your 20yr selves gullibility and innumeracy that put you in that position. If I was born into good economic times and had all the time these people has to build wealth I might care... given the circumstances I only have crocodile tears for people living off of defined benefit plans.

https://www.dailynews.com/2020/05/21/california-schools-cant-reopen-schools-without-federal-dollars-say-states-education-leaders/

California schools can’t reopen without federal dollars, say state’s education leaders

What else are faculty going to do?

It's back to Exit, Voice, Loyalty.

The first is implausible right now. The second has been used a lot over the past two decades, mostly uselessly. So we're left with something like the third.

Faculty need their salary to pay the bills now. Those who are living at or beyond their means would much prefer that their retirement is reduced as opposed to their salaries. There’s also a sensible premium on cash in times of major uncertainty.

isn’t this worse for faculty welfare than just cutting nominal wages a bit?
----
Hence the debate among commenters.
How does one scale a benefit package, a set of things? Maybe we are looking at the cause of sticky wages.

I work at a large academic medical center (part of a university). We get a 10% match if we contribute 5% toward retirement. Then we can add onto that up to the $19K/year limit. Since the shutdown cut revenues to the bone, the outfit is cutting many FTEs, stopped the 10% match for the next year, and won't do merit raises this year (generally 2-3% per year). So if you keep your job, you're getting a 12-13% haircut.

Cheer up. You can stop the 5% contribution and so reduce the immediate burden.

The great thing with defined benefit pensions is that they are far more secure than a DC pension. Until the DB fund gets into trouble when they may become far less secure.

Who was the sage who declared that you can't eliminate risk you can only redistribute it?

That 10% is a very generous program. IBM for example, will match the first 5% of your contribution. A lot of SP 500 firms will match at 50% of your first 6%, i.e a 3% maximum match.

Don’t be surprised if you never see that 10% number again.

I considered academia when their was the added bonus of being able to sit back in my office chair and have a 19 year co ed suck me off - roughly the halcyon years from 1965=80. I'm pretty sure that's no longer a safe option. But the rest also did appeal! I couldn't wait to get tenure and then just goldbrick my way through a quiet, respected life - kinda like being a judge but with even less work. It LOOKED god - until I realized that licking and sucking ass -- always an important element in job seeking -- was elevated to a religion by the tenured profs. You had to spend months, years, strapped to the ass of your chairman, licking slavishly his entire anal cleft. Man, I just couldn't do it. It might be less this way in the sciences, but I'm talking English department. I'm a pretty good fake bullshit artist, but I knew I could not keep that up for the years it would take to achieve tenure. But if I could have -- ah, that 19 year splayed in front of me sucking my dick would have been sweet recompense indeed!

Like most businesses, universities and their employees like to play out a little game in which employees ARE poor, liquidity constrained individuals and the employer would gladly pay their highly valued staff more but for insurmountable constraints. Therefor when compensation has to be cut, it's deferred compensation that suffers.

Alfred North Whitehead (co-author with Bertrand Russell of Principia Mathematics, among other works) thought that English Literature as an academic discipline, or subject matter to be taught and studied in university, was ludicrously inappropriate (he didn't object to people reading fiction for their own purposes on their own time, at their own expense, however).
Now there is an academic department for everything and anything.
True, anything can be "studied," but it seems it is unacceptable to not subsidize these "studies" via "departments."

I am a staff employee at Northwestern University, one of the universities mentioned in the article. Due to recent events, Northwestern faced a very large budget deficit, which the trustees insisted be eliminated one way or the other. The university administration decided to suspend benefit matching for the rest of the fiscal year because this allowed it to minimize the amount of furloughing that had to be done, and so minimize the damage to employee morale. As it was, 250 full-time staff were furloughed within two days. The student employees and other temporary employees had already been let go. (No tenure-track faculty were subject to furloughing.)

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