Exodus compels fixing

Luis Torres, Copy Editor

The University of Pittsburgh’s Voluntary Early Retirement Program has decimated staff numbers, luring 84 percent of eligible candidates to an early retirement and leaving an array of empty seats and lonely neighbors across Pitt-Johnstown’s offices.

The initiative was designed to cut costs at Pitt’s five campuses, to adjust and prepare for prospective state funding cuts, according to a July 26 University Times article. University officials are adapting to a reduced staff, following the June 30 exodus.

Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar said to faculty senate members last Wednesday that administrators spent the summer realigning staff with early retirements.

“It was an enormous challenge for us in the summer,” Spectar said. “We lost a lot of expertise at one time.”

Spectar said there is a net loss of six positions, but some positions had been added to Career Services, taking that office to a complement of three full-time staff. The Academic Success Center received half a position.

To qualify for the program, a staff member needed to be 59 or older and must have completed 10 years of continuous full-time or part-time employment at the university. The program was not available to union staff, faculty or temporary employees.

In all, 22 of 26 qualified UPJ staff members retired. More are expected to pack their bags as they become eligible.

“The 22 employees who retired represented more than 660 years of (combined) service,” said Institutional and Community Relations Associate Vice President Robert Knipple. “Seven (more) retired earlier in the year, before the early-retirement program was offered.

“Over the past five years, 42 staff members have retired, resulting in an average of 8.4 retirements each year. When you compare that with the 22 who retired through the early retirement program, you can see…it had a significant effect on our campus.”

The 262 percent staff retirement increase in 2012 raises questions whether Pitt-Johnstown’s directors can effectively reorganize and promptly hire personnel to address campus necessities.

This unprecedented exodus developed with arrival of the largest freshmen class in five years. A larger student body may require more staff members.

Aside from managing and planning each undergrads academic and financial life, staff are depended on to organize, protect and keep healthy living on campus.

As of Friday, the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Resources website had five staff openings for its Johnstown campus. All were posted after Aug. 1.

Additions also included a new full-time webmaster.

Spectar, specifically mentioned a loss of expertise in the retirements of Robert Blakchak in Facilities Management and James Gyore in Admissions and Enrollment Management.

The staff departures were coupled with a 2.5 percent budget reduction that challenged administrators to ensure quality and creatively allocate renaming resources, Spectar said, to achieve savings and find quality replacements.