The following statement is based on a review of the policies in force at ten universities with a wide range of status and academic prestige.
The philosophies and rationales for emeritus status vary widely, from inclusion of all retired faculty to narrow selection by a process similar to promotion. Most institutions fall somewhere in the middle. Benefits also vary, with the most generous—Cornell—being based on a philosophy of sustaining academic identity and access to scholarly life for retired professors. This approach is based on a recognition that an emeritus appointment creates mutual benefits: for the professor, emeritus status sustains a basic support system for continued scholarship and collegial relations; for the institution, it allows an ongoing association with active, distinguished academics and scholars.
As a developing university, USM needs to make possible such mutual benefits—where appropriate—while fulfilling current policy on a broader scale. Thus, as part of a general rethinking of relations between USM and its retired faculty, we propose that, in acknowledgment of past service, all retiring tenured members of the faculty should be entitled to certain minimum benefits (those which are basically without cost to the University), such as continuing library privileges, faculty rates on athletic tickets, invitation to major university events, and access to the gym as available. No further enhancement of status would be conferred.
USM is bound by the existing rules and procedures established by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. The University of Maine System Policy and Procedures Manual, section 308.8, states that "Emeritus titles should generally be reserved for persons retiring after at least 15 years of service to the University of Maine System." Despite the fact that other documents and memos we have examined refer to fifteen years of service as a minimum requirement for eligibility, it appears that the ruling policy establishes fifteen years of service as a general expectation but not a minimum requirement.
The same section quoted above describes nominations for emeritus status as "based on local campus criteria and procedures." However, other System documents list the general criteria for evaluating candidates; apparently each campus has some leeway in applying these general criteria. The listed criteria are as follows: 1) length of service to the university; 2) contributions to his or her field; 3) dedication to the institution and to education; 4) significant participation in campus life; 5) outstanding service to the community; 6) esteem of students and colleagues.
The System has also established the sequence of recommendations involved. Nominations for emeritus status for faculty originate in the personnel committee of a department; a positive recommendation by that committee is then passed on for evaluation to the department chair, Dean, and Provost, who add their own recommendations to the file; if the President then approves the nomination, it passes on to the Chancellor for final approval.
The benefits listed as entitlements of emeritus status include: participation in academic convocations and commencement; library privileges; possession of a University identification card; inclusion on mailing lists and all other official faculty listings; office or laboratory space (upon request, subject to availability); attendance at faculty meetings (non-voting).
To assure fair and equal review, we propose to make it mandatory for departments to evaluate any retiring faculty member who requests consideration for emeritus status.
We propose to add to the list of normal benefits for emeritus faculty the following: email, logon ID, stationery, mailbox, gym access, free access to USM courses, phone (upon request, where possible), and consideration for teaching assignments.
A New Designation
The general expectation of a minimum of fifteen years of service for emeritus appointments may well often rule out faculty with less service time, however distinguished their records may be. This is unfortunate, both for the faculty involved and for the University, which clearly would benefit from an ongoing association with active and distinguished retired faculty members.
We propose the creation of a new designation for USM: "Distinguished Retired Professor" (as with emeritus appointments, if one's final rank is Associate Professor, the title would be "Distinguished Retired Associate Professor").
a) The general criteria for DRP status would be the same as for emeritus status (with the exception of the expectation of fifteen years of service), but a DRP appointment would require a record demonstrating clear-cut and ongoing distinction in scholarship, teaching/pedagogy, or university/community service (i.e., achievements somewhat beyond those normally expected for emeritus appointments). Evidence that the retiree remains currently involved in activities for which university recognition is given would receive special priority in making DRP appointments.
b) Two variants would be permitted in the process for making DRP appointments:
i) Department nomination: A department could nominate a former member of its faculty for DRP status (department nominees for emeritus status could be proposed for DRP appointments as well). That nomination would then be considered by the CAS Tenure/Promotion Committee, the faculty body most appropriate for such an evaluation. If the recommendation is positive, the nomination would proceed for approval to the Dean, the Provost, and finally to the President, who would actually bestow the DRP designation.
ii) Self-nomination: A retiree could initiate the process of nomination by applying directly to the Tenure/Promotion Committee. That committee would normally then seek the advice of the relevant department, but could make its own judgment on the candidate. If the recommendation is positive, the nomination would proceed as above to Dean, Provost, and President.
c) The benefits of DRP status would include all those to which emeritus professors are entitled, as well as:
use of university facilities, on request, to the same degree as regular faculty;
parking decals, as with regular faculty;
access to the support services of the Grants Office;
preference in receiving office or laboratory space, phone, and teaching opportunities, if requested and available.