With more than a week to go before the deadline to accept voluntary buyout packages, full-time University employees are still weighing their opinions.
For some, like Marilyn Martone, an associate professor of theology and religious studies, the choice to accept the buyout was a “very easy decision.”
“I was already thinking of retirement and my husband is already retired,” she said.
“I’m just looking at this as the start of a brand new adventure.”
Martone is one of the more than 1,700 full-time St. John’s employees who have been presented with Voluntary Separation Offers by the University. Of the more than 3,000 workers employed by St. John’s, more than 2,100 are full-time.
At the end of January, St. John’s faculty, administrators and staff were notified that VSOs would be offered in order for the University to maintain a balanced budget.
The deadline to accept the offer is March 12.
To determine eligibility, each employee was given a score based on a combination of their years of service and age to determine their eligibility. Faculty members with a score of 65 or over fall under the eligibility list while 60 is the cut-off number for administrators and staff.
“I’ve had a wonderful experience here and I guess I had to leave while the experience was still so wonderful,” said Martone, who has spent for 26 years at St. John’s. “But I know this has been hard for a lot of people because they feel their identity is tied to the University.”
Some employees, like Chaman Jain, a professor in the economics and finance department, said they feel there are more reasons for them to stay than leave.
“I was offered a good package but I don’t think I’m ready because I enjoy what I do,” he said. “To me, if I took that package it would be like the end of my life here.
“I look forward to coming to the University and doing research, I’m even here on Saturdays. All that would end if I took that package and that’s not what I want.”
Additional factors have contributed in others deciding to stick around.
“I enjoy interacting with the students,” said Robert Mockler, a management professor who has been employed by the University for 47 years. “I’m also not thinking about retirement so I decided to not pursue it.”
Harry Nagel, a professor in computer information systems and decision sciences, said aside from still enjoying teaching, he could not afford to lose his employment benefits.
“If I took the offer, I’d be losing my medical and dental coverage for my family,” he said. “The package covers health coverage for me but not my family and that would not work for me.”
An administrative assistant, who declined to have her name published, said her family played a big part as to why she chose to accept a VSO.
With her children already graduated from college and her husband in need of aid, she said the package offer for her was a bit of a blessing.
“For me, the timing couldn’t be better,” said the 20 year-plus employee. “This gives me guilt-free freedom to stay with my husband and do some of the things that I’ve always wanted to do.”
She said she looks forward to gardening, spending more time with her family and possibly skydiving in retirement.
“I’m going to miss my friends here,” she said. “It’s definitely going to be transition, but I plan to keep myself busy.”
M. Northrup Buechner, associate professor in economics and finance, said his incentive to leave is “very little to none.”
“As long as I continue to enjoy it, as long as I’m physically able to and my students don’t complain, I plan to continue to teaching,” he said.
Buechner, who has been with St. John’s for 40 years, said he was a little surprised when he was notified of the VSOs.
“We all got the message from Father Harrington that the University is struggling with the economic situation like everyone else,” he said. “But for the last 10 years, the University has been doing well.
“On the other hand, I can understand why they’ve offered the packages. There are an awful lot of elder professors here.”
Theresa Maylone, university librarian, said 10 percent of the library staff have accepted buyouts as of March 2.
“No one is panicking, but I do get the sense that there is worry of what the University will look like afterwards,” she said.
“This can be an opportunity to make a new start if you are looking forward, not backward,” she said. “We are living in different times and the University has to re-evaluate how they function and how they are structured in order to move forward.
“Many studies and articles have been done that say higher education will have to restructure itself, St. John’s is not alone in this predicament,” Maylone added.