Retirees Rights and Benefits Committee Work Group Final Report FY 2022
RRBC Work Group Final Report*
2008 and 2019 Retiree Survey Response Themes and Recommendations
The responses of retired faculty and staff to the 2008 and 2019 retirees’ surveys included many recurring themes (Appendix A: A Synthesis of Open-Ended Responses across Two Survey Points). Collectively and in the main, the open-ended survey responses reflected the perspective that the University places little value on the career contributions of retirees. For many individual respondents, several of the benefits that existed in prior years are no longer available to retirees, or cost/charges have increased markedly. Consensus is reflected in the response themes across both surveys. These concerns are systemic and repeated between the 2008 (Appendix B) and 2019 (Appendix C) surveys with little to no evidence of an institutional response to them over time. Rather, they reflect evidence that some benefits have even been reduced. The tenor of retiree responses across both surveys reflects a harmony on the need for the University to address how the institution responds to the desires of faculty and staff in their preparation for retirement and during retirement, and how KU is inadequately organized to achieve retiring colleague needs. The KU Benefits Office provides individualized retirement information to employees upon notification of retirement, or upon request, and there is retirement information on the KU web pages, but these sources for information may not be widely known. The institutional response of the University to the retirees’ concerns reflects on the culture of the institution, therefore it is important the efforts going forward reflect a culture that values their retirees: out of sight is not out of mind. Below we have identified twelve (12) themes that emerge from the evidence expressed across the hundreds of retiree surveys each followed by recommendations that derive from the themes. The twelve themes have been grouped into two major “timing” areas meriting the reader’s attention.
Preparation for Retirement
- Theme: KU Practical Matters. The need for information on retirement varies in that faculty and staff begin planning at different times and for different reasons. It may occur before or after the time that retirement information sessions are held (now typically once annually). Or the retiree may prefer that their exploration of retirement not be made public.
Recommendation: The information included in the University Retirees and Phased/Prospective Retirees Handbook (2020) and an itemized list (especially with deadlines) should include a timeline for the decisions and tasks needing to be completed by faculty and staff in preparation for retirement. The Handbook should be reviewed carefully and edited annually by the University Senate Retirees Rights and Benefits Committee and HRM Benefits, as needed due to changes in the KU, KBOR, or federal provisions. The need and goal are to improve retirement planning. HRM Benefits has offered annual pre-retirement sessions since 2005. To improve this effort, each semester (Fall, Spring), offer two voluntary sessions for (1) Thinking/About to Retire, and (2) Additional Information for retirees’ attention. It should be made clear that HRM Benefits provides individualized retirement planning upon request.
- Theme: External Practical Matters. Decisions about health insurance, the Social Security process, Medicare, BCBS, etc. represent areas of concern on the part of many faculty and staff before retirement and add to their decision on readiness for retirement.
Recommendation: As currently done, but to reinforce as retirees miss announcements, a series of seminars on topics such as health insurance, Medicare, TIAA/CREF mandatory and voluntary investments, 457 plans, and Social Security benefits should be scheduled biannually for those preparing for retirement as a service to all faculty and staff in general. These should/might be attractive to all faculty and staff in addition to those who have decided to retire and those already retired. The KU pre-separation letter should be examined to ensure completeness and accuracy.
- Theme: Town Hall Meetings. Issues associated with retirement that are not anticipated yet come as serious concerns or consequences to some retirees.
Recommendation: A “town hall” meeting (simultaneously offered face-to-face and online) on retirement and relying on a panel of retirees for discussion as well; with a focus on experiences that may not be anticipated needs; and, to be scheduled and held each semester.
- Theme: Supportive Financial Planning. Financial planning was mentioned frequently, i.e., the “…had I known, ...expected, ...been aware…” moment. This is a tough one as financial planning is available to everyone but ordinarily, on a fee basis. But at KU, some retirees indicated they had no “early” thought of or planning for these inevitable eventualities.
Recommendation: If there is an association of financial planners or possibly the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, a relationship needs to be negotiated with such groups to offer an open session on financial planning for retirees. Prior recommendations point to the very real need for such services to alert all faculty and staff to the realities of retirement.
- Theme: Need for IT Support. The very real need for and availability of Information Technology (IT) support for retirees is not specified and varies across academic departments and units. Nor is access to software detailed for retirees. Department and research units vary in accommodating the IT needs of retirees, including knowledge about access to and continued use of a KU email account. The times they are a changin(!); books and libraries are no longer the one or primary source for knowledge and work for many faculty and staff; access to IT personnel and support, computer hardware, and software are today always necessary and essential for many.
Recommendation: Continue to support and provide access to software and updates routinely for retirees, and provide IT personnel support as needed for faculty and staff after retirement. IT support should be made available to retirees as a courtesy; and, ensure continuing access by retirees to KU email accounts if desired. Provide retirees free/at-cost access to all KU available software (e.g., MS Office, TEAMS, SPSS, OneDrive storage and access, etc.).
- Theme: KU Retiree ID Card. There was concern expressed in several responses that retirees were not aware of how to obtain a KU Retiree card. There may be a lack of public information on the process for obtaining one. This was mentioned many times. Yet many others reported having received a KU ID card during the retirement process.
Recommendation: Procedures for obtaining a KU Retiree ID Card need to be highlighted and incorporated in the information distributed to all retirees during the time of retirement. An administrative office (i.e., as Faculty Development and Services) should have a named and designated Vice Provost to serve, act, respond and monitor retiree needs and questions so retirees can know or learn whom to contact to seek information, and how to obtain benefits and privileges.
- Theme: Campus Parking. Parking on campus is central to retirees maintaining collaborative relationships with colleagues and when accessing campus activities such as events, libraries, engaging in research, participating in activities, and accessing the many different locations where these and other events occur. The number of retirees on campus at any one time would not contribute to excessive demand for parking in any particular lot.
Recommendation: Free or greatly discounted parking permits at rates below the current charges should be available to retirees. The fee should remain fixed (or lowered or at the lowest) at the price/charge at the individual’s retirement point.
- Theme: Work Space. Access to office space varies considerably as a local decision across departments, centers, and research units. Office and continuing research space are not available to retirees as a matter of policy. Consequently, some faculty and staff have access to space meeting their research needs whereas others do not. When interest and need by the retiree exists, it provides an opportunity and a multifold benefit that will enhance the university in the eyes of retirees. Not having space is a problem when faculty or staff are continuing their research and, in some cases, collaborating on research.
Recommendation: Office and research space should be determined during the pre-retirement planning process and accommodated and adjusted over time to the extent feasible. This can be a shared space and need not always be adjacent to the retiree’s academic discipline or pre-retirement research area.
- Theme: Campus Privileges. Continue/retain privileges, i.e., providing free or discounted tickets to campus activities and venues such as theatres, athletic events, concerts, talks, etc. following retirement. Library access, both physical and electronic access, is a very real benefit that is valuable to retirees and their continuing interests. All benefits must be detailed, readily available, and known to retirees. Several times it was mentioned that benefits previously available to retirees are discontinued after retirement. Another frequent area of concern related to retirees is the ability to attend courses free and continuing free access to computer/OneDrive accounts.
Recommendation: A determination as to what, when, and why some of these benefits are discontinued needs to be reviewed, researched, and if possible, reestablish benefits that were once available.
- Theme: Retired Mentors. Many faculty and staff became informed about the processes for retirement via relationships with colleagues. Retirement for them became an enjoyable experience. Retirees represent an important resource to current faculty and staff early in their consideration of retirement.
Recommendation: Establish a retiree mentoring program allowing prospective retirees to be mentored by experienced retirees who are themselves well informed and know to direct individuals to the official resource sites and contacts. Ensure known and understood opportunities to acquire KU Affiliate status.
- Theme: Continuing Ties. We are social beings. Administrators at the department, College, School, and unit levels need to be fully cognizant of this ongoing custom and condition as related to and impacting retirees.
Recommendation: Provide for and support interaction among retirees, as well as retirees relationships with continuing (i.e., still employed) faculty and staff. Offer through KU a retiree website location or category on the KU website that retirees can access and interact with others (e.g., create a KU Retiree Facebook page).
- Theme: KUEA and Endacott Groups. Membership in the Endacott Society, affiliation with KU Alumni Association, the role of KUEA, etc. needs to be made known and clarified if necessary. Many retirees are not KU alumni and fail to understand why affiliation with the Alumni Association may be required, useful, necessary, or available. In the same way, these agencies and others, such as the KU Endowment Association (KUEA), need to be kept aware of all retirees, their needs, desires, and preferences.
Recommendation: A document describing how the Endacott Society was initially established in the Alumni Association through a contribution by an alumnus needs to be added to information that describes the Endacott Society. The focus should be on clarifying membership in the Alumni Association as a condition of membership in the Endacott Society and recognition of the donor. KUEA must be given access to and allowed formal contact with retirees to present the services they can and are willing to provide.
*RRBC Work Group Members: Chris Brown, Annette Delaney, David Ekerdt, Allard Jongman, Edward Martinko, Edward Meyen, John Poggio (chair), David Smith, and Madi Vannaman