UA-84929975-1

Letter to the Editor: Retired Mount Professors

Photo of Coad Science Building
Photo courtesy of Mount St. Mary's Univiersity

Dear Members of the Mount Community,

We write as retired members of the Mount community who collectively served 104 years at the Mount. Our decades of serving the Mount gave us deep satisfaction and shaped the love we have for this community. We looked forward to retirement in light of our good fortune in teaching at this university.

We, like all retirees, were shocked when we learned in November of the very abrupt termination of the retiree health benefit this January. In past decades the Mount allowed retirees to stay on its medical insurance plan at their own expense. Then this post-retirement benefit was changed to a stipend by which retirees could purchase their own health insurance.  The eventual termination of this benefit was grandfathered so that members of the community hired after 1996 had ample warning. Those hired prior to July 1996 who retired at the minimum age of 62 and had ten years of full time continuous service would receive this stipend. These employees planned their retirement confident the Mount would honor this promised retirement benefit. The shock of the sudden complete termination shook retirees deeply. It was especially troubling for hourly workers who served at such low wages, preventing their accruing large retirement savings. They accepted these low wages, being assured that they had benefits such as the retirement insurance benefit. Our hourly personnel will be hit hardest by the sudden and complete termination of this expected benefit.

We were also shocked by the way we were informed – by receiving a letter in the mail or an email and in some cases, not being informed at all. President Newman in a speech to the community left it to Pauline Engelstätter to explain this abrupt change. The letter stated that this type of benefit was not found at other schools, yet we easily identified schools that offer such a benefit. We researched a range of area colleges/universities and Catholic universities, but abandoned this inquiry when it simply became too depressing to learn of the excellent health benefits offered to retirees by so many institutions.  We also continue to be left in the dark about the dire economic situation reported by President Newman and his consultants which is said to justify the decision. We are left wondering why the Board and executive administrators were not aware of or responsive to this economic crisis that developed over the last decade under their watch.

   What also deeply upset retirees was the abrupt dumping of the retirees after decades of service with no gradual phasing in of changes or grandfathering of this drastic change. In the past such changes were grandfathered in, and this was right and just. The suddenness of the decision and unpreparedness of retirees evoked much anger. University Professors were especially angry since they had reviewed with President Powell specific terms of their retirement and benefits and agreed to retire in some cases earlier than they had planned based on this understanding. One of us was told by President Powell that she would have this health benefit “until the day she died.” We trusted the Mount to honor its promises.

We were also troubled by the way these changes were abruptly announced to the community. When President Houston met with the community regarding the debt we had fallen into due to a previous administration, he interacted with the community in a way that brought all of us to willingly make sacrifices to support the good of the community. This current situation was handled in a way that evoked anger. Given the service provided by retirees, they were deserving of the opportunity to hear President Newman in person present the justifications for breaking a promise to retirees. Perhaps if it had been handled as graciously as President Houston had handled negative financial news, the response would have been different. But there was no meeting of the president with retirees, no advance warning, no grandfathering and no discussion. This is not the Mount we knew for decades.

  Many of our retirees, especially those facing exorbitant medical expenses, will be hit hard by this sudden loss of a key benefit. We anticipate many of our hourly personnel will postpone upcoming retirement plans due to this change. They hesitate to express publicly their anxiety and concern. Other cost cutting measures should have been implemented before burdening retirees and current employees with healthcare cuts, such as the exorbitant costs of the new administrative (deans) structure and increase in the number of administrative positions exceeding the growth in students and faculty, both of which have so concerned faculty during the past decade. A single clause in the Governing Documents about eliminating or modifying policies should not be used to cover what is wrong and harms members of our community. It may be right legally but not morally. Business consultants may advise such strategies to deal with financial issues the Board and administrators should have been closely monitoring in the past decade. But our way of dealing with challenges must be consistent with the values and ethos of the Mount tradition and community. We ask that this retiree policy change be reconsidered in light of wider community involvement as required by our Governing Documents and the moral vision of the Mount. The Governing Documents very clearly state that Faculty, administrators, and staff should be consulted on any policy changes in salaries/wages and benefits goals” (section 1.4.8). The procedures of our Governing Documents should always be followed to help insure fair Mission driven policies.

This semester there has been a praiseworthy emphasis on social justice at the Mount and the harms that can be inflicted on persons and communities. We have been called to respond to the criminal justice and refugee challenges. We should also apply social justice to our own institutional policies. The administration and its hired consultants need to attend very closely to this important aspect of Catholic Social Teaching regarding the content and process of policy making about our own community.  This is necessary to continue the way of functioning of the Mount community we knew and loved.

  We appreciate your listening to the perspective of retirees, which we each shall be someday.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Sue Goliber, Professor Emerita

Dr. Trudy Conway, Professor Emerita

Dr. William Collinge, Professor Emeritus

 

Editor’s Note: Dr. Goliber taught History at the Mount from 1978 to 2011.

Dr. Conway taught Philosophy at the Mount from 1979 to 2015.

Dr. Collinge taught Theology and Philosophy at the Mount from 1980 to 2015.

10 Comments on Letter to the Editor: Retired Mount Professors

  1. Thank you, Drs. Goliber, Conway, and Collinge. The Mount community needs to know this is happening, and the news is spreading on social media like crazy.

    To anyone reading this, if you also feel like our Mount professors deserve better, join us! A bunch of us are writing letters to Newman expressing our feelings about this and other issues–if you want to join, send something (even if it’s just a few sentences!) to mountfamilyspeaksout@gmail.com. Letters will be hand delivered together to President Newman’s office.

  2. In short, simply appalling. I had Dr. Conway at the Mount for classes from 2009-2012. She gave so much to me, that I’ll proudly speak for her and all other Mount retirees. I’ll be sending my thoughts along to the administration along with many others.

  3. This post resonates particularly well with me, as a current student at the Mount (unfortunately). To keep a long story short, it seems completely normal and absolutely sadistic for the Mount to change expectations without warning.

    As a student, a set of expectations were given to me early in my program. This practice is normal and was completely expected. What caught me off guard was how quickly these set policies can change and how this happens without warning from the Mount. I planned years of my life based on the initial expectations provided by my university, then when these policies changed and I was left uniformed, the burden laid on me financially and time-wise to make up for “my mistake” in planning.

    As the Mount changes what is expected from students, it only costs us more money for additional credits and more time to finish our degrees. The shock brought on by the sudden changing of policy is only ever topped by the next sudden changing of policy. To any future potential students of the Mount – I urge you to consider your other options.

    To Dr. Goliber, to Dr. Conway, to Dr. Collinge, and to all other honest former staff of this institution, I would like to wish you the best in dealing with cleaning up after this unorganized beast. At least for myself and current classmates, we only have to struggle through this situation for about four years before we can conclude the purchase of our paper degree and move on. It scares me to think that such an institution can have these negative effects on the lives of people who served for them for years and years.

    Jesus can stick with his least loyal follower in Judas, but the Mount can’t even stand by their word to their most loyal followers – seasoned professors?

  4. This is very disheartening to hear. Thank you to the professors who took the time to inform the community, and thank you to the Mountain Echo for providing the venue. I will write a letter as well as make a phone call to protest this abrupt breech of a promise.

    Professors and those at the school, please continue to keep the community updated in what more we can do to support faculty. If this behavior is accepted it sets a bad precedent for faculty and staff in the future.

  5. I was privileged to study under two of these professors and knew the good reputation of one. These educators, and others there at the same time who are having to deal with this severe health care change deserve better. The scores of individual students lucky enough to have these scholars as teachers and mentors were given educations that have allowed us to succeed in the world and in turn raise the profile of MSM University. Why are they being “rewarded” with a stab in the back?

    If the retirement healthcare agreement was part of their hiring package or retirement package, to not honor it is disgusting and shows that the days of a school that stood for honor, integrity and Christian values has fallen far. How sad.

  6. Shame on the Mount board and president for how they handled this. The Mount was my home for 4 years, and my professors an extension of my family. I could not imagine treating my family how these professors have been left to fend for themselves with little to no warning (or grandfathering). I hope this letter and comments from professors (current and/or retired) and the community can speak loud enough to take care of those who took care of us for so many years.

    My prayers are with you professors.

  7. I totally agree. I pray for the Mount and President Newman. I hope we can dialogue and find sound solutions to our financial situation that does not compromise the core values of our faith.

  8. Days prior to this Editorial,I sent a letter to the President and the Board of Trustees suggesting that four weeks was not sufficient time for dedicated employees of the “MOUNT” to possibly get new health coverage . This change should be reconsidered because its not the “MOUNT’S way of doing business.

  9. I’m saddened to hear this. Because of this, I’m going to cancel my monthly contribution that I’ve been making to the school for the past year. Treating past professors and personnel like this is troubling and not the Mount that I grew to love.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*