Faculty Senate draft: Suspend pension law

By Betsy Mathew

The Faculty Senate unanimously approved a draft statement addressing Illinois’ pension reform.

Pension reform

The draft statement supports the idea of a preliminary injunction to suspend implementation of the pension reform law until its constitutionality is determined.

Most of the discussion, which took place after the document was explained, was centered around how the word “mistake” was used in the statement to describe the uncertainty of what the actual bill is declaring.

That mistake refers to an error that was signed into the law last December stating employees who didn’t retire by June 30, 2013, instead of June 30, 2014, would lose benefits. This would mean those who retired before June 30 would lose up to a year’s worth of benefits.

Marc Falkoff, assistant law professor and assistant chair of the Academic Planning Council, said the university is anticipating the loss of 800 employees due to the uncertainty of the legal status of the pension reform law. Massive retirements will be triggered for no rational reason, Falkoff said.

“Some of our colleagues are being put into an impossible decision because there is a category of university employees who may not want to retire but feel pressed to do so,” Falkoff said.

Falkoff said the law would contribute to a wave of retirements that may not be necessarily justified. If the law is deemed unconstitutional by the courts, those who have already retired would have done so for no reason. On the other hand, if the courts find the law unconstitutional, then those who have retired will not be able to retroactively retire.

Instead of evaluating the draft statement, faculty members challenged the law itself.

Mechanical engineering professor Milivoje Kostic voiced his concerns on the ambiguity of the deadline and the effect it will have on his benefits.

“If you as a lawyer are not sure, how as an engineer can I be sure?” Kostic asked of Falkoff.

Mechanical engineering professor Abhijit Gupta said he, as well as his colleagues, have found making appointments with service representatives to be extremely difficult. Gupta said the inability to make these appointments has made it harder for employees to make a decision.

“Whether good or bad, people need to know how much they are losing,” Gupta said.

Faculty Senate President Alan Rosenbaum informed the Senate that everyone has reason to worry, but the main focus at the meeting was whether the draft should be endorsed.

The voting Faculty Senate members voted, unanimously, to support the draft statement.

“This is an emotional issue,” Rosenbaum said. “Everyone has concerns about their own retirement.”

Other business

Rosenbaum reported on the March 27 Board of Trustees meeting where $4.5 million of local funds was approved to demolish the Douglas dormitory complex and extend Lucinda Avenue, creating a straight road to the west side of campus and the Convocation Center.

“The Douglas dormitory apparently has a lot of asbestos in it so that makes it particularly expensive to demolish,” Rosenbaum said.

New buses have already been designed and are just waiting for funding to be allocated.

“It can hopefully make it easier for students to get around on campus,” Rosenbaum said.