Nearly 550 professors and other academics at Arizona State University are being offered a chance to take early retirement as part of a sweeping plan to help move the university in a new direction.
The initiative is aimed at freeing up faculty positions and money during tight economic times to help turn ASU into what President Michael Crow termed a ‘‘new American university’’ with a top national standing in research and teaching.
‘‘The most important reason is to build flexibility in the organization,’’ Crow said. ‘‘It will help folks who are wanting to retire and give us the flexibility to go out and bring in new faculty members. I think it’s an important step in creating opportunities for dynamic change at ASU.’’
Crow’s plan calls for giving one year’s salary to any tenured faculty member or academic professional 55 or older with 10 years service who chooses by Dec. 1 to retire.
University officials estimate that nearly 550 employees, including tenured professors and senior academic professionals such as researchers, are eligible for the program and that 20 percent to 30 percent may choose to participate.
There are 1,188 tenured faculty members at ASU, officials said. Their average age is 53 and their average salary is $79,000. No figures were immediately available concerning the academic professionals.
Crow said any tenured faculty members who retire through the plan would be replaced with tenure-track faculty.
Faculty members contacted about the proposal said they had yet to evaluate it.
Biology professor Jack Fouquette said he was ‘‘intrigued enough by it to try to get more details.’’
Fouquette said one catch is that the retirement plan doesn’t provide for gradually phasing out employment or being rehired on a part-time basis, which he called typical ways of ending an academic career.
Professor James Christie of the department of education said he knows some
people are thinking about it.
‘‘Personally, I’m 56 and couldn’t afford it even if they tripled it, especially given the cost of health care,’’ he said.