RALEIGH — Two months after she took the reins at Peace College, President Debra Townsley sent letters to all full-time faculty this week, on the eve of their fall break, asking them to consider buyout or early retirement packages.
The Voluntary Separation Incentive Program, as the college calls it, consists of packages offering different financial incentives based on an employee's work history and years with the private women's college, Townsley said. Giving faculty the option to leave would allow the school to be more flexible with its resources as it looks to develop its program offerings, she said.
"Both are voluntary and are just put out there for faculty to evaluate," she said in an interview.
Employees have until Nov. 19 to decide whether to leave and can elect to end their employment Jan. 1 or May 31. Those who opt for the buyout would receive half of their current annual salary plus $5,000 in one payment, according to the letter.
The letters were sent as Peace is undergoing a review of its academic departments to find out how the school should "revise our program offerings for the future so we can continue to meet our mission statement," Townsley said.
"It's a changing marketplace," she said. "We have limited resources, and we want the flexibility to be able to implement some of these things."
The review is not complete, but Townsley said departments are being encouraged to explore how their programs can best prepare students for jobs after college.
"We're taking this one step at a time," she said. "We're putting this out and asking for data and information."
Townsley would not say whether the buyouts or early retirement letters were budget-related. Many independent colleges and universities have had to make similar offers to faculty to close budget gaps during the recession, said Hope Williams, president of N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities, which represents 36 private liberal arts colleges and universities.
"Colleges and universities, like other organizations, try to avoid any types of layoffs when possible ...," she said. "There have been many different ways of responding to budget challenges, and certainly offering options to employees is one of those."
Townsley took over as the 10th president of Peace College in August. She was formerly president of Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., and has worked at St. Michaels College in Vermont, Northern Virginia Community College and Marymount University of Virginia.
"I think when you're new, it's always a good time to come in and ask these questions and decide what our vision is for the future," she said. "I want to take in all the data to determine that."
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