Faculty bucks retirement trends

by Alison Schmauch | 7/8/02 5:00am

While college professors across the nation tend to be retiring later and later due to an eight-year-old law which forbids colleges to force professors to retire by the age of 70, according to assistant dean of faculty Jane Carroll, Dartmouth professors have not followed this path.

Caroll cited retirement patterns of previous generations of professors, the atmosphere of the College and unique retirement programs to explain why Dartmouth professors might buck this national trend.

She suggested that Dartmouth has not been affected by this tendency because many faculty have often worked beyond traditional retirement age. "Dartmouth has had a long tradition of faculty who stay in service for many years," she said.

Looking back into the College's history, Carroll said that the faculty members who worked through the World War II years tended to stay on for many years past retirement age because so few young people could pursue Ph.Ds. during the war itself.

The generation of professors that replaced them in the 1950s, following their example, tended to retire equally late, she said.

She also suggested that the small, liberal-arts college atmosphere of Dartmouth encourages professors to stay on longer than they would at "larger, more transient places."

Carroll also thought that the existence of a "phased retirement option" program might explain why Dartmouth professors are not staying on longer than their counterparts at other institutions.

Under this program, Dartmouth professors have the choice of gradually reducing their teaching responsibilities over a three-year period, rather than retiring completely.

Thus, Carroll suggested that some professors who might otherwise be intimidated by the thought of giving up their work altogether do find the prospect of lessening their responsibilities gradually more attractive.

For instance, professors Jere Daniell in the history department and Robert McGrath in the art history department will begin retirement under this program next year, Carroll said.

She declined to provide statistics on how many professors over the age of 70 work at Dartmouth, saying that such information about professors' ages cannot be shared.

A recent study by David Card, an economist at Berkeley, cited in the New York Times on June 19, estimates that about 1.8 percent of professors across the nation are over the age of 70. Eight years ago, virtually none were.

At many of the nation's most prestigious schools, these numbers are even higher. At Yale, 3.9 percent of faculty are over 70; at Princeton, 4.9; at Harvard, 7 percent and about 10 percent at Johns Hopkins, according to the New York Times.