In 1993, 43% of Stanford’s faculty was over 50 years old. By 2008, the proportion had reached 53%. At the same time, the cohort of faculty under age 45 has fallen to just 33%. As the San Jose Mercury News reports, it’s getting difficult to convince professors to retire.
Of course, many older faculty members continue to be productive scholars and teachers. All that experience counts for something. Nor are universities allowed to impose a mandatory retirement age. Still, the longevity of faculty members prevents new hiring, ties up office space, and limits the introduction of new perspectives. So, Stanford has unveiled an incentive plan to encourage retirements.
Not all institutions can be as generous, but we can develop robust emeriti programs that promise faculty continued access to the intellectual and social life of the university. Even without tenure, academic jobs promise long-lived satisfaction. If professors knew they could continue pursuing the projects they love and remain part of the department while in retirement, perhaps they would take advantage of the plan.