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Harvard Faculty Have Retired Later Since 2003, Per FAS Annual Report

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Frank S. Zhou

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Harvard faculty have retired at increasingly older ages throughout the last two decades, according to the annual Faculty of Arts and Sciences report.

FAS Dean for Faculty Affairs and Planning Nina Zipser presented the report to members of the FAS during a Zoom faculty meeting on Tuesday.

Since 2003, the rate of faculty who retire before the age of 75 has dropped from 95 percent to 56 percent, according to Zipser. The percentage of faculty members who retire between the ages of 75 and 79 has increased from 1.5 percent to 5.9 percent between 2003 and 2023, while the percentage of faculty who retire above the age of 80 increased from 0 to 3.3 percent.

Harvard could no longer enforce mandatory retirement at 70 after 1994 when Congress amended the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

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As tenured faculty began retiring later in their careers, the FAS introduced the Faculty Retirement Program in 2009 to promote retirement for faculty older than 65 and younger than 72.

The program offers tenured faculty two- and four-year retirement paths, including reduced teaching obligations, more paid sabbaticals, or retirement contributions instead of full salaries.

Zipser said at Tuesday’s meeting there was “no clear path to retirement” before the program’s introduction.

As of 2019, 124 faculty had entered into these agreements. Since the rollout of the Faculty Retirement Program, an average of 11.9 faculty members have retired per year, compared to an average of 7.6 retirees from 2003 to 2011.

“Despite the increase in faculty retirements due to the Faculty Retirement Program, they have not kept pace with the number of faculty turning 65 or older,” the report states.

The report also examined hiring and promotion over the past academic year.

Out of the 53 ladder faculty searches in the 2022-23 academic year, the FAS made 39 offers, including 20 to women and 20 to people of color. The FAS granted tenure to 14 of the 15 ladder faculty under review — eight of whom were faculty of color.

Since 2014, 78 percent of faculty who have stood for tenure review have been granted tenure. While 75 percent of male candidates received tenure after review, 83 percent of female candidates received tenure. Faculty of color received tenure in 86 percent of cases.

The “unconditional promotion rate” — the percentage of all faculty members who received tenure out of those who would have come up for tenure review — was 59 percent between 2014 and 2023.

Though a higher percentage of women who stand for tenure review receive tenure compared to men, the unconditional promotion rates are roughly equal across gender — indicating that women are more likely than men to choose to leave Harvard rather than go up for review.

According to last year’s faculty trends report, retention rates have increased for all faculty since 2014, and the gender gap has narrowed but not closed.

Between 2014 and 2022, the rate of eligible women who decided to stand for tenure was 68 percent, compared to 58 percent between 2008 and 2014. The rate for men increased from 71 percent to 78 percent.

The FAS began tracking the number of nonbinary faculty this year, reporting them as 0.2 percent of the faculty — three people, Zipser said.

The racial and ethnic composition of the Harvard faculty remains similar to last year’s report. Tenure-track faculty, 44 percent of whom are faculty of color, remain the most racially diverse group. For both the tenured and non-ladder faculty cohorts, less than 30 percent are people of color.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at tilly.robinson@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Tess C. Wayland can be reached at tess.wayland@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @tess_wayland.

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