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Forced Retirement: a Battle for the Ages

May 19, 1991

Ruth Weg's forced retirement from USC ("Don't Count Her Out," May 7) outraged me almost as much as my own did a year ago.

The posture of USC's management toward retiring long-term faculty is reflected in its actions.

New faculty emeriti receive a letter personally signed by the provost's stenographer (her initials follow his simulated signature) and one from the president (mine was addressed "Professor of English" after my 37-year full professorship in sociology and some degree of international recognition in that discipline), permission to park on campus and the right to buy football season tickets at the regular faculty rate. Period. Not even the proverbial gold watch.

Unlike most universities, USC terminates health insurance coverage for faculty and their dependents immediately upon retirement. The argument that retired faculty can get Medicare is beside the point for many reasons. A large percentage have dependents who are not yet 65.

USC's retirement pension is based on the lifetime earnings of faculty, not current costs of living. Our contributions were invested in annuities of a sort with 3% interest guaranteed. My first annual income from college teaching was $2,750. If I could have afforded to make it, the 5% of my salary required to be invested to have any retirement at all would have made my annual contribution $137.50.

I could easily spend my entire USC retirement income on medical and dental care for myself and my dependents. In the true spirit of rugged individualism, the administration considers that my problem. My services are no longer wanted and the recognition given for past services is spelled out above.

This letter is motivated by more than a wish to complain. USC has been my home since 1946, and I love it. I do think, however, that those considering contributions to this fine private school (fine, I think, because of its excellent faculty) should consider asking about the treatment of their former teachers.

THOMAS E. LASSWELL

Professor Emeritus of Sociology

University of Southern California

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