Faculty and staff have questions answered about voluntary separation program

University officials had two messages for the dozens of people who attended the Dec. 4 Provost Forum, which focused on the tenured faculty and benefited staff voluntary separation program: the program is entirely voluntary, and it is not meant to be ongoing.

Tom DiLorenzo, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said that UND is offering the program, which offers incentive payouts for qualifying faculty and staff, after the State of North Dakota offered a separation program for state agencies. He said faculty and staff members asked whether a program would be offered at the University.

“I don’t believe we need to do it for budgetary reasons,” DiLorenzo said. “This is a one-time program, offered for a third time,” he added to laughter from the audience. “This is not meant to be ongoing, it is voluntary, and it will give us additional flexibility and options for budget planning.”

He introduced Peggy Varberg, interim director of human resources, and Heather Wages, academic affairs officer, who gave a brief presentation and then answered questions.

The presentation is available at: http://www1.und.edu/finance-operations/human-resources-payroll/svsip-page.cfm

The voluntary separation program is the same as last time, Varberg said, offering a year’s base salary for tenured faculty and one week’s pay for each completed year for benefited staff, up to six months. Staff can also receive compensation for annual leave and 10% of sick leave if they have worked for UND for longer than 10 years.

Eligible applicants must qualify for the “rule of 65,” which is the sum of age and years of service.

Full details are at: http://www1.und.edu/finance-operations/human-resources-payroll/svsip-page.cfm

Varberg emphasized that the programs are separate from retirement, and recommended that potential participants visit with NDPERS or TIAA to see if they are also eligible for retirement benefits. She added that they are welcome to contact her or Wages with questions about their incentive compensation or details about the program.

She said that just under 800 faculty and staff are eligible for the program, and they don’t know how many will apply. During the voluntary separation program offered by UND, less than 25 percent of eligible faculty and staff applied for the program. An estimated 15 percent of those who applied actually took the incentive and separated from the University, said DiLorenzo.

The deadline to apply is Jan. 15 with a separation date of June 30, 2019.

Applications will be reviewed by HR or Academic Affairs, forwarded to supervisors, then vice presidents, with the president having final approval. Those who are approved will have 45 days to consider the agreement, then seven days after signing to rescind the agreement. Applicants can withdraw at any time before the end of the seven days.

Varberg then answered questions from the audience. Answers are summarized below.

  • The program is voluntary. If a participant decides, within the 45 days, to withdraw their application, they can do so by sending Varberg a written notice.
  • Payments can be taken as one lump sum in July or two lump sums in July 2019 and January 2020. Taxes and other deductions will be withheld.
  • Acceptance for the program is not guaranteed.
  • When asked if departments will be able to replace people who leave, Varberg said it will depend on the department. She does not anticipate a hiring freeze.
  • Participants will be eligible for NDPERS health insurance via COBRA for 18 months. They must pay the premiums. UND will continue insurance one month past the separation date.
  • Flex expenses incurred by participants prior to June 30, may still be submitted for payment.
  • Departments should not deny potential participants who may be thinking of retirement but have not submitted their retirement or resignation, in writing, as of Nov. 20. “We want to do what’s fair,” said DiLorenzo.