Anna Liss-Roy ’20 and Priya Canzius ’20
Co-Editors in Chief
6 June 2020
Some members of the Scripps community may not return next year due to a Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP) recently introduced by the College.
On June 2, many Scripps faculty and staff members received an email from Human Resources introducing the “voluntary separation” deal for eligible staff members, with a financial incentive. VSIP, according to the email, offers eligible staff members the option to “voluntarily terminate their employment with the College, effective July 31, 2020.” Eligible staff members were defined as “full-time staff members for whom the sum of age and years of employment with Scripps College… equals seventy (70) or above.”
Staff members who elect to do so would receive a benefit of half their annual salary over the next 12 months. Eligible staff members have until July 17 to decide whether or not to participate in VSIP.
The email included the age and position of Scripps staff members with names redacted, according to an anonymous faculty member who received the email, making it possible to identify many eligible staff members and making it clear that the dispersion of staff who are eligible for VSIP is not equal among positions.
Faculty members expressed concern to The Voice following the initial email.
“Faculty are angry about the way that the “eligible” staff members were approached, with a legal document that is not easy to read and a list of positions and staff members’ ages for all to see, along with a total lack of transparency about this entire process,” an anonymous professor said. “This is not the way to keep up morale and show staff they are valued, and it also demonstrates a lack of concern about how the college will function if staff members who take this “opportunity” are not replaced.”
“Some individuals might welcome this offer, while others will not, but if individuals do not opt in what [budget] cuts might ensue?” Professor of History Julia Liss said.
A group of faculty expressed concern about VSIP through a letter addressed to President Tiedens, senior staff, the Director of Human Resources, and the FEC summer advisory group on June 6. In this email, faculty outlined five main points: (1) concern that the manner of the announcement (emailing a packet of legal documents with no forewarning) was incongruous with Scripps values and caused additional insecurity among the community; (2) that a large number of the recipients of the email are non-administrative staff, including custodial, grounds, and dining facility staff, and are disproportionately Latinx and Black; (3) the lack of transparency on budgetary issues, including percentages of pay cuts for senior staff; (4) that the College should investigate other means of personnel cost cutting, such as pay cuts for those who are most highly paid rather those most at risk; (5) decisions concerning the coronavirus pandemic should not all take place at the senior staff level and should involve the input of those whose terms of employment would be affected.
“Everyone understands that this is a very difficult time for the College and that decisions are difficult and likely painful,” Liss said. “But there has been very little communication about just how dire these circumstances are or may be and what discussions are taking place to address them. We need to have more open communication. This will build trust and also lead to better decision making because it will include the Scripps community.”
This discussion between Scripps administration and faculty/staff is ongoing and this article will be updated as more information becomes available. There will be a faculty meeting on June 11 that is expected to provide additional clarity on the plan for next fall, including conversations about what further forms of personnel cost cutting could entail.
Correction: the article originally stated that faculty “condemned” VSIP through the letter; it has since been updated to reflect that the intention was to express concern.
Image Credit: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin