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HARRISBURG — Personnel concerns in general — and retirement issues in particular — were on the stage at Thursday’s quarterly meeting of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s Board of Governors.

The PASSHE board approved an enhanced sick leave payout program, allowing eligible employees to receive an increased payout of their accrued sick leave upon retirement.

PASSHE spokesman David Pidgeon said it would cover union and non-union employees, with 1,400 possibly being eligible out of more than 11,000 working at Indiana and 13 other State System universities.

He said 782 likely would be eligible out of approximately 5,000 faculty and coaches in the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.

“There are two rounds,” the PASSHE spokesman said. “The first round starts now.”

Those who make a decision by March 15 could net as many as 125 sick days.

Those who do so during the second round, from March 16 to Sept. 30, could net as many as 87 sick days.

“You would have to announce your intention to retire between July 1, 2021, and June 30, 2022,” Pidgeon said.

However, APSCUF President Dr. Jamie Martin said, more time is needed.

“Our hope is that APSCUF will be able to work with the Office of the Chancellor to help individuals who are facing retrenchment to transfer into faculty positions that will result from retirements at other universities,” Martin said.

Martin prefaced her remarks to the board by pointing to what has happened because of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year.

She recalled PASSHE Chancellor Dr. Daniel Greenstein sending out a memorandum on Feb. 13, 2020, laying out his expectations for the 14 universities to reach financial sustainability within five years — by 2023–24.

However, in April, “the chancellor accelerated the timeframe ... from five years to three years,” said Martin, a member of the IUP Criminology and Criminal Justice faculty. “He also instructed universities to return the student/faculty ratios that existed in 2010-11 — but now by 2021–22.”

She said there were consequences that resulted, including the decision Oct. 30 to send out more than 100 retrenchment letters to faculty members at five of the universities, including 81 to faculty at Indiana.

“These letters notified them that they would no longer have a job — and, by extension, would no longer have health care during a global pandemic — at the end of the spring 2021 term,” Martin said.

By December, retirements and other factors had reduced the number of IUP faculty affected to 74.

“We are anxious to work on this with the State System, but we fear that time is not on our side. Until March 15, we may not know who or how many faculty and coaches plan to retire by June 30.

“The date for retrenchment is June 4, 2021.”

She asked the PASSHE board to give those who will not be able to continue working for the State System the chance to seek a job elsewhere — and to be able to go on interviews, find a new home and make a move when it is safe to do so later this year.

Other unions represented at IUP and other PASSHE institutions include the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; Office and Professional Employees International Union; Healthcare Pennsylvania; International Union, Security, Police, and Fire Professionals of America; Service Employees International Union Local 668; PASSHE Officers Association; and the State College and University Professional Association.