March 3, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 79  

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NEWS

Forced to retire, profs leave province

By Jonathan Yazer
Gazette Staff

Critics of a mandatory retirement age regard the law as something that encourages professors at Ontario universities to leave the province, strengthening calls to have it abolished.

“It’s the reason why I started thinking about moving,” said professor Thomas Pangle, who plans to depart the University of Toronto for the University of Texas at Austin. Pangle turns 60 later this year, putting him five years under the required age of retirement.

“The University of Texas made this point, which I hadn’t focused on before,” Pangle said. “They said to me a few years back, ‘Look, you’ll have to retire in seven or eight years. Have you thought about that?’ It was a clever marketing pitch.”

“We’re squandering the province’s intellectual capital,” said Michael Doucet, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations. “In the case of professor Pangle, Ontario is losing out on five years of teaching from what I understand is an outstanding professor.”

Alan Weedon, Western’s vice-provost of policy, planning and faculty, has not encountered any similar problem at Western. “I’ve been tracking reasons why faculty are leaving university for about four years and I didn’t come across any such cases, not to say there were none.

“I think the professoriate is different from other employees because they can engage in work post-retirement,” he explained. “All our professors can continue to participate in research and have the opportunity to teach.”

Yet, Doucet thinks some Ontario universities dissuade professors from teaching past 65. “University administrations are often quite happy to hire back professors past the age of retirement, but under unfavourable conditions.”

Peter Fitzpatrick, communications adviser for the office of the Labour Ministry, said the government is not considering overturning the mandatory retirement law at present, but is well aware of the issue.

Doucet sees a report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission in 2001 as the impetus for abolishing mandatory retirement. “That report said without equivocation it was discrimination. We don’t discriminate on the basis of race, religion or gender, so why should we be able to discriminate on age? Most faculty will continue to retire early, but it’s a matter of choice and justice.”

“There’s no question that the day people become 65, they don’t become unproductive,” Weedon said. “Many people can still make an important contribution. Western enables those kinds of opportunities.”

 

 

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