MARK ON MERIT, NOT AGE: PROFS

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By Samantha Read

Proposed legislation to eliminate mandatory retirement in Ontario may be causing controversy across the province, but experts doubt that it will have much of an effect at Ryerson.

Michael Doucet, president of the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations and a Ryerson geography professor, said the impact from the legislation would be minimal.

“Mandatory retirement will provide a slight release to universities [facing faculty shortages],” he said, but added, “we’ve seen evidence from all other jurisdictions that most faculty are going early anyway.”

According to Doucet, the average retirement age of professors at Ryerson is between 61 and 63. In August, the McGuinty government announced it would hold public consultations regarding the issue of mandatory retirement.

The Ministry of Labour said that passing legislation would allow individuals to retire based on their own lifestyles and priorities rather than those of their employer. No law in Canada requires retirement at age 65.

However, the Ontario Human Rights Code says a working age is limited to people between 18 and 65, allowing many employers to mandate retirement at 65 even if an employee still wants to work.

Some Ryerson faculty feel the proposed legislation would make it difficultto determinewhether greying staff is fit to teach. “I think we need to make more ruthless judgments of an individual’s capacity to do the job,” said John Cook, the chair of the English department and a recently retired professor.

The issue of tenure also makes it difficult to let a faculty member go if their performance levels drop, Cook added. To deal with the issue of tenure, some Canadian universities, such as McGill and Concordia, have offered early retirement packages to older, higher-earning professors.

Of Concordia’s 800 faculty members, only about a dozen are over 65, Doucet said.

Ryerson President Claude Lajeunesse said universities are stressing to the government that if the laws are changed, schools should have a transition period to deal with tenured professors.

Cook sees the proposed legislation as a temporary solution to a larger problem. “We’re taking the easy way out [by] abandoning mandatory retirement, rather than finding something else for those over 65 to do,” he said.

“I think we need creative ideas for retired people on how they can participate in society and in other ways, and new initiatives for things beyond retiring.”

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