Merton alumni have voiced concern over the forced retirement of college staff, with some even threatening to withold donations to their College.
The College’s policy to reitre employees at 65 has come under scrutiny this year, as two popular members of staff reach this age. Both members of staff have requested to exte
nd their contracts.
Another member of staff recently received a letter from the Domestic Bursar telling him he must retire at 65 unless he requests an extension to his employment, according to JCR president James Nation.
The Facebook group “Mandatory retirement of Merton Staff” was set up by 2007 Merton graduate Tom Newton-Lewis after College staff members complained to alumni about the policy.
Merton graduate Edward Brightman wrote that the retirement policy was “definitely something all Mertonians should be up in arms about.” Andy Godfrey argued, “I imagine if enough people were to threaten to refuse to donate money to them they’d start to worry.”
Jennifer Hoogewerf-McComb, another alumnus of Merton, commented, “This is completely disgusting” adding, “we should be refusing to donate.”
JCR President James Nation commented, “Mertonians do have a very strong attachment to certain members of staff by virtue of the fact that we have a very friendly community here of which [they] are a key part. Particular cases at the moment have brought the College’s policy to light.”
Nation explained, “In this particular case, I do not think College will change their policy…Some Mertonians I’ve spoken to so far can see the reasons why College has gone for this option, but are just upset that it is affecting a well-known staff member in particular.”
Merton has a set retirement age for all staff, which applies to everyone, including scouts, porters and Fellows. Other Colleges decide on an individual basis whether staff should retire at 65 or stay on. However, Merton argues that it is fairer to have an overarching policy that would see all staff retire at the age of 65.
Angel Sarmiento, finalist at Merton and former JCR Treasurer said, “One thing is pretty clear – Merton alumni have set a precedent both for Merton and for other Colleges, that policies will be subject to the scrutiny of the alumni as well as that of current students.
“It is amazing how fast the response was to the issue. Even if it does not make an effect on this situation, Colleges will be more careful in the future about how they act. They will not be able to brush off the alumni with a statement by the JCR President if they cannot justify their policy.”
Douglas Bamber, the Domestic Bursar, argued in defence of Merton’s position. “Merton College policy has not changed and the default retirement age of 65 has always been the College policy.
“We operate the same policy as the University for all categories of staff and furthermore we comply with the law of the land.”
Porters at Merton declined to comment on the issue.