Profs urged to take more sabbaticals

Nancy Ngo

A team of administrators and faculty members wants more University professors to take a vacation.
The team is not advocating tropical getaways or camping excursions; rather, they want professors to refresh themselves through extended research and study breaks. The sabbaticals, committee members say, help bring new ideas and information to University classrooms.
But members of the Senate Committee of Faculty Affairs, who reviewed the leave plan Thursday, said it must be done in a way that keeps the costs reasonable.
“At a minimum what we have to do is change the current quarter leave policy over to a semester system,” said vice provost Robert Jones, the chairman of the sabbatical committee. “The thought was why not take advantage of this opportunity to create a policy that is significantly better than the one we have.”
In addition to making sabbatical and other leave options compatible with the 1999 semester conversion, committee members hope to seize the chance to increase participation in such programs. An average of 5 percent of University faculty use the year-long sabbatical and 4 percent use the quarter leave option each year.
Some professors use the leave time to do research or teach at other universities in the United States or abroad.
Kent Bales, chairman of the Senate committee, said many faculty don’t take sabbatical because they lose a large chunk of their salary. Those on sabbatical are compensated for half of their yearly pay.
An option officials strongly considered before it was met with dean resistance was to increase salary compensation on a sliding scale. Modeled after one used in the University of California system, faculty members would accrue credit based on time served at the school.
The half pay rate would serve as a base so some professors wouldn’t lose money under the new model.
But such compensation might be too appealing.
“If we create a policy that’s going to tremendously increase the demand and it gets too costly, then we’ve created a problem,” Jones said.
This added expenditure turned many deans off.
“If the cost is significantly more than the current structure, then we can’t afford it,” said Institute of Technology Dean Ted Davis.
Many faculty committee members were in favor of establishing an endowment fund, supporting a suggestion made by University President Mark Yudof and officials from the provost’s office.
Another option under consideration is fashioned after a policy in place in the Pennsylvania State University system. It would pay faculty two-thirds of their regular salary.
Senate committee members also asked the ad hoc committee to consider revising the eligibility criteria so more faculty could participate. The current policy makes sabbatical applicable to tenured professors who have served at the University for six consecutive years.
Bales said suggestions were made to open sabbatical to all those who teach full-time, with the exception of temporary faculty.
The Senate will discuss the policy revisions at later meetings before scheduling it for a vote. Final approval rests with the Board of Regents.