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Sabbatical Leaves

FAQ's on Sabbatical Leaves

Department chairs, deans and members of the University Leaves Committee, i.e., all of those who review sabbatical proposals at the University, are often asked questions about various topics related to the sabbatical program. Some of the questions can be answered by direct reference to policy statements in the University Handbook (3-17 and 3-18). However, questions are also raised about matters not specifically covered in the policy but for which faculty needs some guidance. The following paragraphs attempt to provide succinct answers to some often-asked questions.

What is the Rationale for a Sabbatical System?

Sabbaticals are basically a form of faculty development. The University is making an investment in the development of its most critical human resource. What the University expects to receive in return is a better, more productive faculty member. A sabbatical program is a larger version of what is done in its summer development programs, the internal research funding program, and similar faculty development programs. It is “larger” in the sense that it requires more financial resources to support it, provides more time for the faculty member, and, consequently, has greater expected results. The faculty member on sabbatical is devoting full time to professional development activities.

What do reviewers look for in a proposal?

Reviewers of sabbatical proposals are looking at proposals from three points of view. First, the scope and quality of each proposal are reviewed. Is the proposal dealing with a substantial topic, one that merits release from all other duties? Has the proposer adequately spelled out the details of how the wok is to be accomplished, what the intended outcomes are, and so forth? With respect to this
aspect of the review, it should be noted that sabbatical proposals are sometimes returned to the faculty member for clarification or expansion before the review is completed.  Second, has adequate provision been made for “covering” the faculty member’s normal instructional and service responsibilities? Although the department chair and dean are concerned with the quality of a leave proposal, they are also obliged to meet instructional and service needs in their units. The University Leaves Committee, on other hand, deals principally with the issue of quality.  Third, all of the reviewers consider useful suggestions that can be offered to the faculty member about accomplishing the proposed work. They may know of contacts at other institutions or within the University, supplementary grant funds, etc., which would be useful. Comments on these matters are often transmitted to the faculty member when the sabbatical is approved.

What about committee assignments, etc.?

Faculty often offers to continue with intramural service activities during their sabbatical leaves. However, this defeats the purpose for which the leave is given.  Except in very unusual circumstances, faculty should disengage themselves completely from these responsibilities so as to devote themselves full time to their sabbatical activities. 

What should be contained in the final report? 

At the conclusion of the sabbatical, a faculty member is required to complete a report of his/her activities and accomplishments and route it through the chairperson, and dean to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.  The report will typically be a brief narrative, which outlines the faculty member’s accomplishments, accompanied by products developed during the sabbatical.  In the case of a research project, the attachments might be drafts of journal articles, book chapters, or grant proposals. In the case of a curriculum development project, the attachments might be new or substantially revised syllabi, new student workbooks or lab manuals, or some similar product.;

Quite apart from the requirement for a report, faculty is encouraged, at the conclusion of the sabbatical, to hold a colloquium or seminar in which results are reported to departmental faculty and/or students. The nature of the audience will be suggested by the type of activity undertaken. It is hoped that faculty will not be bashful about sharing the fruits of their work with their colleagues and students.  The faculty member’s department chair is encouraged to facilitate such presentations by working with the faculty member to set a time and place for the presentation.

Why is there a two-step application process?

The September 15 notice of intent deadline allows chairpersons to take individual leaves into account while building staffing plans and class schedules for the ensuing academic year. The November 5 deadline allows the faculty member eligible for leave added time to prepare a quality proposal.