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Author Topic: Sabbatical dilemma semseter or full year?  (Read 4406 times)
summers_off
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« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2012, 10:36:39 AM »

I am not sure about the institutional history prior to my joining, but there have been several people who have come and gone (usually at the 3rd year review) during my time here.  To have made it this far has been very challenging, which is why I am running on fumes now.

Glowdart, I am going to speak with the junior colleague to see what hu would be comfortable teaching.  Hu has had teaching experience as a grad student, and might actually be able to cover some courses with less prep than my chair is anticipating.  Especially since hu could be warned now, and would have several months--including the summer--to get ready.  And, of course, I would share all my materials with hu.  If hu could even just pick up one course per semester, it may suffice.

I actually did propose a Spring 14 - Fall 14 sabbatical, but my chair says it is not done here.  I should, however, ask some other senior colleagues if it is never done or rarely done.  That would make a difference in my approach.

Someone once told me that a full year sabbatical is much, much more productive than a semester sabbatical.   Has anyone else experienced that at well?  If it is just an urban legend, I may just have to STFU given the politics of the situation.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2012, 2:30:58 PM »

I only have personally taken 1 year sabbaticals (at a school where semester long sabbaticals are more common).  I can't really say.
I can say that I would be less productive in less time, most likely. But I can't compare apples to oranges and say that  I am more  productive than every faculty member who has done just fine with one semester.

To me, it seems like you shouldn't push this further at this time. Tenure is more important that sabbatical. You can always reconfigure
sabbatical if you get tenure. But you can't re-do tenure if all of this back and forth messes things up.
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daniel_von_flanagan
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« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2012, 8:58:33 PM »

I've been biting my tongue on this, because the situation the OP has been put into makes me furious.  If someone tried to pull this on me, or on a junior faculty member for whom I felt protective, I'd be reading them the riot act.

Research sabbaticals are a fundamental working condition for university faculty, at least in those institutions that are sufficiently serious to have them.  They are part of the fundamental bargain when you take a TT job.  They are also a good deal for the school, since you continue to publish in their name, reinvigorate your research program, refresh yourself, enhance the reputation of your campus, etc, all the while freeing up salary for the school to hire someone to take your place.

No doubt your Chair promised your Dean or Provost that the department would have enough bodies to cover your classes - that is normal.  However, he is apparently too lazy to find a replacement in the vast sea of candidates provided by the glutted PhD market.  Asking you to take a shorter sabbatical (if indeed you were prepared to take a year) is completely unprofessional on his part, especially coupled as it is with the power differential and implied threats.  It is tantamount to asking you to take a 25% pay cut some year when you are working full-time, just because the department has overspent somewhere and needs to find the money.  It is disgraceful.

I actually did propose a Spring 14 - Fall 14 sabbatical, but my chair says it is not done here.
But coercing junior faculty to give up half their hard-earned sabbatical is common?  Seriously?

Quote
Someone once told me that a full year sabbatical is much, much more productive than a semester sabbatical.   Has anyone else experienced that at well? 
This is the case for me, and why I take a full year whether or not I get any kind of support for the unpaid part of my salary.  It takes me time to settle in to the new area and department, time to establish a fruitful research agenda, time to get synchronized with with the colleagues I'm visiting, etc, and then time at the end to frantically get stuff written (or at least started) before I return home.  However, I do have a few colleagues who prefer to take single semesters. - DvF (on sabbatical)
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ruralguy
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« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2012, 12:21:31 PM »

Oh, I also think this Chair sucks. But I don't think the OP has much choice, at least not or now.

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litdawg
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« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2012, 1:01:44 PM »

I recently had my two-quarter sabbatical condensed into a one-quarter sabbatical. This wasn't due to department skullduggery; instead, the funds I saved to make the salary difference are having to be used for a different family expense. So I can only respond to the aspect of this that has to do with a more constricted time for research renewal. I think that in a one-semester sabbatical you could really only educate yourself for the next phase of your research. Such a short period could only be productive in terms of publications if you were using it to consolidate previously explored fields of research.

I would put on my best earnest face and restate the situation to your chair as baldly as possible, ending with, "Do I have that right?" If your tone is factual and not outraged, you'll have the chance to learn if your chair is as much of a manipulating jerk as he/she appears. That's the information you need in order to make the wisest decision.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #20 on: November 19, 2012, 1:41:21 PM »

I think at this stage in the game, that could end up being a serious error.

TENURED professors fight for rights.

Untenured professors "fight" to get tenure.
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litdawg
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« Reply #21 on: November 19, 2012, 1:46:54 PM »

I think at this stage in the game, that could end up being a serious error.

TENURED professors fight for rights.

Untenured professors "fight" to get tenure.

You're quite right that if a person couldn't state the situation in a clear, non-reactive manner the conversation could turn into an unproductive and possibly dangerous fight. Only the OP knows his/her capability to do so.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #22 on: November 19, 2012, 2:42:20 PM »

I guess you have a point, Litdawg.

I don't mean to say that untenured folks should never stand up for themselves,
just that its risky to do so at this juncture, particularly at a dept. where tenure
approval is a little dicey, even for seemingly good cases.
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tuxthepenguin
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« Reply #23 on: November 19, 2012, 3:39:52 PM »

I think at this stage in the game, that could end up being a serious error.

TENURED professors fight for rights.

Untenured professors "fight" to get tenure.

You're quite right that if a person couldn't state the situation in a clear, non-reactive manner the conversation could turn into an unproductive and possibly dangerous fight. Only the OP knows his/her capability to do so.

It will depend more than anything on the chair's personality. From the little information we have, I'm going to say that even bringing up the issue might be problematic.
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summers_off
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« Reply #24 on: November 19, 2012, 5:51:20 PM »

Thank you all for your advice!   I really appreciate your perspectives. 

My dept chair is not so much a jerk as much as he is someone who really doesn't want the chairship, but the only person in the dept that does want the job truly is a jerk (a huge one).   My chair is burnt out himself and he is tired of trying to placate the strong personalities in our department, especially since he dislikes direct conflict.

Money is an issue at our university, and, unlike many fields, my specialty area is one in which finding a full-time replacement would be quite difficult & costly (the job market for faculty in this niche is actually quite good).  So he is right in that staffing my classes will be challenging if I take a full-year sabbatical.

I was thinking of doing some of the leg work for him (asking the junior faculty member which classes hu would be comfortable prepping for next year, trying to find an adjunct or two who can fill the gaps), and then approach him in a problem solving mode:  I want to go on sabbatical & you want classes staffed in a cost effective manner so here are some possible solutions... 

If that goes over like I lead balloon, then I might back off and STFU, but I hate to just drop this just because I am nervous about the tenure decision.  What do you think?
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ruralguy
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« Reply #25 on: November 19, 2012, 6:09:23 PM »

I wouldn't do the advance leg work. Someone is bound to go to the chair and ask 'What the hell is going on?', which is exactly what I would do! If a random faculty member comes to me about covering classes, I'd probably go to the chair almost immediately (ignoring the fact that I am currently the chair!) unless this person was a close friend.
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daniel_von_flanagan
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« Reply #26 on: November 19, 2012, 6:15:41 PM »

My dept chair is not so much a jerk as much as he is someone who really doesn't want the chairship, but the only person in the dept that does want the job truly is a jerk (a huge one).   My chair is burnt out himself and he is tired of trying to placate the strong personalities in our department, especially since he dislikes direct conflict.
Nevertheless, solving this problem in a responsible way is his job.  He doesn't have to be chair.  Expecting you to give up part of something which you've earned over several years, just because you happen to be in a vulnerable position, is unprofessional.  I'd rather have as chair a huge jerk who is otherwise professional. (Someone like me, for example.)

Quote
Money is an issue at our university, and, unlike many fields, my specialty area is one in which finding a full-time replacement would be quite difficult & costly
Money is an issue everywhere.  This replacement issue isn't going away: are you saying that because of your specialty you should never be able to have the same sabbatical rights as someone in another specialty in the same department?

Quote
approach him in a problem solving mode:  I want to go on sabbatical & you want classes staffed in a cost effective manner so here are some possible solutions... 

You've already offered him one solution, breaking the sabbatical into two pieces.  Whatever you suggest to him, this or another solution, you could try to emphasize that you are only asking for what anyone in another specialty could expect to get. - DvF
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tuxthepenguin
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« Reply #27 on: November 19, 2012, 6:19:04 PM »

Thank you all for your advice!   I really appreciate your perspectives. 

My dept chair is not so much a jerk as much as he is someone who really doesn't want the chairship, but the only person in the dept that does want the job truly is a jerk (a huge one).   My chair is burnt out himself and he is tired of trying to placate the strong personalities in our department, especially since he dislikes direct conflict.

Money is an issue at our university, and, unlike many fields, my specialty area is one in which finding a full-time replacement would be quite difficult & costly (the job market for faculty in this niche is actually quite good).  So he is right in that staffing my classes will be challenging if I take a full-year sabbatical.

I was thinking of doing some of the leg work for him (asking the junior faculty member which classes hu would be comfortable prepping for next year, trying to find an adjunct or two who can fill the gaps), and then approach him in a problem solving mode:  I want to go on sabbatical & you want classes staffed in a cost effective manner so here are some possible solutions... 

If that goes over like I lead balloon, then I might back off and STFU, but I hate to just drop this just because I am nervous about the tenure decision.  What do you think?

I don't see anything wrong with telling him you'll ask some of your connections if they know of adjuncts. That would be something more in your expertise, because you're the one with connections in your subfield. At least in my department, asking junior faculty about teaching classes would be a problem, as that is the chair's job.
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lucy_
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« Reply #28 on: November 19, 2012, 9:15:01 PM »

I'm in 100% agreement with DVF; just reading this thread has me incredibly pissed off for you OP!

Sabbaticals are necessary devises to recharge. It is good for the person taking the sabbatical, but equally good for the university. Its an important long term investment; your chair is thinking short term.

I took a year. Was only paid half my salary. Stayed here and got my research done, with my research group, with collaborators. So no way to make up the other half of my salary. The whole year off was so important. Got so much more done that way; was so much more ready to come back after the year.

Sounds like your chair isn't the one trying to strong arm you, rather that he is being strong-armed, from your most recent post. So sounds like he is someone you can work with to work out the year sabbatical, that is good news to hear.

I'd work with him, but work toward a solution that makes everyone happy. Not just the easy solution, but the best solution.

If everyone knows now that you may not be here that year, could the students be instructed to plan to take your courses either this year or in 2 years, at least some of them, so that it won't matter if you aren't around and that no one else can teach the course.

That's what happened for my sabbatical. Some of my colleagues taught some of my courses. And 2 of my courses just weren't taught that year. But I had to agree to having a larger than normal class the year before and the year after my sabbatical. A fine tradeoff for me to be able to get that much needed year.

If the year is what you need to recharge, get your research revitalized, etc, then work with your chair and/or others to make it happen in a way that everyone comes out on top.

Like you said about doing some of the legwork: When I want something, I get all my ducks in a row first, then its harder for them to say no. When they see how much thought I've put into something, and how I've gone out of my way to try to accommodate everyone, they are more likely to work with me.

Sorry you've been put in such a hard spot. As has been said above, your chair (and other senior colleagues) should be trying to protect and support you, not stick it to you!

If someone were doing this to one of my colleagues, I'd be livid!
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helpful
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« Reply #29 on: November 19, 2012, 9:26:26 PM »

Lucy's recent posting makes me glad I have a contract that states the options for sabbaticals, but doesn't require me to have more classes before and after the sabbatical.  And that contract applies to everyone at my campus.
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