Cutting off your nose to spite your face: The academic edition.

7 12 2010

In these trying economic times, apparently sabbaticals are just too expensive to tolerate:

Under pressure to cut costs, state universities and lawmakers across the nation are going after one of the oldest traditions in the academic world: the professor’s cherished sabbatical.

Professors often use the paid breaks from teaching to write books, develop new courses or collaborate with colleagues around the world. But the practice is increasingly being questioned by critics who say it offers little more than a paid vacation at a time when other public employees are being furloughed or laid off.

Read the whole article for a wonderful example of false equivalency. One side says this, the other side says that. Unfortunately, one side of this issue is well-informed and the other isn’t. Take this line, for example:

Canceling sabbaticals saves money because schools do not have to hire temporary instructors to take over some classes. But it also risks losing grant money and productivity.

Sabbaticals make universities money. I strongly suspect in the sciences, grants can make universities lots and lots of money, but why let fiscal reality get in the way of a good stereotype?

In my case, when I’m up for a sabbatical again, I can ask for either a year at half pay or a semester at full pay. If I apply for a year, I can be replaced by contingent faculty for a fraction of half of what I’d be making otherwise and the university pockets the difference. If I ask for a semester and the administration can’t afford the extra cost of replacement faculty my application will be turned down. If I ask for a year, the dean will shake my hand and wish me good luck. Guess which one I’ll be asking for when I put in my application next year for the year after that? And by the way, if I can’t get funding to make up for half my salary, I’m not going anywhere.

If a system works well for both parties, why do people who have no idea what they’re talking about have to butt in?


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