Sunday, December 14, 2008

Faculty Sabbaticals vs. The Jobs Bank

On this post, CD regular Walt G. comments: "I see that tenured professors can get a sabbatical leave (jobs-bank type leave) for six months every six years of employment (Source: The University of Michigan SPG 201.30-2). Accordingly, every 12 years they can get one year off work with full pay and benefits (except paid vacation): that’s 8½ % of the time they get paid for not working."

1. According to the University of Michigan Standard Practice Guide (SPG), "Members of the regular instructional staff who have completed six years of service in regular professorial ranks at the University are eligible for a sabbatical leave." That means that eligible faculty who complete six years of service would be eligible to take a sabbatical leave in his or her seventh year, and over a 14-year period would receive one year total sabbatical leave.

2. From the SPG: "Application for sabbatical leave shall be made in writing (using Form J) and submitted to the Dean of the unit concerned not later than February 1 preceding the appointment year within which the leave is desired. The application must be accompanied by a statement of a well-considered plan for the sabbatical which includes its significance as a contribution to the professional effectiveness of the applicant and the best interest of the University."

3. Further, "Upon completion of the sabbatical leave, the recipient shall submit a report of the results of the leave within 90 days following return from leave. The report shall be submitted to the chairman who will acknowledge receipt of the report and forward a copy of the acknowledgment memo to the dean and the Staff Records Office. The report shall include:

a) An account of activities during the leave, including travel itineraries, institutions visited and persons consulted.

b) A statement of progress made on the sabbatical leave program as proposed in the application and an explanation of any significant changes made in the program.

c) An appraisal of the relationship between the results obtained and those anticipated in the sabbatical leave program statement.

Bottom Line: There seems to be some general misunderstanding about sabbatical leaves for faculty at research institutions. As the application guidelines above suggest, sabbaticals are not paid vacations, they are probably better described as "research leaves from teaching" for professional development. Therefore, any comparisons of: a) sabbatical leaves from teaching to focus on scholarly research for a semester, to b) "working" in a "jobs" bank (i.e. playing cards or reading newspapers) sometimes for ten years or more with almost full pay, are a real stretch.

Faculty time at research universities is allocated among teaching, research and service, but what often happens is that teaching and service become so time-consuming that it detracts from scholarly research. Having a semester every seven years without any obligations for teaching and service allows research-oriented faculty an opportunity to devote full-time attention to research projects that are often impossible to complete with teaching and service obligations, e.g. write a book, or travel internationally to collect scientific data or conduct scientific studies, etc.

Here's one way to think about faculty sabbaticals. If you're thinking about attending graduate school (especially a Ph.D. program), I would think you would want a degree from ONLY schools that had faculty sabbatical leaves, because it's those universities that recognize and reward scholarly research, and it's faculty actively engaged in research who are best qualified to teach graduate classes in graduate programs. If you don't think faculty sabbatical leaves for research are a good idea, then you'll probably be left with choices like the University of Phoenix, Capella Universities, and NOVA Southeastern, etc.


At 12/14/2008 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stand corrected: A sabbatical leave is once every 14 years.

I would also like to point out that the jobs' bank also had lofty goals when it was first started:
1) It was designed after the Japanese lifetime employment loyalty to employees.
2) It was a management suggestion to further their agenda towards automation.
3) It was supposed to be used to release line employees for training.
4) Employees not needed to replace line employees for training were supposed to help the community.
5) It was envisioned as temporary in a cyclical industry.

So what happened?
1) It was publically vilified as a union ploy to retain lazy workers.
2) Management brought in the automation (as they should have).
3) Line workers were not released for training (world class (benchmark) training requirements are 80-hours-per-year, we average less than 16). Why management will not use workers they are already paying confuses the UAW.
4) Employees were not released to go into the community. Instead, management set workers in a room that was too hot one day and too cold the next day, and did not allow them to leave.
5) This is the real problem: the industry downturn was not cyclical. It hampered business decisions on how many cars to make and changed labor costs from variable to fixed. That’s why it was radically by the UAW and GM in the 2007 contract and on its way out as we speak.

I realize it’s a stretch to compare the jobs bank to sabbaticals. But at the same time, decisions are made in different occupations that require more than a surface understanding. As someone who often takes the “other” side on the blog, I think that is my job to point that out. Maybe bringing up sabbaticals was a hit below the belt, but an open discussion always clears the air. Your readers probably know as little about sabbaticals as they do about the original intention of the jobs bank.

At 12/14/2008 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a supervisor getting a Ph.D. degree from NOVA Southeastern. I did not realize that it ranked with the other two you mentioned :)

At 12/14/2008 11:57 AM, Blogger bob wright said...

Well done Walt.

At 12/14/2008 2:03 PM, Blogger wcw said...

WaltG, bringing up sabbaticals (and summer vacations, and teaching loads) is anything but below-the-belt. You're not saying our host doesn't work hard for his pay -- a quick skim of his vita confirms that he does. You're noting the hypocrisy of his wishing pre-Victorian working conditions on autoworkers, while defending his own, more-enlightened ones.

How does the line go? It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

What's puzzling is that our host's salary does not.

At 12/14/2008 3:44 PM, Blogger bobble said...

speaking of bloated 'industries' college tuition increases have far exceeded the CPI (and even the cost of healthcare) for many years.

professor perry, maybe you need to look at your own 'industry' and try to figure out why it's product pricing is so out of control.

in addition to sabbaticals, here are a few more 'benefits' that UM professors receive:

1)tenure (you can't be fired?). i don't think even the UAW has that one.
2)"terminal furlough" years. one paid year off as a 'consultant' when you retire.
3)severance pay equal to 1 year's salary.

how do these add to the cost of education?

At 12/14/2008 5:15 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

Note: At the University of Michgian, individuals appointed on or after January 1, 1984, are not eligible for the terminal furlough year. That program was discontinued 25 years ago.

At 12/14/2008 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tuition has increased, in part, due to competition between schools for students. The schools build better dorms, gym facilities, libraries, etc in order just to stay where they are in the rankings. They offer marginal classes to attract students who are looking for that sort of thing. In addition, they have to spend much more on other auxilliary services to keep the kids in school (or they will lose money and hurt in the ranking).

Another reason tuition has increased so much is that they are charging what the market will bear. This is particularly true of the elite universities. There are limited spots but basically unlimited demand. It's natural that the price will rise.

It should also be pointed out that regardless of the tuition raises no student pays the same as another student (except those with parents that are most well off). The 'list' price of an education is almost never what a student with need ends up paying. I went to a 43k/year school for about 14k (including loans) and was happy with the results.

At 12/14/2008 10:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"1) It was designed after the Japanese lifetime employment loyalty to employees.
2) It was a management suggestion to further their agenda towards automation"

It was designed by the union to do that. It was a management suggestion because without it the union would not support automation. The management 'agreed' to this so that they could compete with other companies who aren't shackled by the UAW.

So basically they bought of the union so that they could continue to offer a modern competitive vehicle. They have continued to buy off the union with incentives to leave. In a normal industry you would just be laid off.

At 12/15/2008 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where are you people getting the idea that everybody in the Jobs bank just sits around all day?

You are required to move to another plant as needed, take some form of education at your expense, or volunteer x amount of hours at an approved organization. Else, you STAY in a building, waiting for the next job to pop up. You might live in Flint and find yourself in Wixom for 3 days, then be placed in Lansing for a shift.

Also, the drain on the States would be significant. You would have people taking unemployment benefits, the state taking a loss in tax revenue.

It was a system that had enough upside to be put into place, and is a piss poor scapegoat for what amounts to be bad engineering and clumsy top level executive decisions.

At 12/15/2008 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's an excerpt from the 1984 UAW/GM contract where the jobs bank started. You will notice it says nothing about employees sitting in a room, which was strategically regulated either too hot or too cold every other day, and had a black and white TV that only received one channel and a lot of static because there was no antenna. The volume on the TV was turned all the way up and not was able to be turned down, too. Does this sound like a good place to be to you? The loud volume is a tactic used against prisoners in places like Quntanimo Bay.


(Continued from Page 2)
Each local JOB Security Committee is to establish the procedure for making assignments of workers in the Bank at that 'location. Using that procedure, the assignment for a worker in the Bank may be:
I) in a training program:
2) a replacement to facilitate the
training of another worker;
3) a job opening at another GM
plant, provided there is no worker
on layoff from that plant with recall
or rehire rights ancl the job opening
has been offered to all Area Hire
4) within or outside the bargain
ing unit and may be non-traditional;
5) an existing opening, or
6) others consistent with the pur
poses of the Program.

Bank assignments will be consi
dered temporary and not subject to
provisions governing permanent fill
ing of vacancies or the application
of shift preference, except for assign
ments to fill openings resulting from
volume increases. The assignments
will maintain the distinction between
skilled trades and non-skilled assign

At 12/15/2008 1:59 PM, Blogger save_the_rustbelt said...

I'm familiar with the sabbatical processes at several universities, and I have yet to see any institution with a real rigorous evaluation process.

Some faculty do important work, largely because they want to do so.
Many of my friends see it as a paid vacation to "recharge my batteries."

I have never seen any organization ask for the money back because the prof did very little work.

So the value of the process is entirely up to the conscience of the individual faculty member.


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