The Greatness Game

On leave

Vol. 9 No. 6
May 2007

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The Greatness Game
Strengthening faculty distinction at Emory

On leave

“We have a distinctive institutional culture and history that is what we have to offer in the higher education world, and I don’t want to give that up in order to chase some abstract image of excellence.”

“I think in many ways some of the people who ask why this is this such a big deal are the very ones who are keeping the status quo.”

Faculty in Flux
Opportunities and challenges

The End of Work?
Riding the Retirement Wave

Hard Money/Soft Money
The two cultures



The daily demands of academic life can consume a semester. Academic leave remains essential to faculty development because it offers time. A semester free of departmental commitments can be rejuvenating, so that the faculty member who returns from a leave greets students and colleagues with new ideas and energy.

Emory’s policy on academic leave appears in the Faculty Handbook:

Emory strongly encourages faculty members to take such leaves of absence as may benefit themselves and the university. At intervals of at least six years of continuous service at Emory University, leaves of absence may be granted for a half year on full pay or for a year on half pay. Other leaves of absence may be granted on such terms as may appear justified in individual cases.

Despite what the handbook stipulates, not all departments provide their faculty with leave options. Because the responsibility for implementation rests with individual schools, access to academic leave can vary across divisions, even across departments. Some schools supplement the seventh-year sabbatical with flexible options for short-term or part-time study leave. Others find it difficult to meet even the minimum allowances in the handbook. Variations in resources—and cultures of research—make the implementation of academic leave a challenge. Even faculty at schools that offer leaves sometimes observe that they are not frequent or flexible enough to meet research requirements.

On the books, Emory’s policy on leaves is comparable to that offered by peer institutions. Brown, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, and Rice (among others) provide paid academic leave to faculty every seventh year of service. Many of these institutions give the option of one semester at full pay or two semesters at half pay. Other schools, including Dartmouth, offer a seventh-year sabbatical with two terms at full pay. At Stanford, the length and rate of pay for faculty leaves varies according to a faculty member’s years of experience.

Here at Emory, the “Year of the Faculty” conversations resulted in several suggestions for expanding leave of absence options. Though still in the planning stages, “alternative leave” promises greater agility in obtaining or granting leaves of absence when the time is right. Three options have a particular appeal:

1. House Leaves. Following the model established by Candler School of Theology, house leave would provide a faculty member with one paid semester of course release in order to finish a publication or research project. The faculty member would continue in residence at Emory but would have no classroom responsibilities for the semester.

2. Internal Leaves. This option would release a faculty member from his or her teaching and departmental requirements in order to become a “visiting professor” in a different department at Emory. The leave could last for one or two semesters. It also could entail an exchange of visiting faculty, so that if a faculty member in psychology spent a semester in the School of Law, a faculty member from law also could spend a semester participating in psychology.

3. External Leaves. Shorter than a regular leave, the paid external leave would allow a faculty member to be absent from the university anywhere from two weeks to two months in order to participate in special projects or research at another location.

4. Academic leave is intended to encourage high levels of intellectual inquiry. At critical junctures in a career, a hiatus allows for concentrated scholarship. Though there are obstacles to expanding Emory’s leave options—in particular, locating suitable replacements poses a challenge—the benefits that accrue to the faculty member make removing these barriers worth the effort.—S.B.