December 9, 2013
OSWEGO, N.Y. – Obtaining sabbatical leave at SUNY Oswego requires a lengthy process, but it’s questionable whether it’s sufficient when there are too few professors to teach a sufficient amount of class sections.
An example of a scenario where there are too few professors left to teach the needed sections of classes is the spring 2014 semester for students of the honors program.
Lorrie Clemo is the provost and vice president for academic affairs at SUNY Oswego. Her office is one of the main figures in deciding if professors who request sabbatical leave receive it.
“Faculty must complete a sabbatical proposal that includes a full description of the work/projects they will be engaged in during the leave period,” Clemo said. “The proposal includes a detailed description of how the work completed during the sabbatical will benefit the college through new program development, production of new knowledge, curriculum revisions, integration of new pedagogies, etc. The proposals are reviewed and approved at four levels including departmental chair, dean, provost and president.”
Robert Moore is the director of the honors program at SUNY Oswego. The honors program currently lacks a sufficient number of American history professors to teach one of its core freshman class requirements, partially because of the sheer number of American history professors on sabbatical leave.
“The honors program strives to attract the highest quality teachers to the program,” Moore said. “They all demonstrate a deep commitment to teaching and to challenging students with rigorous curriculum.”
One of these professors is Elizabeth Schmitt, an economics professor who also teaches the social sciences class for the honors program.
“Under SUNY policies, every seven years faculty are eligible to apply [for sabbatical],” Schmitt said. “I joined Oswego in 1995. I had a sabbatical in 2002, but I waited to apply this time around because I was in the middle of other responsibilities.”
The process that professors must go through before going on sabbatical is complicated and detailed.
“The application is a 2-3 page proposal of the projects to be completed while on sabbatical and discussing how the leave with make me a better teacher/scholar, benefiting the institution,” Schmitt said. “When any faculty applies for sabbatical, the department chair writes a letter of support describing how the faculty responsibilities will be covered. This includes advising, teaching and any administrative responsibilities.”
The process is not only lengthy on behalf of the faculty member applying for sabbatical leave, but also for the people involved in the decision-making process. There is a certain amount of thought and consideration that goes into the planning and acceptance of the requests from each department.
“When chairs support sabbatical requests they carefully balance the department’s ability to deliver the curriculum in the absence of the full-time faculty member and the replacement faculty member during the sabbatical period,” Clemo said. “It would not be expected that an adjunct or visiting faculty member covering for a sabbatical would be available to teach in the honors program given the select nature of these teaching assignments. Chairs and deans carefully consider these consequences when they recommend sabbatical leaves.”
Among Moore’s responsibilities is the selection of professors to teach the different sections of honors core requirement classes. This is a much harder job when the pool of professors that he is able to select from are so few that there are only enough to cover the history department’s class section needs.
The biggest shortage of professors for the honors program is with the American history department, Moore said.
The honors program is not completely blameless in the matter of honors freshmen getting into the core classes they require for their first year. With new program requirements, the staff was not sure how many sections to schedule, and they miscalculated the number of sections, Moore said.
Even with the staff’s miscalculation, the number of American history professors left to teach the American intellectual heritage class for honors freshmen was not sufficient for the needs of the program’s students. Too many professors from the department are on sabbatical for there to be enough to satisfy the honors program’s needs in addition to the department’s need.
Schmitt offered an explanation for how this could happen.
“… What likely happens here is that interdisciplinary obligations are often not considered,” Schmitt said. “In a program like honors or women’s studies, they have no faculty of their own, but depend on other department instructor resources. When these resources are tight, interdisciplinary needs often get placed behind other pressing responsibilities in the major, cognates and general education.”
Whether this explanation is the reason for the shortage or not, this lengthy process did not properly address this problem for the coming semester. The process was insufficient for the honors program’s needs.
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