No Rest for the Learned: Professor Sabbaticals Stir Controversy

Posted on: Friday, September 4th, 2009
Posted in: Sabbatical Shuffle, Blog | Leave a comment

Seems some things just can’t stay sacred.  As this NYT blog story shows, even the college sabbatical is coming under fire.  Why?  Cost, of course—as people bemoan the ever-increasing expense of education.  This post brought hundreds of responses by folks on all sides of the argument. 
Here’s a taste of the sweet-sour sabbatical dispute.   First, NYT writer Jack Kadden discusses comments by the president of Lafayette College, Daniel Weiss, who defends two practices that seem to infuriate critics of the high cost of college: sabbaticals for professors and the growth of non-faculty staff.  Weiss says:
What parents should be looking for is the opportunity for their children to have their lives transformed by what happens inside the classroom and out of it.  And that can’t come without access to faculty who have had the opportunity to recharge their own intellectual reservoirs.”
And here are just a few comments…
Most professors have no business going on “sabbaticals” at all and certainly not every six years.”
Sabbatical at most places is not a year but a semester, and faculty are expected to do research and, at some institutions, provide evidence of production. Hm, pretty cushy!”
As for the sabbatical, of course the root is from sabbath, or rest. Fields were allowed to lie fallow every seven years so that they would be more productive. (The extension of this is the jubilee, which is the year following seven sabbaticals, when sins and debts are forgiven and all may start anew.) It’s not a new idea, by the way, and many institutions other than universities award them; I can’t see how it can be figured into the equation of the current cost of tuition.”
As for this culture critic, I say let those profs take a break; the good ones work very, very hard.  But of course, I say let us ALL take a break—if at all possible—in any and every way we can manage. 
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