For the 2017-18 academic year, more than 50 professors are eligible to take leave. In the last five years, no more than 34 professors have been on leave at one time.

Sabbaticals are a key element to maintaining an intellectual community at any institution of higher education. A year of leave gives faculty the opportunity to conduct intense, high-caliber research and continue to refine expertise in their area. As a result of new research, faculty can become better professors and bring new ideas into their courses, which helps develop a more dynamic curriculum. Moreover, strong faculty research can bring more grants to Bowdoin, as well as attract distinguished faculty and more highly engaged students. Investments in sabbaticals pay off. 

Sabbaticals provide a net positive for any learning community. However, they are not without negative ramifications for students. When professors go on sabbatical, the College has to replace them with visiting professors to fill the voids within departments. While visiting professors can provide the same quality of teaching as their full-time counterparts, it’s difficult for students to form long-lasting connections with them due to the temporary nature of their positions. 

One of the advantages of a school like Bowdoin is the relationships students build with their professors, as both teachers and mentors. Since visiting professors cannot officially serve as advisors, the opportunity to be a formal mentor throughout a student’s Bowdoin career is lost. Even when informal mentor relationships are developed, a visiting professorship lasts only a few years at most. 

Though such inconveniences pale in comparison to the overall benefits of sabbaticals, the disruptions are amplified if such a large number of professors are absent from campus. Small departments suffer when such a high proportion of faculty are away—it places a burden on both the students and the department as a whole. 

The administration has a responsibility to better regulate sabbatical leave in a way that benefits everyone. At the very least, the College should make sure that individual departments do not disproportionately feel the impact of professors on sabbatical leave.

In addition, more regulations should be placed on the faculty with regards to delaying sabbatical leave. This academic year, 14 of the 45 faculty eligible for leave chose to postpone their sabbatical, which drastically increased the number of professors eligible for the 2017-2018 school year. The administration should place a cap on the number of professors that can postpone their leave in a given year and be more diligent about the future impact of the number of postponements. 

Faculty and administration should be more transparent about long-term sabbatical plans. The administration is aware of the schedule for eligibility and there is no compelling reason why it is kept hidden from students. This would be valuable information for students planning their academic careers at Bowdoin. Releasing the information would come at no cost to those involved but would have a positive impact on both students and departments.

Sabbaticals help a learning institution thrive—there is no question about it. But the College should maintain as much stability as possible for students by trying to keep the number of faculty on leave at a consistent level and being transparent about eligibility for leave.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Marina Affo, Julian Andrews, Steff Chavez, Grace Handler, Meg Robbins and Joe Seibert.