The cohort of faculty tenured this year will be the first group eligible to take advantage of the College's new sabbatical policy, which the Board of Trustees voted to approve on April 6, 2010.
The enhanced sabbatical policy is composed of two alterations to the College's existing policy. First, newly-tenured faculty will be eligible for a post-tenure sabbatical in the second year of their assistant professorship. Second, the enhanced policy will allow tenured professors one semester of sabbatical with full pay following 10 semesters of service, instead of the current 12.
The Board of Trustees voted to implement the enhanced sabbatical policy in time for the faculty tenured on July 1, 2010 to take advantage of the new stipulations. For now, only the first part of the enhanced policy is being put into action; the reduction of sabbatical requirements from six years to five years of service awaits sufficient endowment, which the Board projected might be available by 2014.
Dean of Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd said the impetus behind the post-tenure leave in the second year following a tenure appointment is a unique innovation of the College. The period of leave is strategically placed to support newly-tenured faculty as they transition into a new stage of their careers.
"Immediately after tenure you've completed big piece of work," Judd said. The post-tenure leave "allows somebody to start the next stage of research to sustain them through the first years of an associate professorship."
The new leave will be crucial in helping associate professors position their scholarly work so that upon returning to Bowdoin the following year, they would be able to continue their research while at the same time performing the increased administrative and teaching duties of tenured professors.
Assistant Professor of Government Laura Henry will become an associate professor after her tenure officially begins in July.
"I feel very fortunate to be one of the first beneficiaries of the new sabbatical leave policy," Henry wrote in an e-mail to the Orient. "I think that these leaves allow faculty to engage deeply with their research in the field, in the lab or in the archives for an extended period, and then to publish broadly to share their findings."
Henry said she will use her junior leave to pursue several projects that will build on her past research in Russia.
In a follow-up e-mail to the Orient, Judd wrote that "the enhancement of the sabbatical policy does not represent any changes to our tenure policies."
The post-tenure leave will continue the trend of long-term career development that Judd said the College aims to support.
The first leave in the sequence is a pre-tenure, "junior" leave that is allowed to assistant professors following their reappointment to the College.
Judd said, "Junior leave is about helping people start leg work to prepare for tenure."
The new sabbatical policy would not alter existing sabbatical enhancements, including the junior leave, competitive leave supplements, or the chair compensation policy. Over the course of last year, the Government and Faculty Affairs Committee worked with Judd to devise the new policy, which was then approved by the Board of Trustees.
The enhanced sabbatical policy was one of the chief goals of the College's capital campaign, as it was widely recognized that Bowdoin's peer schools had policies that far exceeded the College's existing provisions.
Judd outlined two primary motivations behind the enhanced policy, the first being that the changes were necessary to bring the College up to par with peer institutions.
"Many of our peers have more generous sabbatical policies," said Judd. "When asking people to be scholar-teachers [at Bowdoin], you have to think about [schools like] Williams, Wellesley and Wesleyan—their sabbatical policy is twice as generous as ours. That's a huge difference."
Henry said, "the College is demonstrating that it values and supports faculty research. This kind of policy will allow Bowdoin to compete with the best ranked educational institutions to recruit new faculty, ultimately enhancing the College's reputation and the students' experience as well."
Secondly, Judd cited the College's commitment to long-term faculty development. She said that the post-doctoral leave would improve "career development over the long haul...[and make] sure that people have the opportunity to refresh themselves at a really important moment in their career."
"We were really creative about this policy...this is a moment that you help someone to the next stage of their career," Judd added.
The post-doctoral leave will allow newly-tenured professors to sustain their research upon returning to Bowdoin and to continue to develop their connections with previous institutions.
Judd said the leave is in part about maintaining "connections beyond the institution that come back for the students...to balance new administrative demands without being overwhelmed."
The post-tenure leave will allow professors to further develop their body of work in a way that would expand Bowdoin's influence in the wider academic sphere, enhancing its connection with graduate schools and promoting faculty members' dual role of scholar-teachers, Judd said.
Funding for the new sabbatical policy comes largely from a challenge grant from the Mellon Foundation, which includes both a bridge grant of $700,000 to support the enhancement and an endowment grant of $1 million that the College must match with a $2 million commitment.
The College's development team is responsible for gathering the remaining funds for the program, which made it possible to implement the first portion of the much-needed sabbatical enhancement plan this year.
"It's a conversation that started early in the capital campaign, and the gratification [among professors] is noticeable," said Judd. "People are encouraged that we were able to raise the support during a difficult time."
The second portion of the plan, the reduction of sabbatical intervals from six years to five years, awaits further endowment support.
In a memo on Sabbatical Policy to the Board of Trustees, Judd stated that the fundraising goal the second stage of the enhanced program is $9 million, of which $7.9 million has already been committed. Judd estimated that by 2013 or 2014, the endowment might have sufficient funds to implement the new policy.
Once the second part of the new plan is implemented, Judd said the Department of Academic Affairs will have to work extremely carefully to manage the overlap of professors eligible for sabbaticals under the six-year plan and the new five-year plan.
Part of the reason for the delay is also that "it would be incredibly disruptive to the College if one fifth of the faculty eligible is for sabbatical," said Judd.
Judd also said that the reaction from the cohort of faculty members who just missed eligibility for the new sabbatical policy was "bittersweet," but that professors "are encouraged that we were able to raise the support during a difficult time."
The implementation of the enhanced sabbatical policy marks significant progress in the College's effort to support faculty development and increase its influence in the wider sphere of academia.
Judd emphasized the importance of the policy change, regardless of the delay in implementing parts of it.
"I think it's tremendous that the board showed their support for the faculty in this way...it's a very important statement," said Judd.