Phi Beta Cons

On Sabbaticals

A couple of responses to my previous item on sabbaticals:

Technically, this is true in that most professors at research universities are not teaching classes during the summer. However, it is also true that in general professors at research universities do not get paid for the summer. They typically get 10 month contracts, with the understanding that the income can be supplemented during the summer in various ways, e.g., grant support or teaching a summer class.

And this:

1. No, professors do not have the summer off. There’s this little thing about publications. Here’s what a professor thinks when summer comes “ahh, finally, without those courses in the way I’ll have a chance at really getting some writing done.”
2. At most liberal arts schools, professors get a sabbatical about 1 semester out of every seven years. Two weeks/yr. vacation over seven years adds up to fourteen weeks, or, about the same amount of time as one semester (15-16 weeks). So, professors just take their vacation time once every seven years. Professors at universities get more sabbatical time, but at those schools research is more important than undergraduate instruction anyway. More sabbatical time makes perfect sense at those places since it allows professors to do exactly what you want them to do: research and publish.

As I said earlier, I don’t have a strong view on sabbaticals, and I’m sure that in many cases sabbaticals lead to more scholarship and publications. But I certainly don’t think that sabbaticals are necessary for either–great scholars will publish whether they’re on sabbatical or not. And I can certainly understand why parents who pay tuition bills at public universities may think that there should be more professors in the classroom and fewer pieces of hyperspecialized scholarship.

John J. Miller is the national correspondent for National Review and the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. His new book is Reading Around: Journalism on Authors, Artists, and Ideas.

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