This story in yesterday's Chronicle, about how the University of Georgia has suddenly canceled some faculty research leaves for this Fall semester, has really been on my mind. First, of course, is my sense of sympathetic outrage on the behalf of those faculty who thought they were on leave this semester and now suddenly have been told that they will be teaching next week. And on behalf of the administrators who have to find/create courses for them to teach, and the students in hastily-put together courses taught by someone who thought she'd be writing her book. That's really not an ideal learning situation.
I understand about budgetary cuts, and how research leaves might seem like something extraneous that could be sliced. But although the Chronicle article didn't specify which colleges/departments were being affected, such cuts typically affect faculty in the humanities much more than they do faculty in the grant-supported sciences, since we have fewer opportunities to take time away from teaching and put it towards research. So there's that concern. And what's even more frustrating (in my sympathetic response) is that the cancellations are being unevenly applied. According to the article, some faculty who had planned to be doing research in other locations for the semester are still being granted their leaves under a "hardship" clause. So if you already have your research completed and need writing time, or if your research materials are available to you through interlibrary loan, your leave is taken away.
I'm identifying very strongly with the Georgia faculty affected by these cuts because I have a one-semester faculty research leave for Fall 2008. My university, like Georgia, doesn't have sabbaticals. And in fact our leave program is only for our college and is thus contingent upon the good sense and good graces of our Dean. It's something that could be suddenly taken away from us at any point.
And I'm spending my leave semester here. I don't need to go do archival research anywhere else for this project. I'm presenting at a conference in the fall, but otherwise I'll be here -- I need uninterrupted reading and writing time in order to get this book written. As is also true at Georgia, we get a one-semester leave at full salary or a full year at half salary. Economically and logistically it really wouldn't be feasible for me to go somewhere else. And besides, I don't want or need to for my research. So I've very strongly identified with those faculty mentioned in the article who suddenly find themselves teaching when their colleagues who planned to travel still are on leave. In my department, it's usually only faculty who are married to high-paid professionals who can afford to take the year at half-salary and spend it abroad. Those with family responsibilities or smaller incomes usually spend their leaves at home.
I've been maintaining a regular gratitude practice for several months -- expressing my gratitude for the blessings in my life each morning and evening. And the luxury of my research leave has definitely been on that list. But unlike my yoga practice, for instance, which is also on that list, I also feel a sense of responsibility and some anxiety about my leave. Will I have enough to show for it? am I using my time in the best way possible? And now I kind of feel like not only am I writing for my own reasons, but on behalf of those whose leaves were cancelled.