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October 15, 1998

Sabbaticals take a sabbatical at Johnstown campus next year

Faculty at Pitt's Johnstown campus won't be allowed to take sabbaticals next year.

UPJ's administration imposed the no-sabbaticals policy to avoid a faculty shortfall, campus president Albert Etheridge told the University Times. UPJ will lose four of its 130 full-time teaching faculty during the current academic year and 11 more next year through the University's faculty early retirement incentive plan, campus officials said.

"The issue is two-fold: serving our students by making sure we have enough faculty to teach courses, and secondly, managing our budget," Etheridge said.

UPJ's five academic division chairpersons concurred with the plan to suspend sabbaticals for one year — "and for one year only, to get us beyond these early retirements," Etheridge said. The policy was announced to campus faculty last week.

Etheridge said an average of four UPJ faculty members have taken sabbaticals during each of the four years he has been campus president. At least two professors had planned to request sabbaticals for next year, he said.

"That's why we made a point of announcing this policy early in the current academic year, so people would have plenty of warning," Etheridge said.

UPJ professor Sheldon Clare protested the sabbatical on sabbaticals during the Oct. 12 Senate Council meeting.

Clare said a number of Johnstown faculty had asked him to bring the policy to the attention of Pitt senior administrators. He described sabbaticals as a basic faculty right.

Chancellor Mark Nordenberg and Provost James Maher said they hadn't heard of UPJ's policy and weren't aware of any other Pitt unit with a blanket suspension of sabbaticals. Nordenberg welcomed Clare's offer to provide the administration with details of the policy.

Maher said he couldn't comment specifically on the Johnstown campus situation until he'd looked into it further, but noted that sabbaticals are approved individually at the discretion of deans and campus presidents.

"Any request for a sabbatical that any dean or president sends to my office has to be accompanied by a statement that he can accommodate the teaching needs of the unit within his budget while allowing that sabbatical," the provost said.

"I'll reserve judgment until after I've learned more and seen the materials Professor Clare plans to send, but so far I'm not hearing anything that sounds as if the Johnstown campus is making any greater sacrifices than other units are being asked to make." Pitt's early retirement incentive pays participants one and a half times their salaries for the first 12 months after they leave the University.

"We've had quite a challenge finding the funds to pay one and a half times the [early retirees'] salary and then replace them as teachers," Maher told Senate Council. "What we've done is return 25 percent of the faculty member's salary to the [retiree's] unit to help hire temporary replacements. The remainder of those salaries will be needed in addition to other funds to pay the one and a half times the salary for those 12 months.

"That does not in any sense mean that, once retiring faculty have been paid what they've contracted for in the early retirement plan, the unit's budget will remain at that low level," Maher said.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 31 Issue 4

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