Sabbaticals Time for Research, Renewal

Article excerpt

The concept of sabbatical is a puzzling one for people outside of academia.

"Early in the history of the United States, when universities were operated by religious organizations and faculty members were ministers, sabbatical leaves were a time to replenish one's spirit," said Paul Sharp, University of Oklahoma president emeritus and a scholar in the area of higher education. "Sabbaticals have evolved into a time used by professors to conduct research and renew themselves professionally."

Business, industry and government often assume the responsibility and costs for the continuing educational and professional development of their employees. But the special nature of higher education, with hundreds of disciplines represented on each campus, makes professional growth the responsibility of individual faculty members rather than the institution, Sharp said.

Sabbatical leaves have been an established practice for centuries at universities in the Western world, noted Sharp, now a regents professor of history and higher education at OU.

A sabbatical leave is not a vacation, he emphasized. Sabbatical leaves are awarded to faculty members who have a worthy research activity or other special opportunity for professional growth, Sharp said.

At OU, a tenured professor may apply after six years of service for a sabbatical leave of two semesters at half pay or one semester at full pay. Such leaves are seldom automatic, and each proposal for sabbatical leave is evaluated on merit, with the impact of a sabbatical leave on the professor's department taken into consideration before it is awarded. An OU law professor recently was granted a sabbatical leave at the request of the Oklahoma Legislature to assist in redrafting the state's criminal code. An OU economics professor devoted his sabbatical to researching energy economics. …