UI looks for alternative funding for sabbaticals


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As a current bill freezing sabbaticals continues to climb the legislative ladder, University of Iowa officials are examining alternative methods of funding faculty sabbaticals.

This past weekend, members of the UI faculty gathered at the Olberman Center to look for “cost neutral,” or external methods to support the professional-development awards.

At the Tuesday Faculty Council meeting, Faculty Senate President Ed Dove told members about the discussion.

The state Board of Regents approved 58 sabbaticals at its December meeting, and Dove said that if the Senate and Gov. Terry Branstad approve the House-passed 18-month freeze on the development awards, UI officials would seek to find other, external ways to fund the awards.

As the prospect of alternative funding looms, faculty members still back sabbaticals.

“I think it’s always a difficult choice for funders of the state,” said Faculty Council member Jody Murph. “I think [the cuts] would be incredibly shortsighted. Our universities are an investment for the state. Our children are an investment for the state.”

Cost-neutral methods that have been discussed include shifting a professor’s class schedule, which would place more of a burden on her or him during a semester but would save the university from paying someone else to teach a class when the usual instructor is on sabbatical. Faculty also considered external funding options, grants and proposals written to external funding agencies, such as the National Endowment for Humanities.

Dove said officials are drafting a report, which will include a synopsis of the discussions as well as a full review of other universities in the Association of American Universities to see how they are handling the development awards.

Iowa is the only state that has issued cuts for sabbaticals. If legislation passes the Senate and is signed by the governor, the UI would be the only university in the Association of American Universities to have the state government freeze sabbatical funding, Dove said.

On top of freezing sabbaticals and cutting library funding, the House has approved a measure that would cut funding to the state Board of Regents by $15 million for this fiscal year.

There has been no formal discussion yet about any external funding, said Regent Michael Gartner, who said he wished to see the governor’s budget proposals before speculating further.

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said she’s extremely supportive of sabbaticals and she sees the benefits they bring to universities.

“It may not matter [to sabbatical opponents] where it comes from,” she said.

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