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UI suspends two programs to increase other sabbaticals

BY NINA EARNEST | MAY 13, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa officials decided to suspend two faculty grant programs for the third-straight year in order to increase other sabbatical awards for the 2012-13 academic year.

UI Associate Provost for Faculty Tom Rice sent an e-mail to professors Wednesday stating the UI would suspend the Faculty and Global Scholar Award Programs after consulting with Faculty Senate officers. But the UI plans to award more Career Development Awards, which are available for one or two semester-long postings.

"As the economy continues to improve, we look forward to awarding more developmental assignments to qualified and deserving faculty," Rice wrote in the e-mail.

In March, Gov. Terry Branstad signed legislation limiting professional-development assignments — also known as sabbaticals — to 3 percent of faculty at each state university.

The law is expected to take effect June 30, 2012.

Rice's e-mail explained the UI could grant 66 assignments — as a combination of Career Development, Faculty Scholar, and Global Scholar Awards — under the new legislation.

The number of available awards is roughly 30 fewer than was possible before the economic downturn.

Faculty Scholar Awards release faculty recipients from half of their teaching, advising, and service obligations for three years to complete extended research, and the Global Scholar Award offers the opportunity to research international topics for one semester each year for two years.

Richard Fumerton, president of the Faculty Senate, said Rice discussed the decision with Faculty Senate leadership before deciding to suspend the Faculty and Global Scholar programs.

Fumerton said he disagrees with the cap. But offering only Career Development Awards could reach to a wider range of faculty members, he said.

"You'd like to be able to win your recruiting faculty, you'd like to have all these tools at your disposal," Fumerton said.

And he said the honors faculty receive from their sabbatical research positively affects student outcomes.

"All of these are translating not just in the prestige for faculty and the university, but a degree that's worth a lot more for the students," Fumerton said.

History Professor Katherine Tachau — who received a Faculty Scholar Award in 1989 — said the now-suspended awards can give faculty the opportunity to complete research projects that will earn them fellowships or other grants.

And such occurrences can increase the UI's prestige, she said.

"It's something that few other universities can match, so they have been very good at helping us attract excellent faculty and keep them here, where Iowa students get to study with them," Tachau said.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he commended the university for continuing to use sabbaticals to promote the UI and for working with and listening to the Legislature.

And Jacoby said he wanted to make sure some leaves were not ignored because of the cap level.

"It's important at the legislative level to make sure we review it every year, to make sure that we're not missing something," Jacoby said.

Regent Robert Downer said he found it best to allow the administration to decide how to distribute the sabbaticals.

"It seems to me that if they stay within their legislation, in the absence of some demonstration that this was not fulfilling the purpose for which it was intended, I would be inclined to go along with the approach that is being taken," Downer said.


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