A loss here and an addition there

Regina Garcia Cano

Faculty debate the sabbatical cancellation at Senate meeting

President Lester Lefton defended the cancellation of sabbaticals at the Faculty Senate meeting yesterday.

“(It) is a decision that some people don’t like, but we strive to have the least effect on students as possible. Our number one priority is to protect students,” Lefton said in a question and answer session with the senators “.I am concerned, had we allowed sabbaticals to continue and several other similar ‘perkquisites,’ we would be cutting faculty members from departments.”

Provost Robert Frank announced the cancellation of Faculty Professional Improvement Leaves, better known as sabbaticals, last month.

Lefton said other higher education institutions in Ohio have laid off faculty in order to afford their budget cuts.

“I am going to do everything possible in my power to ensure that students are not affected by any further changes in the budget, and that includes not doing faculty (and) staff layoffs as much as possible,” he said.

After Lefton announced that a search committee would be created for a new vice president to oversee diversity, Senator Donald White said the president should cut expenses from his office rather than canceling sabbaticals.

“At the faculty and department levels, we are tightening belts and having faculty teach more students and do more with fewer faculty. We are not allowed to hire more faculty,” said White, who is also a professor in mathematical science. “And it just seems that we should be able to do that at the presidential level.

“I understand that there are a lot of duties, a lot of things that need to be done, but whether they have to be done at the vice president level, that’s my question.”

He suggested the duty of the new position could be spread evenly among the vice presidents that are currently part of Lefton’s cabinet.

But for Lefton the position is a priority.

“I announced just last week we were cutting one vice presidential level position,” Lefton said. “So at the end of the day, we will have the same number of cabinet level vice presidents than we did three years ago.”

Lefton heard suggestions from Faculty Senate members as to how to better address the current economic issues, instead of cutting Faculty Improvement Leaves.

Senator Barbara Hipsman said part-time professors should teach the courses of those professors who could be on sabbaticals. But Lefton said if that were the case, professors who are on leave from other institutions should teach students.

Sabbaticals are part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement of tenure and tenure-track faculty members. In a letter addressed to Lefton, Deborah Smith, grievance chair of American Association of University Professors-Kent State University, said the association is continuing to explore its options in response to the violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Contact academics reporter Regina Garcia Cano at [email protected].