Our view: Canceling sabbaticals a double-edged sword

DKS Editors

Many faculty members planning to take time off next academic year to research or improve their professional work were recently informed that their sabbaticals won’t happen.

Provost Robert Frank has canceled 60 faculty sabbaticals for the 2009-2010 year. He said this will allow the university to use its resources more effectively – saving about $500,000 overall.

There’s no doubt the university needs to make cuts somewhere, especially with the $5.5 million budget cut announced just last week. President Lester Lefton has said he wants to keep students the top priority with the budget cuts the university will face during this next year.

On the surface, it may seem Lefton is staying true to his goal with this cut. Some students may not even be aware of faculty sabbaticals. Frank even pointed out some perks to the situation: Without sabbaticals, students will likely be taught by full-time faculty, as opposed to adjuncts. This gives students a better opportunity to learn from some of the more advanced faculty.

However, if the cancellation is long-term – and Frank has said it won’t likely be for good – the effects are likely to trickle down to students.

Research is a primary function at a university, even if students don’t recognize it. Our professors’ research is what sets our university apart from other universities. And a lack of new research will certainly inhibit the boundaries of what students will learn.

And ending sabbaticals long-term could potentially deter would-be faculty members from coming to Kent State. The news of the university canceling the sabbaticals has spread to the Associated Press, USA Today and Chronicle of Higher Education. Though the university may not be hiring right now, potential faculty who read about this change may be hesitant to come to Kent State to work. They would likely turn their paths, in favor of somewhere they could better harvest their research.

It’s not all negative, though. If the cancellation is short-term, we hope professors will be back out researching before students see a difference. That’s better than increasing already-large class sizes for a year and minimizing one-on-one interaction between students and professors. It’s also better than skyrocketing tuition, parking prices and room and board, which could possibly keep some students from coming back in the fall.

By continuing sabbaticals, cuts would need to be made elsewhere, and it’s hard to say where those cuts would be. For now – in these economic times – maybe it’s the right decision. But we hope Frank will consider the long-term implications before this change continues any longer than one year.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.