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Faculty members, administrators discuss possible revisions to faculty sabbatical policy

November faculty meeting also included endowment, research updates

<p>In addition to possible revisions to the sabbatical policy, faculty discussed changes in the endowment and campus infrastructure updates at the second faculty meeting of the academic year.</p>

In addition to possible revisions to the sabbatical policy, faculty discussed changes in the endowment and campus infrastructure updates at the second faculty meeting of the academic year.

University faculty convened Nov. 1 for the second faculty meeting of the academic year to discuss possible revisions to the faculty sabbatical policy, changes in the endowment and campus infrastructure updates.

Sabbatical changes

President Christina Paxson P’19 said that the University’s Committee on Faculty Equity and Diversity has been working with Provost Richard Locke P’18 and a number of members of the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, to revise the sabbatical policy. 

A change to the University’s policy proposed at the meeting would provide 100% salary support for a semester-long sabbatical after six semesters in residence, Locke said. Faculty would also be allowed to delay that sabbatical and work 12 semesters in residence in order to receive a full year of sabbatical.


Currently, the University’s sabbatical policy for tenured faculty makes faculty members eligible for sabbatical leave with three-quarters of their salary for one semester after completing six semesters of teaching, according to Locke. If a member of tenured faculty does not take leave until 12 semesters of teaching, they can either have one semester off while receiving a full semester’s salary or take the academic year at 75% salary, he added.

“In my conversation with the (Faculty Executive Committee) leadership, (increased compensation) seemed to be a very important factor in return for that enhanced financial support during sabbatical,” Locke said. 

Locke anticipates that with the changes, more faculty will be encouraged to take sabbatical leave. As a result, the University will “be less flexible on when people can take sabbatical” to ensure adequate curricular support.

Faculty members who receive outside grants or fellowships will also have the option to combine their one semester of fully paid sabbatical with an unpaid leave, Locke added. “We will continue to support our faculty who win outside prestigious fellowships that need top-offs,” he said. “The kinds of incentives that are already in place would continue to be held.”

Because the proposed changes affect faculty compensation, Locke said that the Corporation will be responsible for voting on the revisions rather than faculty members.

While revisions to the policy are anticipated to be implemented during the 2023-24 academic year, Locke assured faculty members that the University will respect any plans they have already made.

Locke thanked CFED for their partnership in developing these revisions, emphasizing the additional opportunities that will be available to faculty as a result.

This change “allows people to actually have the time and financial support they need to do the scholarly work that they want to do and that we want them to do as part of our research growth plan,” he said. 

Explaining the endowment

Paxson continued the meeting by opening up discussion surrounding the University’s anticipated annual financial report set to be released at the end of the year. 


“I think what we’re entering into is kind of an interesting time because there’s good news,” she said. “Then there’s not-so-good news and a lot of uncertainty.”

The University’s endowment shrank by 4.6% in fiscal year 2022, The Herald previously reported. The University’s endowment contributes over $200 million annually to the operating budget and is a major source of scholarships and faculty support, according to Paxson.

“It was a really tough year in the markets and it’s continuing to be tough this year,” she added, “so we’re having to keep an eye on that really carefully.”

Paxson noted that the University’s divestment from fossil fuels, which began in 2020, contributed to the endowment’s negative return for the past year.

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The University does not “invest in fossil fuels,” she said. “That was actually good for us financially for a period of time when oil was not doing well, but last year oil was doing well and we didn’t capture any of that gain.”

Despite the negative endowment return, Paxson shared that the number of endowed chairs increased to 123, meeting the University’s goal. Adding professorships — a specific kind of chair that supports the faculty member’s salary — has indicated that the endowment is growing in a healthy manner, she added.

“Let’s say a donor establishes an endowed chair for $4 million. … Over time, when the endowment does well, that grows, and so, given enough years, that may be worth $8 million, $10 million, $12 million,” she said. “What we can do is split those chairs and create new chairs to support new faculty as a result of that growth.”

Expanding University’s research focus

Locke also touched on the suggestions the University received from the Brown community regarding its revised research plan. According to Locke, community members advocated for proportionate recognition of research from faculty across all fields of study, particularly to highlight study in the humanities. 

“We got some really good suggestions on how we should reframe some of the work (by) … making sure that we’re paying attention to more individual-based scholarship instead of team-based science and research,” Locke said. “We want to make sure that we’re highlighting the important work taking place across the University, and not especially in the STEM fields.”

To strengthen support across all disciplines, Locke said the University will focus less on metrics like research expenditures, since they tend to favor some disciplines over others.

The University will be looking “at a whole set of metrics of success — publications, exhibitions, as well as grant dollars — and just really make sure that we’re paying attention to giving faculty what they really need,” he said, “which is time and resources to do their important work.”

Corporation meeting updates 

The University’s affirmative action plan for all employees, faculty and staff was thoroughly reviewed during the Corporation meeting, in line with the upcoming release of results from the Task Force on the Status of Women Faculty, Paxson said. The task force is charged with examining the faculty’s gender diversity and hiring practices.

“We look at gender, race (and) ethnicity of our whole and all of our employees, faculty and staff,” she said. “Then, we talk about our strategy for building really strong pools so that we can move the needle and some of the areas where we’re not where we want to be.”

Paxson briefly touched on updates on University infrastructure discussed during the Corporation meeting. This includes the renovation of the John Carter Brown Library to add a wheelchair ramp for accessibility purposes and the construction of a new integrated life science building in the Jewelry District. 

The meeting also included moments of silence for the passing of Arlene Cole, assistant professor of the practice of music, as well as R. Ross Holloway, professor emeritus of Central Mediterranean archaeology.

Sofia Barnett

Sofia Barnett is a University News editor overseeing the faculty and higher education beat. She is a junior from Texas studying history and English nonfiction and enjoys freelancing in her free time.

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