Investing in faculty is key, even facing very challenging economic times, Miami University Provost Jeffrey Herbst said.
One way this is done is through granting faculty leaves, for research and improvement purposes, which promotes their long-term professional development.
Herbst said the university was a little more conservative on granting leaves last year, so this year the number is up. However, he said this coincides with the normal variation of the number of faculty taking leaves.
Leaves, Herbst said, are a crucial part of faculty’s time at Miami.
“We have expectations regarding the accomplishment of scholarship,” Herbst said of faculty. “Leaves are critical for faculty to accomplish scholarship. It’s important for professional development.”
Keith Tuma, associate dean of the College of Arts and Science (CAS), said there are two types of leaves faculty can take, either assigned research appointments (ARAs) or faculty improvement leaves (FILs). As implied, ARAs are used for faculty to complete research as they are working toward tenure, while FILs give faculty more of a breather and time to catch up with their field.
While on leave, whether it be on an ARA or an FIL, faculty are provided “release from teaching, full salary, the continuation of benefits based on full salary and eligibility for salary increment or promotion,” according to the Miami University Policy and Information Manual (MUPIM). The exception to this is faculty who are granted an FIL for an entire year, in which they only receive two-thirds compensation over the two semesters.
There were many applications this year, Tuma said, and faculty who apply are not always granted leave. According to MUPIM, for example, only up to 30 faculty can be granted an FIL in a single year.
Department chairs, then those at the divisional level, then the deans and finally the provost’s office, review each application, and they are both very competitive.
“If it’s an ARA, it describes the research they want to do,” Tuma said. “If it’s an FIL, faculty describe what they hope to do to reinvigorate their teaching.”
Tuma added leaves would not be granted if it puts a risk to teaching.
Ray Gorman, senior associate dean of the Farmer School of Business (FSB), said fewer business faculty have been granted leaves due to a lower budget. Agreeing with Tuma, Gorman did not want put a risk to teaching either.
“We’ve cut back a little bit due to some budget cutbacks,” Gorman said. “We didn’t want to increase class sizes.”
Gorman said about four to seven faculty are granted one semester of leave each year, down from five years ago, when he said 17 faculty applied for leave and 10 received it. He said more faculty are granted ARAs, while FILs are more likely to be postponed.
“We tend to have more of those (ARAs) because we’ think it’s important to support faculty in that way,” Gorman said. “By having your teaching and service requirements reduced, you can really concentrate the way you need to on a large research project. Even during difficult times it’s important to invest in the future.”
Kerry Powell, chair of the English department, said the number of leaves granted in his department is actually fewer than last year.
“We had a big year for leaves last year, seven or eight people altogether,” Powell said. “It was one of the best years we’ve ever had for leaves. We’re kind of paying the price right now.”
During ARAs, Powell said the goal is for faculty to get a research project to completion or near completion. In the case of the English department, that may mean writing a book for a creative writer or putting together a book of scholarship on romantic poetry or fiction, for example, for a literature professor.
Powell said only three English department faculty were granted leave for next year, which was low considering how young the department is with a large number of pre-tenure faculty.