Campus News

University Council approves new leave recommendations for faculty

The University Council passed three recommendations designed to help faculty members who want to take a leave of absence for research, study or other professional development activities.

The recommendations will help provide structure and rules for professional and educational leaves that all faculty members can follow in the absence of a sabbatical program, which the university does not have, said Mary Anne Akers, chair of the council’s Benefits Committee, which developed the recommendations.

According to a committee report Akers presented to the council, the university’s Faculty Affairs Policy Manual says UGA should have “mechanisms that provide faculty with the opportunity to enhance their scholarship.” But only three academic units—the College of Education, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and the School of Public and International Affairs—have specific policies and procedures regarding professional leave. The Franklin College of Arts and Sciences is developing a policy.  

Most other schools and colleges follow a policy set by the University System Board of Regents that provides general guidelines for professional leave, but decisions are often “sporadic and overly discretionary,” and many faculty members are unaware of the policy, according to the report. 

The committee found that most of UGA’s peer universities allow a maximum one-year leave for professional development to faculty who promise to continue working at the school for a set number of years. Many universities also provide full pay for at least one semester of leave.

The council unanimously approved a committee recommendation that all UGA schools and colleges develop formal written policies and procedures for granting professional and educational leaves, consistent with board of regents guidelines. The rules must be in place by Dec. 1.

The council also approved a recommendation encouraging the university to set aside funds for professional leave to help schools and colleges that don’t have money for such leave, and a recommendation requiring the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost to collect and post on the University Council Web site data on professional leaves granted throughout the university. 

In other action, the council adopted a calendar for academic year 2008-2009 that includes a one-day fall break on Oct. 31, 2008,  the Friday before the Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville. Students also will have the entire week of Thanksgiving as a holiday. 

The one-day fall break and full-week Thanksgiving holiday are the result of a compromise reached last fall by a student-faculty task force created to resolve a years-long debate over scheduling fall break on the Thursday and Friday before the Georgia-Florida game. The compromise had the support of the Student Government Association and the council’s Educational Affairs Committee, and the council adopted the calendar unanimously and without discussion.

The council also passed on first reading a lengthy package of changes to the Council  Bylaws and a corresponding change to the University Statutes. The changes were proposed by the council’s Committee on Statutes, Bylaws and Committees following a comprehensive review of the bylaws during the current academic year.

Peter Shedd, chair of the Committee on Statutes, Bylaws and Committees, said most of  the changes were suggested by other council committees and are relatively routine, either clarifying language or conforming the bylaws to procedures and practices the council already follows. 

Some of the substantive changes deal with eligibility for serving on council committees, the number of people on committees and dates for electing committee chairs. One change ensures that council agendas will include a brief report from the Student Government Association. To be implemented, the changes must be passed again on second reading at the council’s April meeting.

The council also approved a decision by Susan Mattern-Parkes, chair of the council Executive Committee, to appoint two UGA representatives to a group that is developing a response to a proposed criminal background check for new faculty and staff in the University System of Georgia. UGA’s representatives are Irwin Bernstein, a psychology professor, and Stuart Ivy, an information technology manager in the College of Veterinary Medicine. The group working on the response is being coordinated by a professor at Georgia State University.