Bad news


Lectern for a tombstone, I guess

I just learned that my planned sabbatical for next year has to be postponed, for a really stupid reason. We — meaning everyone in my department — had it in our heads that we were eligible for a sabbatical every seven years. We were wrong, because the sabbatical year doesn’t count, meaning it’s effectively every 8 years. So I just got handed the information that I can’t take a sabbatical until 2025, rather than 2024, which blows all my plans for next year to smithereens. In addition, I’d planned to begin phased retirement the year after my sabbatical, so I have to postpone that an additional year.

I’m beginning to feel like I’ll never escape. I’d like to have a little taste of a retirement before my inevitable heart failure leaves me slumped and lifeless in my office chair, or worse, I croak in the middle of a lecture and traumatize a whole lot of students.

Oh well. I probably can’t afford to retire anyway. I was looking forward to an escape from the pressure and the grind next year, though.

Comments

  1. says

    At our university (your alma mater) once every seven years means just that. Officially, we have no sabbaticals, but there is a category of discretionary leave that they always approve if you ask every seventh year. You have been cheated.

  2. says

    We are a lot smaller and less well-funded than the UW, and they’ve got me by the literal words of the contract, so all I can do is suck it up.

  3. nomdeplume says

    Oh, so sorry PZ, the fine print will get you every time. In Australia the structure was 6 years teaching, every 7th year sabbatical, but I don’t know what the current situation is. But hang in there mate, a year will go in no time…

  4. says

    They’ve got me by the literal words of the contract
    I’m sorry to hear that. Of course, at UW there actually is no guarantee of every seventh year. That way, when the reactionary legislators rail against those lazy professors who get every seventh year off, UW can say there is no such guarantee. But there is this discretionary leave that they grant to enable it in practice.

  5. hemidactylus says

    Has it been that long since you started the spider venture on your last sabbatical? Yipes! I recall, because geckos never forget, you were toying with the idea of an evo-devo book back then. Maybe spider evo-devo when you can take your year off…

  6. birgerjohansson says

    Unless the contract spells out one sabbatical year for every seven years of teaching there seems to be room for litigation.

  7. birgerjohansson says

    Speaking of heart attacks, Noah Lugeons of God Afwul Movies and Skepticrat had a heart attack on Monday. Fortunately he quickly got care and the city where he lives has a good hospital so he is expected to make a full recovery.

    Cartomancer @ 1
    Norway should have quite a few universities.

  8. chrislawson says

    So sorry to hear this, PZ.

    Sounds like a contract written to be misleading until management shooses to pull the trigger. 7-yearly sabbaticals are standard right around the world. As others have already pointed out, it’s the word ‘sabbatical’ literally means a year off every in every seven. No doubt the managerial parasites are thinking themselves very clever even though sabbaticals are important for academic career progress, so in the long run this decision damages the university, is going to be terrible for morale, and makes UM a much less desirable campus to work on. Does the US academic sector have a strong union you can turn to? (I’m guessing no.)

  9. Rich Woods says

    Back in the dim and distant past when I was a student, I attended a college which actively promoted itself to prospective students as encouraging its teaching staff to spend one year in five (every fifth year, to be clear) working in industry or away on collaborative research projects (it wasn’t in itself a research-based university). A couple of my lecturers in that first year had just come back from their industrial year and were notably invigorated by having had a change of scene and focus, of learning new things, and were similarly looking forward to the shift back to teaching. It was a very good policy, I think. But then over the next few years, first as a student, then working there during my placement year, and eventually getting a permanent post there after I graduated, I saw the policy shrink and disappear. The Thatcherite obsession with the bottom line saw many good educational practices get consigned to the dustbin of history.

  10. Skatje Myers says

    UMM is making sure to make it clear to all potential hires that sabbatical takes a year longer than everywhere else, right? I’m sure this will help lure more talent to the university.

  11. John Morales says

    I’m beginning to feel like I’ll never escape.

    A good sentiment.

    Once you do retire, you’ll likely enjoy your newfound leisure, instead of trying to fill it with makework. Best way to go.

  12. Silentbob says

    @ 6 John Morales

    In which God says slavery is totes okay as long as it’s those filthy foreigners.

  13. robro says

    I’m not sure I believe in retirement. I’m 75 and still working for the tech company where I’ve worked for 40 years…off and on. Fortunately I get to work from home, first because of COVID and later when “BTO” came into force I got an “accommodation.” Not sure how long they’ll put up with this, but the income is nice, the insurance really nice for two decaying old farts, and the work mentally stimulating. And if I fall down dead at my keyboard or during another inane meeting, well so be it…at least I wasn’t sitting in front of the fireplace or TV snoozing away my last breath.

    cartomancer @ #1 “Retire to Norway where they’ll look after you?” Is that even possible for a US citizen? I have a friend who wanted to move to Europe after he and his partner retired and found it basically impossible. They ended up having to move around a lot and eventually went back to Chicago. I’m sure if you have a lot of money anything is possible.

  14. says

    We don’t make a big deal of sabbatical policies to prospective hires — they have 5 years of probabation ahead of them, then 7 years before they’re eligible. We do give probationary faculty one semester to do research somewhere in there, though.

    This was just a rude surprise. We’ve got a table listing when everyone is up for a sabbatical, and suddenly we have to bump everyone back a year, and that after we had meetings a few weeks ago to figure out schedules and workloads and class distribution to make it all work. I guess we get to do all that again next year.

    Also, I’m not the only one affected. One other biologist was planning on their sabbatical next year, they’re going to have to go back to the drawing board.

  15. says

    PZ wrote: We’ve got a table listing when everyone is up for a sabbatical, and suddenly we have to bump everyone back a year,

    I say: First, remember, administrators are there (even in a state institution) to ‘maximize’ productivity no matter the pain and burnout cost to the ‘indentured servant’ faculty. Second, is the table developed by your department? were any school admin. officials involved? Did the admin. see it last year? If a prior year’s schedule had you taking sabbatical next year and now it shows 2 years away, that is at least deceitful. If the prior ‘schedule’ was provided to and not specifically rejected by the admin., that’s a contract. In that case the admin. has violated a contract with the faculty. And, interpretation is always a destructive tool of deception. Look at how the xtian terrorists use ‘interpretation’ to validate their self-contradictory obscene book of fiction (the bible).

    In summation: oh, crap, PZ, you’ve earned and deserve decent treatment.

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    While sympathizing with our esteemed host, I feel some confusion about what he reports.

    Did the University previously give faculty a sabbatical one year out of each seven? Or one out of eight? Does this apply statewide, or just to the minor minions in Morris?

    Can it even be called a “sabbatical”, once severed from the Torah tradition of sacred sevenness?

    Did the (presumably new) one-in-eight ukase descend from the administrative clouds this week, or had it lurked undetected in employment contracts to suddenly emerge like flying rolls of toilet paper when the profs failed to deliver adequate amounts and quality of candy on Halloween?

    Lacking, apparently, an effective union, should UMM faculty invite recruiters from the UAW?

  17. says

    PZ, @21 Pierce R. Butler and I both think this 8th year sabbatical needs to be examined carefully. regardless of the technical details, I say it is abusive admin. Bullshit.
    While I dislike biblical references because they come from an obscene self-contradictory work of fiction. The word Sabbatcal refers to taking a rest on the seventh year.

    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sabbatical The History of Sabbatical and Sabbath: Take a Break
    We tend to think of sabbatical . . a school year free from teaching duties that can be devoted to research, travel, and writing. >> Traditionally, this occurs every seventh year. <<
    The Old Testament refers to God’s “day of rest” most famously in Genesis, but Sabbath referring to an entire year of rest is mentioned in Leviticus (25:3-5):
    Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;

    But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. <<<

  18. says

    PZ, both @21 Pierce R. Butler and I would like more info so we can understand how this admin. scam happened. Regardless of the technicalities, I say this 8th year Sabbatical is admin. bullshit.

    While I dislike biblical references because they come from an obscene self-contradictory work of fiction. The word Sabbatcal refers to taking a rest on the seventh year.
    https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sabbatical The History of Sabbatical and Sabbath: Take a Break

    We tend to think of sabbatical . . a school year free from teaching duties that can be devoted to research, travel, and writing. >> Traditionally, this occurs every seventh year. <<
    The Old Testament refers to God’s “day of rest” most famously in Genesis, but Sabbath referring to an entire year of rest is mentioned in Leviticus (25:3-5):
    Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof;
    But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.

  19. says

    It’s nothing underhanded. We get one sabbatical for every 7 years of full-time employment. To our surprise, that sabbatical we took years ago, does not count as a year of employment. Whoops.

    They’ve got to milk all they can out of us, you know, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Although…I was planning on starting my 5 year phased retirement after this, and there’s nothing stopping me from making it a 3 year phase out, or a 2 year phase out, or just simply retiring flat out, except that I don’t want to leave my blameless colleagues holding the bag.

  20. Skatje Myers says

    Has no one there ever taken a sabbatical year after only a six-year period of teaching? Like, has this contract actually been enforced in this way consistently throughout time?

  21. chrislawson says

    Skatje@26–

    I read that some places even give 5-yearly sabbaticals. This was mostly in industry rather than academic circles, iirc. Basically, the 7 years is a matter of convention.

    Having said that, I’m wondering how this happened. UM is not a new university. Why was this a surprise to people who have worked there for much longer than the sabbatical cycle? Even if it’s not underhanded, it’s unfair. If I were in charge of HR I would be horrified that this miscommunication had happened and would be trying to work out a way for people who had already planned their sabbaticals to proceed with them. As I said upstream, given PZ is planning to retire in the next 5 years, all that has really changed in the HR equation is which of the remaining work years is the sabbatical.

  22. Silentbob says

    @ 27 Morales

    Go fuck yourself man, seriously. What sort of a shit responds that way to the OP?

  23. Silentbob says

    Blogger: Bad news. My house burned down destroying all my possessions.

    Morales the idiot troll:
    WeLL lOok aT iT thIs way – sOme PeOplE doN’t HAVe HoUSes.

  24. says

    PZ wrote: or just simply retiring flat out, except that I don’t want to leave my blameless colleagues holding the bag.
    I reply: I know he doesn’t like praise, but PZ deserves the sabbatical, we know he busts his assets to help his students and he cares for his colleagues. I think PZ should take his spiders and start a 5 week phase out to retirement. (as long as it doesn’t hurt him financially, doesn’t he have a decent retirement plan from the Univ.? or is that another way they are abusing their faculty?)
    Even @26 Skatje Myers ‘the other esteemed professor Myers’ wrote: Has no one there ever taken a sabbatical year after only a six-year period of teaching? Like, has this contract actually been enforced in this way consistently throughout time?

    Many of us commenting here (with the exception of the bible fondling troll) question the ethics and mathematics of this 8 year long 7 year cycle.

  25. grandolddeity says

    I retired in the first quarter of the year. I’m having a wonderful time! Don’t give it up.

  26. John Morales says

    Silentbob:

    @ 27 Morales
    Go fuck yourself man, seriously. What sort of a shit responds that way to the OP?

    Not a shit like you, bub. In fact, a normal person.
    Someone who genuinely likes PZ, is who.
    Someone who is sympathetic to his circumstances.

    Someone who never personal had a sabbatical, for that matte, similar to the majority of people.

    Someone who sees the bright side of things as well as the dim, and can thus offer words of encouragement to those who suffer a temporary setback as an objective observer.
    You know, a contrast to a feeling of doom and gloom and the stymieing of hope.

    But then, that’s not you, O ray of sunshine.

    Blogger: Bad news. My house burned down destroying all my possessions.

    Morales the idiot troll:
    WeLL lOok aT iT thIs way – sOme PeOplE doN’t HAVe HoUSes.

    Your enmity towards me makes you irrational, so that you appeal to your straw dummy and try a bit of ventriloquism.

    Be aware everyone can see what you are doing.

    You may not like how I express my sympathy, but (as usual) you are doing precisely what you project my dummy of doing.

    (A classic case of the fundamental attribution error)

  27. says

    It would be in the best interest of PZ’s blog if people would stick to the topic at hand and not respond childishly and selfishly. Most of us here are focused on the best outcome for PZ, his colleagues and students. And, if we can’t convince him, maybe one of the other ‘doctors’in the house’ (his household) could guide him to (as I admonish my friends) ‘take the money and run!’ (even though we all know how much he is invested in his students)

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