Thursday, 11 January 2007

Same ol' grind

Well, my sabbatical, or 'research study leave' as it is called here, has been denied. "... [C]annot be arranged within the priorites of the Department/Faculty/School/Library.". Which means a) everybody (by which I mean 'a couple of people who are deserving, but aren't me') get to go on leave and I have to cover their teaching responsibilities, and b) presumably I move closer to the front of the line for the following year.

There are only two conditions under which leaves can be denied. Well, three. The first is if you just don't qualify, which I do. Second, your leave proposal can be denied if it fails to meet appropriately scholarly criteria, which are largely unspecified. So I suppose if your proposal says 'I want to lie on a beach and ogle naked bodies for a year', they'll deny you. Unless your research has to do with attitudes to public nudity or something like that. So that's pretty flimsy.

I only half-jokingly suggested once that a friend and I should go to Jamaica to do 'field work'. Her part would consist of hiking through the mountains and interviewing and recording the language of relatively isolated Jamaican Creole mesolect-basilect speakers, while I would concentrate on the acrolect. It isn't my fault that the easiest access to acrolectal speakers I would likely encounter would be bartenders, waiters, cleaning staff, and that sort of thing in a nice hotel somewhere near the beach.

She didn't go for my part of the plan, but the point is just because I ended up lying on the beach ogling naked bodies doesn't mean I wouldn't conceivably be doing some useful research activity. As far as anyone knows, I'm doing real work. The naked bodies are just an environmental hazard of that the research plan. "They" don't have to know anything about it.

Anyway, my plan was not to ogle naked bodies, but actually to go to England and attend some sessions in forensic phonetics run by my colleague Paul Foulkes at York. So it's definitely suitably academic. Which brings us to the third reason leaves can be denied, the one that they used, which is that it cannot be arranged 'within the priorities' of the relevant unit. Which means, in our case, letting everybody go on leave means we don't have anyone left to teach a program, so we/they have to draw the line somewhere. Which I absolutely understand.

But I'm worried about the legal semantics of 'cannot be arranged within the priorities'. It seems to me anyone who teaches a critical course, in our current climate (which is that the Administration is unlikely to approve temporary or sessional appointments to replace anyone on leave--because they believe that we are over-reliant on temporary and sessional appointments, which we are, but their solution is to elimiate the temporary and sessional appointments, rather than to hire real people to cover the courses that we needed the temporary and sessional appointees to cover in the first place) will never be able to take a leave because no one will be around to teach their course.


Which I'm sure would provoke some kind of action from a) the leave requestor him or herself and b) the union. But if you're the only one who teaches Shakespeare, and everyone has to take Intro Shakespeare before they take anything else, and there's little or no hope of getting someone else to teach Shakespeare while you're on leave, then how can they possibly arrange your leave 'within the priorities'?

One of my colleagues is the only one who can teach some of his courses, and they're required in some programs. So he only ever gets to take half-leaves (6 months) because he has to be around at least one term to teach some of his 'onlies'.

My problem is the opposite. While others are on leave, I get to teach things that I never teach. Which can be fun, but is a whole lot of extra work than teaching stuff you teach regularly. And I don't get to teach my favo(u)rite courses, since they're technically expendable being electives (popular electives, supporting the career plans of a large segment of our undergraduate population, but if they disappeared technically no one is prevented from finishing their degree). So everybody else (by which I again mean 'a couple of people who are deserving but aren't me'), gets to go on leave, and I'm looking forward to a very challenging 07-08.

The good news is that technically I'm supposed to get an extra credit for every year I get denied, which means by the end of 07-08 I should have nine credits rather than eight. Presumably this moves me even closer to the front of the line for the following year, but we'll see about what happens to 'the priorities' in the meantime.

I couldn't really afford to go to England anyway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is a real bummer -- especially to have to look so far forward to the future for your next opportunity.

It reminds me of something (in a different realm) that happened to my brother recently.

He has been awaiting a liver transplant to save his life.

Two days after Christmas he received a certified letter from the University of Washington Medical Center from the committee that decides who receives a transplant and who does not.

During his workup Charles and I attended some classes with my brother at the university to learn about what would be required and what could be expected as the process moves along.

We learned that there are three designatations (this is what reminded me of your situation) and those three designations are 1) Deferred, 2) Accepted, or 3) Rejected.

They explained that the deferred would be the designation while the workup was underway indicating only that there were a few more hoops to jump through (studies, lab work, etc) until review.

Accepted, of course, is the desired status.

Rejected would mean permanently, finally, rejected with no recourse. The end of the trail.

The certified letter informed him that due to his other complicating medical conditions (presumably his diabetes, history of a heart attack two years ago, and now declining kidney functions) the committee concluded that he would not be a good candidate for transplant, because, in their experience, patients with similar constellations of medical conditions would either not survive the surgery itself and/or would do poorly in the postoperative period. Therefore, he was has been rejected.

It was quite a blow.

Interestingly, now that he has no medical hope of a new chance at life, he is turning more to prayer than ever before, and his lab work has begun to improve over the past couple of weeks.

So we are hoping for a total miraculous healing for him, because short of that, he is not long for this world. --Jaynie