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Williams College Employee Handbook

Faculty Handbook . | . Administrative Staff Handbook . | . Support Staff Handbook

Faculty Leaves of Absence for Professional Work

Leaves of absence for professional work are of four kinds:

  • sabbatical leaves for tenured faculty
  • assistant professor leaves
  • special leaves with salary
  • leaves without salary

All decisions with respect to the granting and duration of such leaves are made by the CAP after recommendation from the department. It is expected that faculty members of whatever rank will be in residence and teaching no fewer than three consecutive years (six semesters) between non-disability leaves of any kind. No leave may exceed four consecutive semesters except in extraordinary circumstances. For information regarding paid sick leaves, maternity and parental leaves, or for information regarding unpaid leaves for illness or child care, see Leaves of Absence for Personal Reasons.

Sabbatical Leaves for Tenured Faculty

The College offers two basic options in its sabbatical leave program for tenured faculty. Tenured faculty may apply either for a full sabbatical or for a mini-sabbatical. Tenured faculty are eligible for a full sabbatical after completing six consecutive years of teaching, which normally includes three Winter Study offerings. Under this option the faculty member may choose either a year of leave at 3/4 salary or a semester leave at full salary. The mini-sabbatical option permits half of such a leave to be taken after three years. More specifically, under this option, tenured faculty may apply after six consecutive semesters of teaching, which normally include one or two Winter Study offerings, for a semester leave at 3/4 salary.

Although eligibility for sabbatical leave commences only upon entry into the tenured ranks, up to six consecutive semesters of teaching immediately prior to that date may be credited toward either a mini-sabbatical or a full sabbatical leave. This means that associate professors may be eligible for a mini-sabbatical immediately upon entering the tenured ranks or very soon thereafter, and that they will in some cases be eligible for a full sabbatical after six consecutive semesters of teaching in the tenured ranks.

The six-semester or six-year rule does not apply if a faculty member defers or advances a leave at the request of the College, and doing so has no effect on the faculty member's eligibility for his or her next leave, which shall be calculated according to the original schedule. If a faculty member defers a leave for personal convenience, the additional semesters of active service can be banked to advance a subsequent full sabbatical (i.e., before six years have elapsed). They might alternatively be used to advance a subsequent mini-sabbatical (i.e., before six semesters have elapsed), but only at the convenience of the department or program and with the prior approval of the Dean of the Faculty and the CAP.

Tenured faculty may request to extend a mini-sabbatical for up to three additional semesters, or a one-year leave for up to two additional semesters. The request should be made to the department chair, who shall forward it to the CAP, along with the department's recommendation. The CAP should receive both the request and the recommendation at least nine months in advance of the beginning of the semester to be affected by the extension. The additional semesters are without salary. The timing of sabbatical leaves and unpaid leaves of absence, or the granting of their extension, will depend to some extent upon the needs and convenience of departments and programs.

Tenured faculty are eligible to apply to the CAP for a supplemental sabbatical salary grant. These grants support projects for professional development while on leave, including research, writing, or activities designed to strengthen subsequent teaching or scholarship. Grants will provide either 1/4 salary or the amount necessary to bring 3/4 salary plus any outside grant or other outside remuneration to the level of the academic year salary, whichever is less. Indeed, the College expects tenured faculty to seek external grant funding prior to applying for a supplemental sabbatical salary grant. Applications for these grants are due in December of the academic year prior to the leave year.

The College's sabbatical leave program is intended to provide opportunities for continued professional growth for the benefit of both the faculty member and the institution. Faculty members are therefore normally expected to return to the College for at least one year after a mini-sabbatical and for at least two years after a full sabbatical.

Assistant Professor Leaves

Williams has a program of leaves for assistant professors in the academic departments and programs that provides two semesters of paid professional leave before the tenure decision. A third semester of leave, unpaid, is also possible. By policy, the salary for a 12-month leave is set at 75%, although there is a supplemental salary grant program that provides 100% salary for the year when outside funding is not available. (Please note that the supplemental salary grant program requires its own application, distinct from the Assistant Professor Leave proposal described below.)

Eligibility for an Assistant Professor Leave is restricted to assistant professors who have been reappointed to a four-year second term or whose initial appointments were for a term of more than three years. Leaves are most often granted in the first year of the second-term assistant professor appointment (usually an individual's fourth year at the college). Such leaves may also be granted in the fifth year, should the individual so choose and the department recommend. Assistant professor leaves do not stop the tenure clock and may not be used to fulfill the requirements for an advanced degree.

Proposals for an Assistant Professor Leave in the following academic year should be submitted to the home department or program chair by the first Wednesday after Labor Day. The chair will forward those proposals to the CAP along with the department's or program’s recommendation.

The college expects those seeking an assistant professor leave to apply for grant funds available from sources outside Williams. Therefore, Assistant Professor Leave proposals should be prepared in a form suitable for submission to outside funding agencies and should include a project description four to five pages long, as well as a list of those agencies being approached for support. When outside funding is available, the specific nature of the college's support should be discussed with the associate provost in advance of the leave. Please note that the combination of college salary support and outside support may not exceed 100% pay for any given leave period.

As noted above, assistant professors may apply to extend a two-semester paid leave for one additional unpaid semester, subject to the approval of the CAP. If such an extension is granted, the tenure decision is still made at the normal time; i.e., the tenure clock is not stopped.

Special Leaves with Salary

Some faculty members not in the professorial ranks are eligible to apply for special paid leaves. They include: faculty in Physical Education who hold five-year appointments (see Terms of Service for Faculty in the Dept. of Physical Education); Senior Lecturers (see Senior Lecturers); certain Lecturers who are full-time employees (see Administrative & Professional Staff). Applications for all such leaves must be accompanied by a description of a project designed to contribute to the applicant's professional development. The application should be made to the department chair, who shall forward it to the CAP along with the department's recommendation. In reaching its decision the CAP will consider the quality of the project and the needs and the convenience of the department or program in which the person teaches.

Leaves of Absence Without Salary

Faculty in the professorial ranks who are not on sabbatical leave, as well as Senior Lecturers and Lecturers may, after six consecutive semesters of teaching, apply for a leave of absence without salary. The request should be made to the department chair, who shall forward it to the CAP along with the department's recommendation. The granting or denial of the request will depend to some extent on the needs and convenience of the department or program in which the person teaches. Leave of absence without salary are most often granted in combination with a full sabbatical, mini-sabbatical, or Assistant Professor Leave, to extend a paid leave by one or two semesters.

Changes of Leave

Orderly planning of department and program staffing requires certainty about leaves for individual faculty. Once an individual has requested and been granted a leave, whether paid or unpaid, for a specific period, the individual may not unilaterally decide to forego the leave and return to regular teaching. The rescinding of an already granted leave, since it would have an impact on the size of the faculty, requires the approval of the CAP. Faculty contemplating a leave, especially one which may be dependent upon outside funding, should be aware of this rule when making their plans and applying for leave. Specific situations should be discussed with the Dean of the Faculty.

Leaves and Teaching Responsibilities

The College's normal teaching load is the equivalent of four courses a year, in addition to a Winter Study course every other year. If faculty members take one semester leaves, their teaching responsibility during their semesters in residence is half the normal year-long load. That is, if in one year a person who has a one-semester leave teaches two courses and no Winter Study, in the next such year he or she should teach Winter Study in addition to the regular semester duties. In the case of full-year sabbatical leaves, the usual pattern of four courses a year, normally with a Winter Study course every other year, will resume upon the faculty member's return.

Benefits During Leaves

In many instances faculty on leave continue to receive College employee benefits. Eligibility for benefits while on leave is described below.

Faculty members on paid assistant professor leaves and paid full sabbaticals or mini-sabbaticals will get full benefit coverage, excepting TIAA-CREF and social security contributions which are adjusted to their leave or sabbatical salary. Benefits during unpaid leaves vary. The College will pay full disability insurance costs and its share of medical, dental, and life insurance premiums for faculty members on unpaid leaves who have no outside income. The faculty members must continue to pay their own shares of these premiums. The College will also pay disability insurance and its share of medical, dental, and life insurance premiums for faculty members who have outside income from a grant, employer or other source that will not pay benefits, unless the outside source provides salary that could provide funds beyond the faculty member's normal salary to pay the cost of these benefits. The College will not, however, provide benefits for faculty members on unpaid leave who have outside income from a grant or employer that pays benefits. The grant or employer will be expected to assume the burden of the faculty member's employee benefits in this case.

The College will not make social security or TIAA-CREF contributions during unpaid leaves of any kind, since these benefits are tied to salary payments. In all cases, faculty members planning to take unpaid leaves should discuss their individual cases with the Provost to be sure employee benefits are being properly provided. The Payroll Office does not pay employee benefits except when the Provost has directed it to do so.


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