Dean of the Faculty

To: All Tenured Faculty

From: Leah VanWey


Brown’s ambitions, detailed in the Operational Plan for Investing in Research, include commitments to enhancing support for faculty scholarship across all disciplines. For many colleagues, this support means providing time for intensive research and writing without teaching or University service responsibilities. Equitable access to this time rests on the ability to take leave without a reduction in salary. In order to enable this, I am thrilled to see Brown join a small handful of our peers in offering even more generous sabbatical opportunities.


After extensive peer-benchmarking and financial and curricular planning, the Provost announced at the November faculty meeting a proposal to the Corporation for a revision to our sabbatical policy. With recent Corporation approval, Brown will now move to a fully-funded sabbatical model in which faculty are eligible for a one-semester sabbatical after six semesters in residence. As at our peer institutions, Brown will now expect faculty generally to take leaves on a regular and predictable cycle. This is important for departmental staffing and curricular planning while also limiting replacement teaching costs. 


The revised sabbatical policy at Brown includes the following provisions:


●  A tenured faculty member will be eligible to apply for a one-semester sabbatical at full salary after six semesters in residence.

●  One semester of sabbatical may be banked to combine with a second earned semester for a full-salary year sabbatical after twelve semesters in residence. Any further delay will not be credited towards a subsequent leave, i.e. one year at full salary is normally the maximum that can be earned regardless of the number of semesters in residence since the last sabbatical.

●  A one-semester sabbatical may be combined with a leave without pay supported by a grant or fellowship to create a year of leave following six semesters in residence. Academic-year, rather than calendar year leaves are strongly encouraged and will be prioritized for approval.

●  The new policy generally does not allow flexibility in the timing of leaves. As noted above, delaying sabbaticals beyond twelve semesters will normally result in an inability to accumulate further credit. Taking one semester of sabbatical after accruing more than 6 but less than 12 semesters of credit will similarly normally result in resetting the clock to zero. Exceptions are addressed below.


In consultation with the chairs and directors, my office has developed a set of principles that will govern our approval of sabbaticals under the new policy. We anticipate that there will be a number of challenging situations in the first two years of the policy, which will require some exceptional responses. Once departments are on consistent three-year cycles, the number of required exceptions will decrease. The principles guiding our implementation are:


●  In general, no more than about a sixth of the faculty of a department should be on leaves of any sort in a given semester.

●  Prior written agreements with the Dean regarding the timing of sabbaticals will be honored while prior agreements about the funding of sabbaticals will be honored only insofar as the new policy would result in a financial loss to the faculty member. 

●  Under the old policy, faculty could normally accrue up to 14 semesters of credit (or two more than was needed for a full-year sabbatical). Faculty who take a leave with 13 or 14 semesters of credit earned under the old policy will return with their clock set to +1 or +2. This is a transitional practice and will not apply to credit earned under the new sabbatical policy. 

●  In the event that a faculty member is granted a semester of unpaid leave consecutive to a sabbatical semester, and receives a prestigious external award that does not cover the full semester’s salary, the Dean may provide a salary supplement. Normally salary supplements will not exceed the value of the external award.  

●  In the long term, exceptions to the timing of sabbaticals will be rare and made in consultation with the faculty member’s chair or director and cognizant dean. The primary justifications for exceptions to the timing of sabbaticals are: exceptional personal or family circumstances; unique major funding opportunities;* and major leadership roles (such as department chair, DGS, DUS, Assistant/Associate Dean or Provost, FEC Chair).** If you anticipate the need for flexibility in the timing of a future leave, you should discuss it with your chair or director as early as possible (i.e. before applying for a funding opportunity or accepting a leadership role).

I expect that the first year or two of transition to the new policy will require flexibility in planning and transparency of decision making. Your chair or director has access to the number of semesters of credit you have earned toward a leave, and I have asked those reporting to my office to develop a multi-year plan for sabbaticals under the new policy. In most cases, I would recommend that the departmental multi-year plans be made public to faculty in the department. 

Please note that the policies and guidelines for junior faculty leaves for tenure-track assistant professors, post-tenure sabbaticals for recently-promoted associate professors, and scholarly leaves for lecturer-track faculty remain unchanged.

The overall impact of the policy change will be to allow all faculty to take advantage of sabbatical opportunities more frequently and with less personal sacrifice, to make Brown’s sabbatical policy more equitable, and to compete with other leading institutions’ sabbatical offerings.


*Unique funding opportunities are those that either cannot be applied for or that are offered sporadically at unpredictable times and that are specific to the faculty member’s research subfield. 

**Leadership roles that will require flexibility in the timing of sabbaticals are generally those in which the faculty member is the only person serving in a high level position.  Membership on committees, even significant University committees, will generally not be considered sufficient justification for varying the timing of a leave.