The American sabbatical as we know it began at Harvard in the 1880s, McLoughlin said, and spread quickly to other top schools.
Originally, the purpose of time away from teaching was to give professors a chance to visit European, and especially German, universities held as models for American education.
The expectation was professors would return to this country enlightened and better teachers, benefiting the entire university more than their own careers.
Brown was the eighth American university to offer sabbaticals.
It was with the rise of the research university that the importance of sabbaticals started tilting toward the professors, who now use them to complete the projects that can elevate their career.
The importance of sabbaticals for research is another reason large research universities generally have more generous sabbatical policies than smaller schools.
At Rhode Island’s non-Ivy colleges, sabbatical policies track closely with the six months after six years of teaching standard.
Sabbaticals for University of Rhode Island professors are part of their union contract and come out roughly along the lines of the typical policy – after six years of tenure-track service, one month off for every year of service. That would equal one six-month semester if they take it immediately.
At Roger Williams University, the sabbatical is also part of a collective-bargaining agreement, and the first paid six-months off comes after seven years teaching.
Roger Williams Provost and Senior Vice President Andrew Workman said the sabbatical policy hasn’t changed in recent years, and there isn’t much push for it to now.
“What we find is we have very robust applications to all our positions, and we don’t see a need for more frequent sabbaticals,” Workman said.
Salve Regina University has kept the frequency and duration of sabbaticals constant in recent years – a semester after six years – but increased the number of professors who can be away from teaching at any given time from three to five.
Salve Dean and Provost Dean de la Motte said having competitive sabbaticals are useful in recruiting but their primary purpose at Salve is for faculty professional development. •