Leaves of Absence for Officers of Instruction

The primary objective of the University’s policies on leaves is to free its academic officers from their normal duties to conduct research, write, or otherwise engage in scholarly or professional activity. There are three types of faculty leaves for scholarly and professional purposes: sabbaticals, research leaves with or without salary, and exemptions from teaching duties. In addition, faculty are given leaves for medical reasons, child care, military or public service, and compelling personal need.

Each professor and associate professor with tenure is entitled to a sabbatical leave of one year at half base salary or a half year at full base salary after completing 12 terms of full-time teaching. Professors and associate professors with unmodified titles who have been awarded tenure of title following a University-wide ad hoc review enjoy a similar entitlement.

All terms of full-time teaching in a nontenured professorial rank, other than those with a visiting title, count toward a sabbatical. Periods of non-sabbatical leave, including partial leave, do not, nor does a term of full-time teaching during a year in which a professor takes a one-term sabbatical leave at full salary.

Department chairs in the Arts and Sciences and in Engineering and Applied Science receive additional semesters of credit toward their sabbatical leaves to compensate for the administrative duties that take time away from their scholarly work. Information on the credit for each department may be obtained from the Office of the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences or the Office of the Dean of Engineering and Applied Science.

Faculty who take other types of leaves are expected to serve in a full-time capacity for at least two years before taking a sabbatical, regardless of the number of semesters of credit they may have accumulated. Exceptions require the prior approval of the department chair and the dean or executive vice president as well as the special permission of the Provost.

Tenured faculty are ordinarily not entitled to sabbatical leaves while serving as officers of administration. Exceptions require the approval of the Provost and President. The time spent as an administrator is considered equivalent to full-time teaching and is credited toward a sabbatical leave, which should be taken at the first opportunity after the officer relinquishes the administrative post.

Tenured faculty may ask to advance their sabbatical leaves by up to one year to meet departmental needs or for compelling personal reasons. Such an arrangement requires the approval of the chair and dean or executive vice president as well as that of the Provost. Following an early sabbatical, terms of full-time teaching are credited first toward completing the 12-term requirement for that leave.

A dean or executive vice president may ask the Provost to waive the eligibility requirements for a sabbatical so that a faculty member may take a paid leave prior to completing 12 semesters of full-time teaching. This occurs most commonly when the dean or executive vice president agrees to compensate a newly recruited tenured faculty member for sabbatical credits accumulated at their prior university, but it can also happen for other reasons. In these cases, the Provost grants an exemption from teaching duties in lieu of a sabbatical. In return, the faculty member agrees to give up any semesters of credit toward a sabbatical leave earned at Columbia prior to the leave.

A sabbatical may be postponed with the prior approval of the chair and the dean or executive vice president. If it has not been taken by the end of the second year after it was originally due, only one year of teaching during the period of the postponement is ordinarily counted in determining eligibility for the next sabbatical. Exceptions to this policy are made in two circumstances:

  • when the postponement is required to meet the instructional or administrative needs of the department, school, or University, the entire period is counted toward the next sabbatical; and
  • professors who are eligible for a sabbatical immediately upon promotion to tenure may postpone it for one additional year without incurring a penalty, in recognition of their need for additional time in which to make sabbatical plans.

It may be necessary to ask professors to postpone their sabbaticals if the number of requests for leave in a given year will adversely affect the instructional work of the department or school, including the supervision of dissertations. In such cases, however, sabbaticals are given priority over other leaves of absence for scholarly purposes and exemptions from teaching duties.

A sabbatical is granted only if a professor intends to return to the University for at least one academic year of full-time service. The Provost will allow an exception to this requirement only for faculty eligible for a sabbatical during the year in which they will retire, provided that they do not intend to assume a position at another institution. Faculty who leave the University for another position within a year of taking a sabbatical are expected to return their sabbatical salary or have their new institution reimburse the University for that cost.

A professor may not teach or undertake any full-time employment at another institution during a sabbatical, since the primary purpose of such a leave is to provide an uninterrupted opportunity for research and intellectual refreshment. This restriction does not apply to a research position at another institution.

Periods of sabbatical leave are considered part of the officer’s service and, therefore, count toward fulfilling any service requirements in the University’s benefits programs. Faculty continue to participate in all of the University’s benefits programs for officers during a sabbatical leave. Faculty may also be insured while traveling during a sabbatical if it is for scholarly purposes or University business.

Each year the Office of the Provost distributes sabbatical forecasts to each department chair and dean on the Morningside campus. For each tenured professor in the department or school, the forecast includes the projected date of the next sabbatical and information on how that date was determined. Faculty with questions about their sabbatical eligibility should consult with their chair or dean. They may also contact the Assistant Provost for Academic Appointments.

The Office of the Provost sends an application each year to faculty who are due a sabbatical, except in the Faculties of Dental Medicine, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, where the application must be obtained from the Office of the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences. A professor who intends to take a sabbatical in the year in which it is due, except in the Faculties of Dental Medicine, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, returns the completed application directly to the Office of the Provost. Sabbaticals in the Medical Center require, as appropriate, the approval of the chair, dean, and the executive vice president before they are forwarded to the Office of the Provost. Requests for postponement should be submitted to the professor’s department chair and, where appropriate, dean or executive vice president. All forms, except those from the Faculties of Dental Medicine, Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health, must be returned to the Office of the Provost by April 1. Forms returned after that date, whether for sabbatical leaves or for postponements, require the approval of the dean or executive vice president before being submitted to the Office of the Provost.

Leaves of absence are granted when full-time officers of instruction in a professorial grade, with the exception of those with a visiting title, wish to be relieved of their normal responsibilities, in full or in part, to conduct research or otherwise engage in scholarly activity. Nonprofessorial faculty are usually not eligible for these leaves. Exceptions may be made with the special permission of the dean or executive vice president and the Provost.

Research leaves are authorized only when the officer’s absence will not adversely affect the instructional program of the department or school, including the supervision of dissertations. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the officer to submit a request for the leave to the department chair or, where appropriate, the dean sufficiently far in advance to allow the department or school to plan for a replacement.

Exemptions from teaching duties (ETDs) are granted for periods during which a professor is receiving salary from the University but is excused, in full or in part, from teaching and other responsibilities. An ETD is appropriate when an external agency gives the University funding to free up a faculty member to conduct research or a school provides support for a paid research leave. An ETD may be partial or full, depending on the percentage of normal responsibilities performed and the amount of salary received.

The Arts and Sciences has created three special programs to support ETDs for research purposes:

  • TFRP Leave: The Tenured Faculty Research Program (TFRP) credits tenured faculty in the Arts and Sciences with the equivalent of one-ninth of their base salary each year. Faculty may bank those credits toward an ETD, with full salary, for one semester. Alternatively, they may use the credits to pay for research and administrative assistance or turn them into annual increments to their salary.
  • Junior Faculty Development Leave: Assistant professors and nontenured associate professors in the Humanities and Social Sciences are entitled to a one-semester ETD at full salary after their first six semesters of full-time teaching in a professorial rank or as an instructor, provided that they have been reappointed for the period during which the leave will be taken and will return to the University for at least one year of full-time service after its completion. Normally, the leave is taken during the fourth year of counted service, but it may be deferred with the approval of the department chair and the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences. These leaves, like sabbaticals, have priority over other types of research leaves.
  • Chamberlain Fellowships: Upon completion of six terms of teaching in the Core Curriculum of Columbia College, nontenured faculty are entitled to a one-semester ETD at full salary, provided that they will resume their full-time responsibilities for at least one year after its completion.

The decision on when these leaves are taken requires the approval of the department chair and the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences, as well as the Provost. Further information on the programs and applications may be obtained from the Office of the Executive Vice President for Arts and Sciences.

Full-time nontenured faculty in Social Work are eligible for a one-semester ETD, funded by the School at full salary, in any term within their first four years of appointment. Alternatively, they may take the equivalent of a one-semester ETD as workload reduction spread out over multiple terms during those years. They are also eligible to apply for two types of School-supported developmental awards that provide for a partial reduction in workload. Information on these programs is outlined in the School’s Faculty Workload Policy, which is available in the Dean’s Office.

The restrictions on leaves of absence for scholarly purposes also apply in the case of ETDs. They are usually granted only to faculty in a professorial rank, excluding those with a visiting title, and may be taken only when they do not interfere with the instructional program of the faculty member’s department or school.

Since professors receive salary from the University during an ETD, all their benefits are continued, although pension contributions, which are based on a percentage of salary, will be reduced if they receive less than their normal pay.

Full-time officers of instruction who cannot perform their responsibilities because of illness or injury are given leaves of absence with full salary for up to six months from the onset of the disability. If the disability continues for a longer period of time, the faculty member should apply to the University’s insurance carrier for long-term disability. If approved, he or she is given a medical leave without salary and may receive a portion of his or her salary from the University’s insurance carrier according to the terms of the University’s long-term disability program. Officers who are able to perform some of their normal responsibilities will be given a leave of absence with partial salary that may be supplemented with prorated disability payments from the insurance carrier.

The first 12 weeks of medical leave, with or without salary, are deemed to meet the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (see “FMLA Leaves,” below).

A faculty member requesting a leave of absence for medical reasons is expected to provide documentation from a physician specifying the nature and anticipated duration of the disability. Faculty should submit this documentation to the Leave Management Office in Human Resources which will advise the dean or executive vice president and the Provost on how long the faculty member will be unable to perform his or her normal responsibilities. The University, at its expense, may have the individual examined by a physician of its choosing if there is any question about whether a disability exists.

The University, at its expense, may also require a faculty member to undergo a medical examination by a physician of its choice when the individual contests the existence of a disability that prevents the performance of their academic duties. Should the physician confirm that the faculty member is disabled, the University reserves the right to relieve the officer of all responsibilities.

A faculty member who wishes to return to active service after recovering from a disabling illness or injury should submit a letter from a physician stating that they are physically capable of returning to work. If special working arrangements are needed for the individual to return from the disability, the physician should also specify the nature of the accommodations required. This information may be submitted, at the faculty member’s discretion, to either the department chair or dean or to the Leave Management Office in Human Resources. The University may have the individual examined by a physician of its choice before agreeing to the reinstatement.

The appropriate department chair, dean, or executive vice president may notify a nontenured faculty member at any point during a period of disability that their appointment will not be renewed after the end of the leave of absence, provided that the leave extends beyond the minimum period specified by the University Statutes for notice of nonrenewal (see “Termination,” below). Such notice is given in writing. In the absence of a letter of nonrenewal, a nontenured faculty member will be returned to active service at the end of a medical leave.

Full-time faculty may take advantage of several types of leaves that are designed to assist them in taking care of newborn and newly adopted children. Medical leaves for childbirth and full or partial leaves for child care are described below. The University’s workload relief plan is discussed in the next section of this chapter.

The University treats disabilities arising from pregnancy and childbirth like any other nonoccupational disability. A pregnant officer is entitled to a medical leave of absence for the period surrounding the birth of her child during which her doctor certifies that she is unable to work. The officer receives full salary and benefits under the University’s salary continuation plan if the period of leave is six months or less. If the officer is disabled for a longer duration, she should apply to the University’s insurance carrier for long-term disability. If approved, she is placed on a medical leave of absence without salary and the University’s long-term disability carrier starts to make payments equal to a portion of her salary. As with other medical leaves, the University reserves the right to have the officer seen by a physician of its own choosing.

Full-time faculty with newborn infants may take a leave of absence without salary to care for the children. They may also teach a reduced course load on a partial leave of absence for that purpose. Similar privileges are given to full-time faculty who are primarily responsible for the care of a newly adopted child of less than school age, or if the child is disabled or meets New York State’s legal definition of “hard to place,” is less than 18 at the time the leave begins. Same-sex domestic partners of women who give birth and of individuals who adopt are also eligible for these leaves.

Parental leaves must begin within the first year after the birth or adoption of the new child but may end after it is over. The total period of leave, including the time during which a faculty member who has given birth is on a medical leave, normally may not exceed one year. Exceptions are permitted in cases of extended disabilities arising from pregnancy and childbirth.

The first 12 weeks of any child care leave, including medical leaves required by pregnancy and childbirth, are deemed to be leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) as described below.

Faculty members are expected to request medical leaves for childbirth and child care leaves sufficiently early to permit their departments and schools to plan for their absence. A faculty member who will give birth should provide written documentation from her physician stating the anticipated duration of the disability. If the actual period of disability differs from the original projection of her physician, she should submit new documentation from her physician so that the medical leave can be changed. She may, at her discretion, submit the information on her disability to her department chair or dean or to the Leave Management Office in Human Resources. If she chooses the latter, she still needs to ask for the leave from her department chair or dean and should indicate in her request that the documentation on the disability has been sent to the Leave Management Office.

If the total period of child care leave, including medical leaves required by pregnancy and childbirth, is at least two months in length, the Provost’s Office will exclude the term in determining the maximum period of time a nontenured faculty member may serve in a full-time instructional capacity at the University. The faculty member does not need to ask for the exclusion. (See “Appointments with Stated Term,” above.) In the case of tenured faculty, the period of leave does not contribute toward establishing sabbatical eligibility.

In spring 1994, the University Senate adopted a resolution recommending that the deans and vice presidents adopt a parental workload relief plan for members of their full-time faculty who become new parents.

There are three eligibility requirements for workload relief. An officer must

  1. be a full-time officer of instruction;
  2. hold an appointment with one of the following titles:
    • professor, associate professor, or assistant professor, including those with the clinical, practice, or 'at CUMC" but excluding those in a visiting rank;
    • instructor; or
    • senior lecturer, lecturer, or associate, including those with the modifier “in (discipline)”; and
  3. be primarily responsible for the care of a newborn child or a newly adopted child of less than school age or if the child is disabled or meets New York State’s legal definition of “hard-to-place,” less than 18 at the time the leave begins. For the purpose of this policy, an officer is the “primary parent” if he or she is a single parent or, where there are two parents, if the other is working full-time or is enrolled as a full-time student. Faculty may employ a day-care provider and still qualify as the primary parent. When both parents work at the University, only one may be considered the primary parent at any given time.

Eligible faculty members on the Morningside campus may receive workload relief for one term at full salary, one year at half salary, or a year at full salary by agreeing to teach half of their normal course load in each term and continuing to make themselves available for a comparable portion of the administrative assignments they normally perform as well as continuing to meet with students and conduct research. Eligible faculty in the four schools of the Irving Medical Center may receive up to 13 weeks of paid parental leave. The period of workload relief must begin within the first year after the birth or adoption of the new child but may continue beyond that year. During the period selected, faculty are excused from teaching and from serving on administrative committees. They are, however, expected to make themselves available for consultations with students and to continue their research.

While on workload relief, faculty are not permitted to accept assignments, either with or without compensation, outside the University.

The workload relief plan is designed to replace the combination of medical and/or child care leaves for individuals who meet their eligibility requirements. However, eligible faculty may still elect to take those leaves rather than ask for workload relief if they wish, for example, to provide no service while taking care of their new children.

If workload relief is not preceded by other periods of leave covered by the FMLA, the first 12 weeks are deemed to meet the requirements of that Act.

Full-time faculty are entitled to leaves of absence to fulfill their military obligations under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. Part-time faculty are also entitled to these leaves if they meet the eligibility requirements specified in the Act. During the first 15 days of such leave each year, the faculty member receives full salary. Thereafter, they are placed on a leave without salary. For information on the policies governing military leaves, officers should consult with a counselor in the Office of Human Resources.

Full-time faculty are also granted leaves for public service. These leaves are granted for up to 12 months at a time and do not extend for more than two years in duration. Extensions beyond the two-year maximum require the prior special permission of the Provost and are rarely granted.

Full-time members of the special instructional faculty – senior lecturer, senior lecturer in (discipline), lecturer, lecturer in (discipline), associate, associate in (discipline), and assistant – and faculty with “clinical” or "at CUMC" in their titles may apply for personal leaves of absence for professional development. Such leaves are granted only when their purposes are directly related to the officer’s instructional or clinical responsibilities. Full-time faculty in a professorial rank ordinarily may not take a leave to enroll in an educational program.

Full-time faculty may request a leave of absence without salary to deal with a compelling personal need. Faculty who take such leaves to care for seriously ill family members are entitled under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave, subject to the requirements described below under “FMLA Leaves.” Longer periods of leave for that purpose and all other types of personal leave are granted at the discretion of the Provost on the recommendation of the appropriate department chair, dean, or executive vice president. Personal leaves are generally limited to a maximum of one year, but the Provost may authorize extensions on the recommendation of the department chair, dean, or executive vice president.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) gives certain full- and part-time employees of the University the right to unpaid leave to deal with the following:

  1. the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child;
  2. a medical disability;
  3. a serious illness of a spouse, child, or parent; or
  4. a qualifying exigency, as defined by the federal Department of Labor, arising from a spouse, child, or parent serving on or being called to active military duty.

An eligible employee with a family member in the military is entitled to 26 weeks of FMLA leave. The maximum period of FMLA leave for other purposes is 12 weeks in any 12-month period.

To be eligible for an FMLA leave, faculty must have been employed and paid by the University for at least 12 months immediately preceding the commencement of the leave. In addition, they must have provided at least 1,250 hours of service during that 12-month period. Any compensated employment – regardless of title and including periods on the casual payroll – counts in determining if the officer meets these requirements. Leaves with salary also count, but those without salary do not.

The leaves full-time faculty may take under University policies for the purposes covered by the FMLA are considerably more generous than those required by the Act, with the exception of certain benefits provisions. Consequently, the University considers the first 12 weeks of any such leave as fulfilling the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act, except for leaves arising from a family member’s military service in which case it counts for the first 26 weeks.