III. Expanding Our Reach in Ideas

3.6 Support for Scholarship and Creative Work

The great liberal arts colleges differ from their university counterparts in the sustained commitment of those colleges’ faculties both to scholarly or artistic activities and to hands-on teaching responsibilities. The freshness of ideas in the teacher's classroom or laboratory or studio is correlated with the vigor of his or her professional engagement outside them. Colleges serve their constituencies best when they ensure that such engagement receives continued and creative support, even as college service demands more and more time because of technological advances, the changing needs of a diverse student body, and the growing pressures of advising, mentoring and evaluating. As the College has shown sensitivity in tending to the internal pedagogical needs of the faculty, so it must continue to enhance opportunities for exposure to those creative stimuli by which its teaching staff thrives.

Amherst has made progress in supporting the development of faculty in their probationary period. As a consequence of recent changes in Amherst’s system for reappointment, assistant professors now receive regular feedback on their professional development from both department chairs and the Dean before they stand for tenure. Departments have developed new methods of mentoring, formal and informal. As is traditional at Amherst, team-teaching, both within and beyond departments, is central to such mentoring, and we urge the administration to ensure that all departments have the resources to allow for such collaboration. The administration has pledged to seek funding for a year of sabbatical leave after reappointment for all assistant professors; such funding should become permanent.

10. We recommend that all assistant professors be assured of a year of sabbatical leave at full salary after reappointment.

The College expects its faculty to engage in scholarship and other forms of creative work outside the classroom and consequently should ensure that they are able to do so without financial penalty. Some faculty delay or forego leaves because their households cannot meet their financial obligations on the normal sabbatical compensation of 80 percent of regular salary. The competitive Senior Sabbatical Fellowship program grants the additional 20 percent, but only for one semester, even if the applicant is eligible for a year’s leave, and the number of such supplements is limited.

11. We recommend that the existing program of Senior Sabbatical Fellowships be expanded to cover as much as two semesters of leave after six years and that the College make every effort to secure sufficient funds to support all qualified applicants.

We envision that application will be made through the existing program, in which proposals (including the names of two outside referees) are reviewed by the Committee of Six. Such proposals have the added benefit of providing a starting basis for crafting applications for outside funding to sustain faculty research and creative work.

Amherst puts faculty at a competitive disadvantage in gaining external funding by providing less staff support for grant seeking than most peer institutions.

12. We recommend that the College create a staff position to assist faculty in applying for grants to support their research and creative work.

Such a position would also serve to help faculty and the College monitor compliance with the protocols of the government and other granting agencies.

Guided by our colleagues we have chosen to prioritize sabbatical leaves as the most equitable way to nourish faculty scholarship and other forms of creative work. Nevertheless, we also see substantial opportunities to enrich intellectual life by bringing larger numbers of visiting scholars and artists into the College.

Both Amherst and the broader Five College community have been extremely successful in attracting first-rate scholars to the area to lecture, perform, and participate in conferences. The Pioneer Valley has numerous centers and institutes in which Amherst faculty have been actively involved. They include the Center for Crossroads in the Study of the Americas, the Five College African Studies Program, and the Five College Women’s Studies Research Center. We support the consideration of a center, based at Amherst, for the study of international conflicts, perhaps under the theme of “America and the World,” as discussed with colleagues in the Five Colleges. Such a center would bring together students, faculty, activists and policy makers around thematic and geographically designed programs.

We also endorse the further study of proposals to create a more broadly defined research center to bring to campus post-doctoral fellows and senior scholars who would share their work with the college community. We would hope that its activities would reflect the broad range of faculty research interests and that faculty might take turns directing the center and proposing annual themes to coordinate the work of the fellows. Discussions concerning the creation of such a center are under way within the Copeland Committee, and we endorse directing existing resources in this way, where practicable.