A Brief Departure from the Hallowed Halls

IMG_3955With the summer pretty much behind us (sorry, but it’s true), the Center puts its nose back to the grindstone and, among many other things, turns its attention back to the blog.  Except for me.  My nose will not touch whirling pumice this semester, because I’m going on sabbatical leave.  For those of you not steeped in the culture of academia…congratulations.   Ummm…let’s try that again:  For those of you not steeped in the culture of academia, a “sabbatic” is sometimes granted to established faculty that have put considerable time into their research and teaching and are in need of a short break to (take your pick of metaphors):  recharge their batteries, stoke their intellectual fire, explore new horizons, push the envelope of their expertise.  In other words, detach themselves from their usual world and go out and learn/do something new, so that they will be all that more effective in their job when they return.

While this may seem an amazingly indulgent perk in today’s trader-eat-trader world, to me it seems an excellent idea for just about every profession. In fact, I spoke recently to a financial advisor (?!) who had just come back from a sabbatic leave. My family physician took one just last year to avoid burnout.  However, I cannot yet speak from personal experience, since this is the first time I’ll be doing it.  And sadly, because of changes in the structure of my department at UConn most of my colleagues will not get the chance to go this route, no matter how long or how effectively they do their jobs.

Mark and Pie
Anonymous colleague makes his case for sabbaticals.

I am not a hard core Marxian but at some point we all become alienated from the means of production.  Because CLEAR largely depends on grants, we can translate that classic phrase into working so hard to get funding to do the things that you want to do that you don’t have the time to do the things you want to do — even if you’re successful in getting the funding.  This is closely related in a kind of insidious death spiral to the famous Peter Principle, which stipulates that people are inevitably promoted to the level of their incompetence.  The theoretical underpinning of a sabbatical leave as a cure for these ills can be said a little more succinctly (see pic).

I may well have reached these telltale benchmarks.  So, off I go.  What exactly I’ll be doing is not important for this blog, and anyway it’s classified. But I’ll be doing a lot of writing, a little traveling, and hopefully get out in the field to revisit my research roots.  I will report in full when I get back.

In the meantime, CLEAR will go on doing its great work with nary a ripple.   I leave firmly balanced on the knife’s edge of wanting my colleagues to feel my absence keenly, and wanting them NOT to.  It’s a grand experiment, both for the rest of the CLEAR gang and for me. Here’s hoping it’s a successful one.