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Detail, secondment and sabbatical in academe

TERESITA TANHUECO-TUMAPON

DETAIL, secondment and sabbatical in the academic field are not just alternative terms for taking off from the daily grind in one’s assigned office. If one were a college dean, one would be writing/going over reports to higher ups; or if a program head or department chairman, reviewing student evaluations of academics; or if a teaching academic, reading student capstones 6 inches away from one’s nose, etc. The terms detail, secondment and sabbatical may offer one a temporary new working environment. Hence, any one of these terms is not a vacation from work. Such leaves, however, seem an uncommon provision in Philippine universities. A dozen or so state colleges and universities do have sabbaticals, but seldom occurs in private academia, much less to have an academic detailed or seconded. In 1988, I introduced sabbaticals in a state college that I headed and which gave great returns to the college. Some private universities do have sabbaticals; I myself underwent a sabbatical.

Detail, secondments sabbaticals. A detail is transferring an academic to a related part of a university (from teaching department to a research department) to work for a specific purpose for an agreed period of time without loss of salary and other privileges. The academic on detail may be assigned because of his/her expertise or to learn new skills where he/she has to be detailed and which is needed by his/her own original department. A secondment is a more formal form of temporary transfer of an academic to another part of an organization public or private or to an affiliate organization/university of his/her home university with his/her salary coming from the budget of where he/she is seconded. An example would be a professor in a university, who would be seconded to the Philippine government as a department secretary, such as an engineer for the Department of Public Highways or a doctor of medicine in a teaching hospital or to head the Department of Health. An academic who may be on a visiting professorship in another local or offshore university or organization affiliated through a memorandum of understanding or memorandum of agreement with the home university may be considered on secondment. The salary may be more but not less than the salary in the home university. An academic on secondment returns after the agreed period of secondment to his/her former position or may be promoted by his/her own university. A sabbatical leave is a paid period of released time designed to reinvigorate and restore one’s academic energies and to provide a base for future intellectual development and achievement. <https://academia.stackexchange.com›questions›what-is-an-academic-sab …> Hence, sabbaticals are not the absence of academic assignments. Like a detail or a secondment, a sabbatical leave has work in the new environment; he/she is in for a very specific purpose with valued returns to the home university.


Origin and purpose of sabbaticals. Both sabbatical and Sabbath trace the origins to the Greek word “sabbaton.” “Sabbaton itself traces to the Hebrew word shabbāth, meaning “rest.” “The Old Testament refers to God’s ‘day of rest’ most famously in Genesis, but Sabbath referring to an entire year of rest is mentioned in Leviticus” (25:3-5): <https://www.merriam – webster.com › dictionary › sabbatical> “Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof. But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the Lord: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.” The origin of the concept of the sabbatical, based on the Biblical practice of shmita, shows it is related to agriculture. Sabbaticals originating in churches would explain why sabbaticals are centuries-old practices. Just as in the Bible, there was to be no working in farms and in vineyards every seventh year, “and fields rested and rejuvenated,” so do sabbaticals — their enduring appeal is that “they offer a chance for people to be themselves rather than their work roles (e.g., a doctor or a lawyer)…and which gives access to immense personal freedom and spiritual renewal.” They are primarily for renewal of energies, intellectually, emotionally and physically, often used for travel and for research <http://www.the sabbaticalcoach.com/about_sabbaticals.html> for study, creative effort and teaching innovation . . . all to enhance the quality of the recipient’s service to the university. Sabbatical leaves have become a practice in companies for the past 50 years. Many of us are familiar with “major employers such as IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, McDonalds, Xerox, Nike, Wells Fargo and American Express” — large companies that offer their constituents sabbatical leave programs. <http://www.thesab baticalcoach.com/about_sabbaticals.html>

Sabbatical practices and policies in academe. Research has shown that “sabbatical leaves can be powerful stimuli for faculty to improve their performance, and can also be seen as a political favor granted for exceptional service to loyal faculty members.” But findings from an “overview of contemporary research on the sabbatical leave, and an identification of several narratives on the sabbatical leave… suggest that while the sabbatical leave is generally considered a positive tool for enhancing faculty morale, the outcomes of the sabbaticals tend to be of a summative nature and lacking in empirical assessment data procedures.” <https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED430471.pdf> It would be interesting and useful to conduct a research on sabbaticals in Philippine universities from which findings we can learn to craft better policies and best practice. The University of the Philippines and a dozen or so state and private universities include in their respective administrative manuals their policies and practices on sabbatical leaves. These manuals are online.

Email: ttumapon@liceo.edu.ph

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