Sabbaticals, Leaves Result in Political Science Dept. Scramble

Drew Kaplan ’20, Associate Opinion Editor

A below-average offering of courses in the political science department is leading to fuller classes. Many professors are also on sabbatical or are absent for personal reasons, leading to a shortage of availability to teach classes.

Professor of Political Science David Strand, chair of the political science department, explained that last year, 51 courses were offered, versus the 48 this year. However, this year is unbalanced between semesters; 17 courses are on offer this semester, compared to a planned 31 in the spring.

“Last year there was balance. This year, in the spring, there’ll be thirty-one courses. It’s complicated because we [political science professors] teach in other departments. Some of the courses that we teach are cross listed, which restricts availability. It’s tricky to plan.”

Regarding the unbalanced semesters, Strand said that “There are significantly more courses [in the spring], partly because there are more faculty on leave in the fall than in the spring. There are more introductory classes this year than there were last year, and there’ll be an above average level of introductory courses in the spring this year.”

Strand also said that some professors have been asked to teach additional courses:

“[Associate] Professor [of Philosophy Crispin] Sartwell was going to teach two courses, and now he’s teaching three. We’re in his debt,” Strand stated.

However, he explained that asking other professors to step in is difficult for upper level courses, which require more specialization than introductory courses. “Some courses you can’t replace so easily, particularly upper level courses.”

Strand also explained that professors are granted sabbatical once every five years, and are able to choose whether they take a semester or full year off. “Faculty are required to take leaves. Research is an important part of our goal, and we are evaluated on that basis. It’s actually easier when they take leave for a full year, because then you can replace them with a visiting professor.” Strand explained that faculty are encouraged to take opportunities during sabbaticals when they arise, even if it inconveniences the department.

One professor who was asked to teach an additional course was Sartwell, who is teaching Political Philosophy this semester, in addition to two other philosophy courses. Sartwell explained that he was asked to teach Political Philosophy just before the semester began.

“It’s because [Professor of Political Science] Harry Pohlman had to have heart surgery, so I got last minute slotted in. They called me a few days before, and asked me if it was possible for me to teach this course.”

Students expressed concerns regarding their schedules and those of others. Patrick Robinson ’20 said “It’s not messing with my schedule that much, [because] I’m a sophomore. I’m using this space to get general requirements out of the way. I do feel for juniors and seniors who were expecting more higher-level courses.”

Preston Maclean ’20 said it “was tricky getting my class. It is supposed to be a discussion based class. We actually had to move to a bigger room to fit everybody. We’re still able to keep the discussion based class, but I feel that if it were smaller, it would be easier to talk to everybody.”

Zeshi Wang ’20 claimed “It just kinda screwed up all of us.”

Professor Strand said “Students certainly have a right to be concerned.” Although many more courses will be offered next semester, the lack of space this semester is “small comfort to a student,” though he hopes the additional capacity in the spring will “be reassuring to majors.”