Sabbaticals Impair Pomona’s Politics Department

Due to planned and unplanned absences, Pomona’s politics department will be significantly understaffed next school year. Only nine of the twelve politics faculty members will be teaching fall semester 2010 and spring semester 2011.

“A quarter of us will be gone at one time or another,” said David Menefee-Libey, politics chair and professor. “It will be tough for the faculty and for the students.”

Professors Pierre Englebert and John Seery will be taking planned academic leaves of absence for the entirety of the year. In the fall, Professor Betsy Crighton will be gone due to personal reasons, and Professor Susan McWilliams will be on maternity leave in the spring.

“Some of it was planned, and some of it was way beyond our control,” Professor Heather Williams said.

Menefee-Libey said this would be particularly difficult for students studying political theory, because Seery and McWilliams are the two professors the department has in this concentration.

The other three concentrations are American politics, comparative politics, and international relations.

Additionally, McWilliams will be the only comparative politics professor at Pomona in the fall.

The politics major does not require a thesis, but juniors who are planning to write one may have trouble finding a faculty thesis advisor next year.

“So many professors are going to be gone, so it’s going to put a strain on the remaining few,” said Isa Ballard PO ’11, a politics major who is considering writing a thesis.

McWilliams said many politics professors are also heavily involved in programs such as international relations, public policy analysis, and women’s studies, many of which require theses.

“The concern I have is for juniors who joined the politics major late,” said Greg Carter PO ’10, a politics major. “In the past, they would have been able to take seven politics classes in a year. If fewer classes are offered, it’s hard to fill area requirements. It’s a really atypical year—a bad confluence of events and a terrible situation for the department.”

“In general, the policy of the college is to not replace people when they go on leave,” Menefee-Libey said. “We’ve expanded the faculty with the assumption that one out of five of us will be gone.”

He said the department has funding for one extra class in the fall.

The high number of faculty on leave next year is unprecedented and was impossible to avoid, according to Menefee-Libey.

“It’s nobody’s fault,” he said. “There’s no bad guy. It’s an exasperating anomaly.”

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