I am about to go on sabbatical. I do not know if I want to return to the institution afterward. Our faculty handbook says that sabbaticals are granted with the expectation that faculty return for at least one year.

Does that mean I am legally required to pay back the money if I don't return, or only morally required to return it? This is in the United States.

  • 7
    This really comes down to your contract, and we couldn't give legal advice even if we knew the exact wording. – cag51 Apr 6 '19 at 19:48
  • I think I've seen it both ways, and even seen it argued and changed back and forth in amendments. "Expectation" sounds weak though so I'd be hopeful. – A Simple Algorithm Apr 6 '19 at 19:57
  • It's not uncommon for sabbatical leave policies to impose such a requirement, but it's something that depends on your particular institution's policies. – Brian Borchers Apr 6 '19 at 20:26
  • I agree we cannot answer as to whether you would be legally required to repay. Still, I think it might be possible to reframe this into a question about whether such rules are generally legally enforceable, and what specific aspects of the wording might tend to make them more or less so. – Nate Eldredge Apr 6 '19 at 22:57

You will probably have a contractual obligation for one year. You may even need to sign a document affirming it before you can be paid. Talk to someone at your institution to learn the rules and the consequences of not returning. You might want to find someone outside your department if you don't want to signal your ambivalence.

You might also consider that any new institution might not be pleased if you step away from an obligation at the old one. No way to be sure, of course.

  • I have had prior sabbaticals and was never asked to sign a contract. FWIW, if I left, it would be for industry, not another institution, but I would almost certainly pay it back anyway. – Embarrassed tenured professor Apr 7 '19 at 0:20

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