Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Thanks for your service. Now leave 

An article in this morning's Chronicle of Higher Education (temporary link; permalink for subscribers only) tells us about Christopher Cooper, a professor of criminal justice at Saint Xavier University in Chicago, who was injured in Iraq while serving as a reservist there.

Since returning from Iraq in October of 2004, Mr. Cooper, who is 43, says he has had to interrupt his classroom teaching to go to the bathroom and to monitor his blood pressure. He has also had to cancel classes for hospital visits and because "sometimes my glands swell and I get blisters on my tongue and I can't speak."

The professor says he asked the university to help him by hiring an adjunct to fill in occasionally and teach his classes. And he says that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offered to help the university foot the bill.

But instead, says Mr. Cooper, the university placed him on an unrequested medical leave from January through May of 2006. Last December, it also turned down his request for a sabbatical for the 2006-7 academic year.

Subsequent to filing an EEOC complaint against the school, the sabbatical was magically approved -- "sufficient funding ... was not available" before, said the school, but now they have them -- but now Prof. Cooper has not made plans for research travel because of the earlier turn-down; failure to produce such research could lead at least to him having to forfeit his pay during the sabbatical, and potentially an inability to achieve promotion to full professor.

Prof. Cooper is tenured, and so I doubt he can be fired. But the school's reluctance to help his disability, particularly in light of its experiences with another professor with anti-military views, certainly has to strike one as inelegant.