A justification as to why a leave is essential to complete the proposed project

I am completing an application for a university funded one-semester research leave at full pay to work on a book related to my ongoing research with Katie Day on church security (generously funded by the Louisville Institute).

As much as I enjoy teaching, I am grateful for the opportunity to take a leave from teaching periodically in order to focus my complete attention on research and writing. At the same time, our teaching responsibilities at Wake Forest are 9 courses every 4 semesters with no graduate student advising on top of that. Which leaves plenty of time for research and writing under normal circumstances.

Because of this reality, as I was working on my leave application this past Saturday, one of the pieces of information requested rubbed me the wrong way. Although I subsequently re-wrote my response to remove the snark, below is what I originally wrote.

(4) A justification as to why a leave is essential to complete the proposed project, included justification for the timing of the leave relative to the proposed project.

Of the 27 semesters I have completed at Wake Forest, I have had 2 semesters of research leave. During that time I have published two books, completed two revisions of my sociology of religion textbook, edited a major handbook in the sociology of religion, served 7 years as editor and associate editor of leading journals in my field, published 15 articles and book chapters, and written countless reviews and other occasional pieces.

Clearly, a leave is not “essential” to completing this project or any productive faculty members’ projects. I will complete the project with or without the support of a research leave. However, there is no question that without the gift of time and space a research leave provides it will take longer to complete, create more opportunity costs in terms of other work I can do as a teacher-scholar, and (perhaps most significantly) extract a greater toll on my personal health and relationships.

Letter of Support to Parents and Loved Ones of Wake Forest Students

Although the university’s response to threatening emails sent to 7 individual faculty and staff associated with the sociology department and 5 other units on campus was slow, the response of our department was not. In addition to the email noted in my previous post, drafted by our department chair Joseph Soares, our newest faculty member, Brittany Battle, took it upon herself to write a letter of support to parents and loved ones of Wake Forest students.

I am grateful that she did. The letter appears below.

As a two-time parent of Wake Forest undergraduates (including one currently), I was happy to co-sign.

The early morning sun rakes across the side of Kirby Hall, on the campus of Wake Forest University, Friday, January 11, 2019. Photo by Ken Bennett

Dear Parents and Loved Ones of WFU Students,

Over the past week, the university has been experiencing the aftermath of hateful emails sent to members of the university community. We have spoken with many students and many have described their fear and anger. We can completely relate to those feelings, which are shared by many associated with the university, including parents. As faculty and staff members at Wake, we want to assure you that we are here on campus to support your children and to advocate for their safety and security. We are committed to making sure that the most marginalized students on our campus–students of color, LGBTQ+ students, first-generation students–have faculty in their corner who are speaking on their behalf. We are committed to doing our very best every day to make them feel welcomed and valued here. The most rewarding part of our job is teaching and supporting your children, a job that we all hold in the utmost regard. We know you trusted the university in sending your child to get their education at Wake, in many cases hours away from home. We hope that knowing your child has the support of faculty and staff, across departments and individual backgrounds, provides you with some comfort.

In Solidarity,

Brittany P. Battle, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Saylor Breckenridge, Associate Professor of Sociology

Hana Brown, Associate Professor of Sociology

Amanda Gengler, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Amanda L. Griffith, Associate Professor and Associate Chair of Economics

Kristina Gupta, Assistant Professor, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Marina Krcmar, Professor, Communication, WFU Parent (‘17)

Jayati Lal, Visiting Associate Professor, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Jieun Lee, Assistant Professor, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Tanisha Ramachandran, Associate Teaching Professor, Department for the Study of Religions

Don R. Shegog, II, Instructional Technologist for Economics, Politics and Sociology Departments

Robin Simon, Professor of Sociology

Joseph A. Soares, Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology

Alessandra Von Burg, Associate Professor, Communication, WFU Parent (‘14)

Ron Von Burg, Associate Professor, Communication, WFU Parent (‘14)

David Yamane, Professor of Sociology and Wake Forest Parent (‘17, ‘22)

Mir Yarfitz, Associate Professor, Department of History

Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Director—Special Collections & Archives, ZSR Library

Sociology Department Response to Hostile Emails Sent to Wake Forest Faculty and Staff

My academic home, Wake Forest University, is not innocent of the open and blatant racism of the past or the more hidden and subtle racism of the present. Many on campus, including members of my home department (sociology), have pressed for the university to address this.

Recently, Wake Forest became the target of open and blatant racism (and homophobia and anti-Semitism), particularly members of the sociology department. As has been reported in the media, sociology faculty and staff received 7 of 12 hateful emails that were recently sent by an (as yet) unknown sender.

Although the university was slow in its official response, the department responded more quickly in an email to our majors and minors. That email, written by our department chair and co-signed by the members of our department, is copied below.

An exterior view of Wait Chapel, on the campus of Wake Forest University, Thursday, August 29, 2019. Photo by Ken Bennett

Dear Sociology Students:

This letter comes to you from the entire department of sociology, faculty and staff, because we believe you have a right to know the truth about the hate emails that were sent to members of our community last week.

Wednesday, September 11, the University Police told you that there were “investigating reports of inflammatory emails [sent out Tuesday night] with racist, homophobic, and discriminatory content sent from an unknown source … to various faculty and staff members.” That’s true. But what wasn’t spelled out is that the only individuals who received these emails were faculty and staff in our department. Seven people who work in our department were singled out for a hate email that praised the white male founding fathers, dismissed our undergraduates with ugly vile language, and called for our land to be “purged” of people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.  We take this hate email as being not just racist, homophobic, and misogynistic but also as a threat of violence. The call to “purge” categories of persons, is a white supremacist call for genocide.

The safety of everyone in our community is our top priority, but we also promise you transparency and the truth. We live in a society plagued by racism, sexism, and gun violence. We will do all we can to carry forward our scholarship, teaching, and our public engagement for social justice.  And we will do all we can to keep you and us safe from harm.

All classes will be canceled for the rest of this week to enable us to fully organize our security. Our building will have for the foreseeable future a police presence and all classrooms will be on auto lock. Only faculty will be able to unlock classroom doors.

If you have questions, reach out to your faculty.  If you have information, reach out to the Wake police.

Sincerely,

Joseph Soares

With Brittany Battle; Ken Bechtel; Saylor Breckenridge; Hana Brown; Rob Freeland; Amanda Gengler; Steven Gunkel; Catherine Harnois; Robin Simon, Erica Talley; Ian Taplin; Ana Wahl; and David Yamane.