Regents vote to place restrictions on paid leave


University of Hawaii regents voted unanimously Thursday morning to place restrictions on paid leave taken by executives.

Known officially as “professional improvement leave,” the university system’s sabbatical policy allowed executives and managers to take leave with full pay for up to 12 months for professional improvement purposes. The reasoning for the policy, Board of Regents members said, was for executives to get away from the campus setting to explore other interests and studies that would benefit the university upon their return.

Former UH-Hilo Chancellor Rose Tseng took such a sabbatical beginning in June 2010 after handing over the campus’ reins to current Chancellor Donald Straney. She continued to earn her salary of $284,000, and then returned to the campus the following year at a reduced salary of $187,596 as a professor in the College of Pharmacy.

The university’s sabbatical policy has drawn some criticism during a time of tight budgetary constraints for the state, which led to the decision to consider amendments to the policy, according to a Feb. 12 memorandum by Coralie Chun Matayoshi, chairwoman of the Board of Regents Committee on Personnel Affairs.

According to the amendments approved at Thursday’s meeting held on the UH-Hilo campus, executives will be afforded up to six months of leave at full pay, or 12 months at half pay. That pay would be based on the position to be taken up upon the individual’s return.

The new guidelines also require than an employee granted leave with pay for professional improvement agree to return to service at the university. The length of that return would correspond with requirements laid out in the faculty collective bargaining agreement.

A similar provision was already in place at the time when Tseng applied for her sabbatical, although it required a returning individual to remain at the university for at least the same duration as the leave. Initially, however, Tseng requested that the UH Board of Regents waive that policy.

Regents denied her waiver, and shortly thereafter, she said she experienced a change of heart, and decided to return to UH-Hilo.

The UH system says its sabbatical policy puts it in line with 11 out of 24 similar “peer institutions.”

Board of Regents members voted to approve the measure Thursday morning with virtually no discussion. The vote was unanimous.