McGill students specializing in Archaeology will see fewer courses and different teaching staff next September, when half of the Archeology subsection of the Anthropology department take their sabbatical leave. The number of upper-level courses available will also be limited, as will the department’s ability to oversee independent study courses.
“Professors will be more focused on supervising Honours theses so that these students can graduate than on overseeing independent studies,” said Professor Andre Costopoulous, one of the two Archeology professors who will continue to teach at McGill next year.
There are currently five archeology professors employed at McGill, one of which is presently on leave. Come September, two more professors will be released from their teaching duties in order to concentrate on their research.
Sabbatical leave is part of the normal cycle of academic life: after six years of teaching, professors are released from their other obligations in order to be able to devote their time to their research and extended field work.
“This time is essential because academics need time to write up and publish their work,” said Costopoulous.
The fact that these leave periods coincide is the result of a fluke, explained Diane Mann, an undergraduate advisor in the Anthropology department.
“The situation is not usual. The sabbatical only happens once every seven years, and generally it doesn’t happen at the same time,” she said.
Nevertheless, the department has been aware of the problem for some time, and has been marshalling resources to deal with it.
“At first we were afraid we would only be operating at 50 per cent capacity, but now I think we will be able to provide students with 75 per cent of course offerings,” said Costopoulous.
Post doctoral students in the department will pick up some of the slack by taking on teaching responsibilities. The department is also looking to bring in sessional lecturers to give some of the courses that would otherwise not be available.
Studying with post docs offers students an opportunity to hear new ideas and perspectives, Costopoulous pointed out. However, they often have less time for students because they are busy trying to complete their own research.
Mann said that students have all been forewarned of the situation and instructed to plan their course selections accordingly.
“We are working with the ASA [Anthropology Students Association] to communicate with students. We are encouraging students to take as many [archeology] courses as possible next term,” she said.
The minor in Archeology was removed as a study option in 2004. Students now only study archeology as a subsection of an Anthropology degree.