2.36 Principles and General Guidelines for Tenure Decisions

The importance of tenure decisions to the quality of the University and the impact of such decisions on the lives of tenure candidates demand that the preparation of a tenure dossier be a matter of the highest priority for the individual and the appropriate academic unit (most often, the department).The dossier makes the case for the candidate’s accomplishments and for their continuing appointment; thus, the academic unit has an ethical responsibility to conduct as thorough and as balanced a review as possible.

Because the dossier should contain extensive evaluative documentation, as well as the presentation of materials, the candidate is not responsible for assembling the dossier in its final form or transmitting it to the Office of the Vice Chancellor, Provost, and Chief Academic Officer, although it is expected that the candidate will work closely with the academic unit to provide high-quality materials.

The process for selecting the membership of department and School/College tenure and promotion committees should be set out clearly in the department/School/College bylaws. Those bylaws should respect three principles:

a. The deliberative bodies should be independent across levels (i.e., no individual should actively participate or vote in two levels of the process, such as at both the department and School/College level, for any single individual).

b. Committees for tenure and promotion should exclude individuals with potential conflicts of interest. In these committees, potential conflicts of interest occur when individuals who may directly or indirectly derive a personal benefit are in a position to influence a decision (e.g., tenure of a spouse or partner). Individuals may also recuse themselves from service in cases in which participation or voting might pose a substantial conflict with the performance of their primary duties in the University.

c. The process of evaluation, deliberation, and voting leading to academic-unit recommendations regarding tenure is the responsibility of tenured members of the faculty. At the departmental level, the voting body should be composed only of tenured members. All Schools and Colleges should provide a description and justification of unit practices regarding voting to the Vice Chancellor, Provost, and Chief Academic Officer before May 15, prior to any academic year in which a candidate for tenure is expected to be presented.

It is the responsibility of the appropriate unit head to fulfill all established professional responsibilities appropriate to the position for all tenure candidates, including helping the candidate make the strongest possible case for tenure, given accomplishments to-date, talent, and promise. It is the candidate, however, who bears responsibility for providing information about their academic accomplishments, using the Form A document, which includes two parts: (1) Outline of Professional Experience and (2) Candidate’s Professional Statement.

The appropriate unit head (department/School/College) is responsible for providing a detailed executive summary of the evaluative processes and statements made by individuals and committees. The unit head should then include their own evaluative comments, addressing and clarifying any conflicts in materials presented; adding information that would be helpful in subsequent evaluative processes; and addressing any negative aspects of the candidate’s record or the external reviews and explaining any mitigating factors that should be considered.

The use of external evaluators and critics is an essential feature of a thorough tenure review process. Reviewers should be chosen from the relevant publics and audiences for the candidate’s achievements. Reviewers should be of sufficient rank, status, and accomplishment to make the judgments asked of them. Those qualities should be assessed by such factors as institutional affiliation, academic rank, prestige in a non-academic enterprise, or membership and knowledgeable participation in a relevant community of experts. Outside reviewers will be selected as appropriate to, and in accordance with, the conventions of the candidate’s discipline(s) and School/College(s). For example, in the professional schools, it is not unusual for some outside evaluators to be non-academic professionals and some to be senior-rank academics in comparable professional schools. In the liberal arts and sciences, it is more typical that all or most outside reviewers be senior-rank academics. Generally, reviewers’ programs or departments should be of at least comparable quality to the candidate’s program/department. The reasons for selecting all reviewers should be explained in the dossier, and any divergence from the conventions of the academic discipline should be explained. The candidate should be given the opportunity to nominate external reviewers, and that list should include sufficient names to allow choice for the committee and anonymity for the final roster of reviewers. The committee should nominate its own separate list of potential reviewers, and the final roster of outside evaluators should feature a majority of reviewers from the committee’s list. To minimize conflicts of interest, letters from close colleagues/collaborators, former professors or graduate advisors, or other similar individuals are discouraged. If such individuals are included in the roster of reviewers, their presence and impartiality must be explained in the dossier. At each level in the tenure process, all information generated by the appropriate evaluative bodies, including any formal votes, should be transmitted to subsequent evaluators.

Updated April 17, 2024