Retention, Tenure, and Promotion Process

Definitions, Process and Challenges

American Association of University Professors

National Education Association 

Don’t Pit Tenure Against Contingent Faculty Rights
Street, S. (2008). Academe Online

Developing a Transparent Tenure Process
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 The Tenure Process
Reflections on a graduate student blog. Discover - Science, Technology and The Future.

Retention, Tenure, and Promotion

Defining the tenure process
When a faculty member accepts a tenure track position, they are entering a contract of sorts with a campus. The faculty member promises to make significant strides in the areas of teaching, research and service within a defined period of time. In turn, the campus promises to evaluate the faculty member's progress and if expectations are met, grant tenure, a permanent position on the faculty of that institution.The process should be an opportunity for professional development, and to demonstrate what we know and can do as faculty.

Faculty ranks
Faculty progress through their academic careers along specific paths. There are three ranks: Assistant, Associate and Full Professor. Each campus has specific expectations governing how a promotion is obtained through a peer review process. Assistant professors are typically considered for tenure and promotion to associate at the same time, approximately six years after beginning as an assistant. The time to full professor varies, but is often another six years after becoming an associate.The first six years is a probationary period during which the decision to retain a faculty member occurs annually.

Guidelines for the road to tenure
It is critical that new faculty members in a tenure track position have a clear understanding of the expectations for earning tenure. Time is of the essence, so locate the appropriate documents, study the timelines, and begin from the first day on campus to  build a case of achievement that will move you through the process at the pace and with the level of success you desire. While some departments, colleges and campuses make this process explicit, others make finding out the nuances of the process part of the promotion adventure. Seek out the information you need from as many reliable sources as possible. Do not wait for someone to tell you what you need to do. It is your responsibility to determine the expectations and exceed them. This is not the time or place for doing the minimal expected, according to faculty members who have successfully navigated the tenure process.

Documenting achievements
A professional portfolio is one way to document your accomplishments in the areas of teaching, research and service. Options include binders, file boxes, or electronic versions of documentation. Know what is expected by your campus. Continuation as a faculty member depends upon articulating professional achievements in a form that others can understand clearly and effectively.

Multi-layered revew process
The review process varies from campus to campus, but typically there are several levels of review that take place on an annual basis. For example in some departments, colleges or campuses the first review is completed by the department or college peer review committee, in the second year a university peer review committee completes a review. This yearly back and forth occurs until the sixth year when a decision is made about tenure and promotion. Each college and campus has a variation on this process, so find out expectations for your setting.

Building a case of achievement
The choices facing a new faculty member are almost endless, and there is no shortage of legendary tales of tenure lost because some of those choices were not strategic. Every department, college and campus is different, and it is the new faculty member's responsibility to determine what the expectations are for their setting. Faculty who have been successful offer lessons learned in their settings from the perspective of time on peer review committees, and describe a few common missteps that have gotten faculty members into difficult situations with respect to tenure. Take away some general principles, apply them to your own setting, and hopefully your experience will be a positive one.

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