Faculty are given option to pause tenure review process

Nigel Jaffe

In light of the disruptions to academic life posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, untenured faculty now have the option to defer their reappointment or tenure review process by one year. The choice has been made available to both tenure-track faculty and those in untenured positions that regularly go up for reappointment, including instructors, lecturers, artists-in-residence, athletics faculty and senior lecturers.

Receiving tenure is typically the culmination of a seven-year process. Tenure-track faculty go up for reappointment review in the fall of their third year, and those who are reappointed are given a second term of four years. After taking leave from the classroom for two or three semesters, which usually happens in their fourth year, they stand for promotion to associate professor in year six. According to the Faculty Handbook, the Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP) evaluates faculty by gathering student opinion, conducting peer reviews and assessing the quality of the candidate’s scholarly efforts and productivity.

Student Course Survey (SCS) forms will still be distributed to students and reviewed by individual instructors at the end of the spring semester, but SCS results will not be used for evaluation this semester, nor will they be sent to academic unit chairs and the CAP. Student interviews, which are normally conducted to evaluate the teaching of untenured faculty members, have been cancelled for this semester’s courses, and senior faculty will no longer observe untenured professors’ classes.

Not only have faculty been forced to adapt their teaching styles to remote classes, but ongoing research projects in many disciplines have also been derailed by the pandemic. The decision to offer faculty an additional year is in part an attempt to make up for lost time that would have been spent engaging in the kind of scholarly work that the CAP looks for when evaluating candidates for tenure and reappointment.

Faculty currently scheduled to come up for tenure next fall have until today to make their decision on whether to delay the review process. For faculty scheduled to come up for reappointment next fall, the deadline to decide is June 1, 2020.

Assistant professors in their first or second year who choose not to delay the reappointment decision will still be able to take up the option later on. Dean of the Faculty Denise Buell, who announced the changes to the timeline in an email to all continuing faculty members on April 1, said it is difficult to predict how many assistant professors or continuing non-tenure-track faculty will take the option in the future.