October 22, 2004
Avoiding Common Mistakes in the
Tenure or Promotion Process:
Suggestions for Administrators from the
This memorandum is a revision of an earlier document promulgated by the
Judicial Committee. It is intended to help Administrators in their capacity as
reviewers of probationary faculty and in cases of tenure or promotion. It
provides suggestions, based upon the collective experience of members of the
Judicial Committee, to help avoid what have been common mistakes in the past,
especially regarding tenure. It is not, however, an official University document
and therefore should not be treated as if it were a statement of official
University rules or policies.
To assure a fair process and to help
avoid Judicial Committee hearings, follow the appropriate guidelines and
procedures in governing documents, especially Procedures for Reviewing the
Performance of Probationary Faculty (available from the Office of Human
Resources on its web page) and the regulations in Faculty Tenure
(available from the Judicial Committee or the Tenure Committee on their web
pages). Also, appropriate constitutions and official, written guides to this
process (of Colleges, Departments, or units) should be consulted.
general matter, it is important that similarly situated faculty members are
treated in a similar fashion—that is, the procedures and standards should
be applied consistently. It is also wise to keep careful written records of all
actions taken in matters of tenure and promotion. Should questions about
procedures arise, administrators should seek clarification from the offices of
the Deans of the Colleges, the Office of Human Resources, or the offices of Senior Administrators before taking action.
Assistance for Administrators
Planning for the Process
Follow all procedures, as specified in governing documents. Remember
that even small procedural errors matter and can add up. Remember, also, that
complaints before the Judicial Committee usually turn upon questions of
procedure, and the fairness and judiciousness with which they are
Identify a member of the faculty or an individual on the
academic support staff who will be responsible for knowing all of the details of
the promotion and tenure process in order to assist administrators in following
all the required steps.
Since the head or chair of the unit is
responsible for compliance with procedures at the unit level, he or she should
work closely with the designated faculty or staff member to assure that
procedural irregularities are avoided.
Mentoring the Candidate
Many units, especially those which are large, have found it helpful to
establish a committee – often called the Promotion and Tenure Committee
– to consider the cases of candidates for tenure or promotion.
Develop a checklist of tasks, with deadlines that provide ample time for
their completion, and distribute it to the candidate, as well as to all faculty
and staff involved in the process, including the unit’s Promotion and
Tenure Committee, if there is one.
Remember that recommendations should
be based upon materials in the written record and the candidate’s
response, if any.
Annual Evaluation of the Candidate
Identify a faculty member (or a mentoring committee) to be available to
the candidate to answer questions about the tenure or promotion process and to
help assemble the candidate’s file.
Provide information (especially
before the final review) so candidates understand the process.
oral or written promises or assurances concerning tenure or promotion that
cannot be kept.
Preparation of the Candidate’s File
Annual evaluations of the candidate constitute an important part of the
tenure or promotion process. They need to be made in written form and kept in
the unit’s record of the candidate.
Meet with the candidate –
especially important for probationary faculty – in a timely manner to
provide a candid written and oral account of his or her strengths and
weaknesses, moving toward the tenure or promotion decision.
candidate – especially important for probationary faculty – with a
written copy of the evaluation. Also, record dates and times that the review was
discussed with the candidate. Remember that the candidate has the right to put
on record his or her response to the evaluations.
Voting at the Faculty Meeting
The mentor or mentoring committee should aid the candidate in preparing
the tenure file.
Complete files in a timely manner so they can be
reviewed by all faculty (including those voting absentee) before the meeting in
which discussion of candidates or voting will occur.
evaluation constitute an important part of the tenure or promotion process.
Determine and clearly communicate to all relevant parties: (a) who will select
the evaluators (some are usually chosen or suggested by the candidate), (b) how
many of them will be selected, and (c) what materials will be provided to
If the unit has a Promotion and Tenure Committee, it should
evaluate the candidate’s performance, as well as the letters of evaluation
and materials presented by the candidate, and it should produce a written
recommendation regarding tenure or promotion with detailed reasons. In case
there is not unanimous agreement by members of the committee, the committee
should provide both majority and minority reports. The candidate should have
sufficient time to respond to the recommendation before it is brought to the
faculty of the unit or forwarded to the next level.
the Faculty Meeting
Give timely notice of the faculty meeting at
which the vote is to be taken so all faculty can plan to attend.
how absentee ballots may be cast (see Procedures, Item 15) and advise the
faculty sufficiently in advance of the meeting so that those who need absentee
ballots can secure them.
Consult the unit’s constitution and
especially the “Departmental Statement” (required by section 7.12 of
Faculty Tenure) that specifies indices and standards for evaluating
candidates, and follow it precisely.
Conduct the discussion at the
faculty meeting so voting faculty are free to express their views at sufficient
length about both strengths and weaknesses of the candidate’s
Call attention to the report written by the unit’s Promotion
and Tenure Committee, if there is one.
Write the report of the meeting so
that majority and minority positions are fairly described (if the vote is not
unanimous) and so that reasons for the decision are clear. The department head
should also prepare a statement of agreement or disagreement with the
unit’s recommendation, including the reasons for any disagreement.
The candidate should have sufficient time to respond to the unit’s
recommendation and the department head’s statement before they are
forwarded to the next level.
Preparation for the College Promotion and Tenure
Ballots must be written, unsigned, and secret. Proxy or telephone votes
are not permitted.
Many units have found it beneficial to count only
those ballots that were cast during or before (that is, absentee ballots) but
not after the faculty meeting. If units choose to allow balloting (including
absentee balloting) after the faculty meeting, they should be clear about what
is or is not fair or appropriate communication between voting members, and apply
this standard consistently.
Role of the Dean
Provide the candidate with the report of the unit meeting. Also provide
any separate reports from the unit head or individual faculty (if any) in
sufficient time for the candidate to respond, if he or she
Forward the report of the unit meeting, any separate reports, the
candidate’s response (if any), and the completed file to the College
Promotion and Tenure Committee.
Role of the Senior Administrator
All parties should know that the Dean, while guided by the decision
reached by the College Promotion and Tenure Committee, makes an independent
recommendation on the candidate’s appropriateness for tenure or
The Dean’s report should provide clear and meaningful
reasons for his or her recommendations.
The candidate should have
sufficient time to respond to the Dean’s recommendation before it is
forwarded to the next level.
All parties should know that the senior administrator may decide
contrary to the recommendation of the Dean, on the basis of his or her own
evaluation of the candidate’s record.
If the senior administrator
acts contrary to the recommendation of the academic unit that made the initial
recommendation on tenure or promotion, he or she must provide “substantive
reasons” for the decision to the faculty member, members of the academic
unit that made the recommendation, and the President (in accordance with section
7.63 of the Regulations concerning Faculty Tenure).