Query: Best Practices in expectations for promotion, tenure

From a reader keen to ameliorate implicit biases. (The query-author is in the USA, but of course, respondents in other countries likely have relevant insights.)  Feel free to link to helpful websites or online documents if you have more to say than can fit into a blog comment:

I have a question for those who teach at public/regional comprehensive universities or other places with a 4/4 teaching (or trimester equivalent) teaching load. What are the research expectations for tenure? What are they for promotion to associate professor (in the case where those are different)? And what are the expectations for promotion to full professors? Finally, how are those expectations expressed? Mostly I am concerned that the sorts of implicit and explicit biases in these decision making events are miminized. I’m looking for best practices.

6 thoughts on “Query: Best Practices in expectations for promotion, tenure

  1. I’m 32 years at a 4/4 (University of Wisconsin Colleges) and Full Prof for the last 18 years. My experience with a diverse department is limited, though not due to lack of effort to diversify the faculty (ranging around 12-14 tenured/TT people on yearly average). We managed to retain only one woman all these years as tenured until her untimely death, and lost one TT woman to poaching/two-body problem. Search after search resulted in women/other diverse candidates dropping out due to our relatively low salary and greener academic pastures. So though our membership is very much WM, we wish it would not be so. But who would want to start a TT 4/4 now at 43K if they could do better?

    Well, more to the point. Our department has required first and foremost that a necessary condition for tenure is excellence in the classroom. I assume most teaching-focused institutions as ours would demand the same. Here that is established by student evals as well as several (8 to as many as twice that) peer-reviewed classes. Campus and community service (committees at the campus and institutional level–we are a 13-campus system within UW System–and public lectures and the like) are expected as well. Some peer-reviewed combination of publication and presentation is expected also. Usually just two or three such qualified forms of professional development are sufficient for tenure, or perhaps just one book by a recognized academic press. All this is assessed over a 6-year probationary period.

    For promotion to Full Professor there must be a sustained demonstrated excellence in the classroom as well as distinguished further professional development. Usually three or four more peer-reviewed articles/presentations or one academic-press book would be regarded as sufficient for that.

    Among our senior members, publication has varied pretty wildly. I have around a dozen 1st to 3rd tier journal articles and lots of other invited/etc. articles and reviews. One recent retired colleague had over 40 peer-reviewed articles and a book; another such just a small handful.

    When it comes to a 4/4 institution, I recommend very rigorous assessment of teaching and some flexibility–within reason–in publication for attaining tenure. All that said, the intangible of collegiality is another very considerable factor for any personnel decision. No doubt that consideration is poignantly susceptible to outright bias and unconscious bias. But there is no doubt that in a 4/4–and even R1s–that it is an important factor in the minds of committees making such crucial decisions about tenure and promotion.

  2. Alan, your comment is genuinely useful. I’d like to ask about collegiality. Does the university put any effort into encouaging respect from faculty? It seems unfortunate when faculty are able to make life very difficult for someone, and then are able to use lack of collegiality to deny tenure. I’ve seen something too close to this actually happen.

  3. Unfortunately I do not see any policies that explicitly advocate for real collegiality in my system beyond those that warn obscurely about prejudice against a given candidate. And I am sensitive to that distinction. As you suggest, it is possible that there is a gap here, and that bias can easily fill in that gap, both in terms of what is taken to have happened in a given personnel case, and how a given case is thus evaluated.

  4. Some of the literature on academic mobbing (group bullying, with power) say that whether or not an institution encourages respect is a huge factor.

    Deans, many complain, are getting more and more power. If they are abusive, then their underlings (= us) may be quite awful too.

  5. I have this impression that Appalachian State is 4-4, so I googled for their tenure expectations, and was intrigued by this statement in their Sustainability Department’s document: “Because outreach activities which communicate applied research to communities are integral to the scholarly practice of Sustainable Development, they are valued as demonstrations of scholarship on par with peer – reviewed publications, when substantive and with appropriate external evaluation. Nevertheless, all faculty in the SD Program are expected to publish peer – reviewed articles as part of the mix of their scholarly activities.” And then they say something way more specific than any place I’ve ever worked at says: “There are, therefore, many acceptable variations to producing two articles every three years, as long as these variations are comparable in originality, rigor of external review, and scope.” Two every three! I think I hit that number, but I still wish someone had just said it.
    Here’s the link to the whole doc:

  6. Annejjacobson (is it Anne, if I may?)

    My reply should have first said–thank you for your kind remarks. If there’s anything I wish to encourage on blogs it’s courtesy, and I was too anxious to reply and neglected that. But again, thank you.

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