But survey reveals many institutions don’t interpret them consistently

Your institution’s faculty members care deeply about your tenure and promotion policies and practices. Handling tenure and promotion effectively can help you retain top faculty members. And failing to communicate clearly or applying policies inconsistently can lead to lawsuits (see article in July issue of Dean and Provost, available electronically to subscribers).

To find out how you’re doing in this important area, we surveyed academic administrators across the United States. We asked when and how their institutions communicate tenure and promotion expectations to faculty members. We also wanted to know whether survey-takers thought the expectations were communicated effectively and whether the policies were interpreted consistently.

We found that although most respondents thought their institutions did a good job of communicating the requirements, many of them believed the requirements were not interpreted consistently. Consider how your institution compares with peers in this key area.

Tenure requirements clearly communicated

About 81 percent of survey-respondents’ institutions grant tenure. At those, we learned that:

Job candidates at most institutions are informed about the requirements for earning tenure. And many institutions provide the information in more than one way. Methods officials used to communicate the information included:

  • The information is on the institution’s website (about 61 percent).
  • The department explains the requirements (about 45 percent).
  • Search committee members discuss tenure requirements with candidates (about 41 percent).
  • Candidates are provided with a written outline of the requirements (16 percent).

Several survey respondents noted that the information is included in the Faculty Handbook, which is provided to candidates. In some cases, the dean or the vice president of academic affairs discusses the requirements with finalists. And in some cases, the union provides the information.

One respondent noted that the process is not clearly defined and can vary from search to search.

More than 90 percent of survey-takers said tenure requirements are clearly communicated to faculty members after they are hired. At more than 82 percent of institutions, guidelines are included in the Faculty Handbook. Officials at about 73 percent of institutions reviewed them at orientation. At about 57 percent, they are posted on the website or faculty portal, and the same percentage educate faculty members about them through workshops. At 25 percent of institutions, communicating tenure requirements to professors is left up to the department.