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1/20/2013 12:00 AM

The Promotion and Tenure Process

From The Department Chair Insider – January 2013, Vol. 1

Guiding Faculty Through the Promotion and Tenure Process

Study and communicate the process well—both the written process and the oral tradition. This requires carefully reading handbooks, speaking with colleagues, and filling some holes that are not readily covered by the written materials. As chair, you have the responsibility to walk alongside your faculty, coaching and guiding them from their first day in your department to a successful tenure decision. Your faculty will have questions, and you need to have the answers. Candidates often wonder about baseline expectations: How many published articles are necessary? What is the minimal score needed on student evaluations? On how many committees must one serve? The answers to these questions vary by institution and by discipline, and it is unlikely that any institution can give a quota for each category. Yet an administrator should be able to help educators assess what is relevant for their fields.

Chairs also can help faculty understand that institutions cannot chart every expectation with clinical precision. Promotion and tenure reviews are not, as it were, just the compulsory portion of a figure-skating competition. They are the free style as well. Demonstrating that you have complied with basic expectations in each category will not, in and of itself, impress the judges. Somewhere in your faculty’s work there must a few triple axels, a salchow now and then. Colleges often are intentionally more general in their description of tenure criteria for the very reason that they do not want the review to be a matter of minimal compliance with an encyclopedic list of standards; rather, they want educators to demonstrate what they have accomplished with the freedom they have been granted. They want to see not just competence, but creativity, energy, and courage.

Kina S. Mallard is provost and vice president for academic affairs at Carson-Newman College.