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This page provides a roadmap of the tenure process for assistant professors at UW-Madison with each expandable panel providing information. Also, to the right, are links to the four divisional committees and a menu of supporting information. Chapter 7 of Faculty Policies & Procedures (FPP) provides additional information on the tenure process. Beth Meyerand, vice provost for faculty and staff, Michaela Aust, divisional committees coordinator, Lindsey Stoddard Cameron, faculty services, and Heather Daniels, secretary of the faculty, welcome your questions as you move through this process.
Preparing a Case for Tenure and the Tenure Dossier
Assistant professors should regularly document and collect material to support their tenure review. This will be the basis of a tenure “dossier.” Generally organized in sections for research, teaching, extension, and service, professors should file published work, drafts of papers and presentations, proposals for new projects; syllabi, assignments, teaching resources, and teaching evaluations, both formal and informal; letters and emails assigning the professor to committees, white papers or memos that show the result of the work done in shared governance, letters from professional organizations; evidence of honors or awards, and so on. Gathering this material regularly will reduce the burden to assemble the dossier when it’s time for the tenure review.
Generally in the year before tenure review, the department chair will meet with the assistant professor to discuss what work needs to be done to prepare the dossier. Using material the assistant professor provides and departmental records, the review committee and department chair will assemble the dossier. Usually in the 2nd semester of the year before tenure review, the chair will send examples of the assistant professor’s work to external reviewers who write a confidential letter to be included in the dossier.
Sample dossiers are available for review in the Office of the Secretary of the Faculty. Please contact the Divisional Committees Coordinator Michaela Aust to request an appointment.
Setting the Tenure Clock (Probationary Period)
The probationary period for an assistant professor is a maximum of 7 years and starts on the first day of the appointment. The mandatory review date, found in the appointment letter, is set for the end of the 6th year and marks when the tenure review process must be concluded. Sometimes, an assistant professor with previous experience may be hired on a shortened tenure clock (less than 7 years).
(Faculty Policies & Procedures 7.04)
Stopping the Tenure Clock (Extending Probationary Period)
Stopping the tenure clock literally excludes a semester or year from being counted in the probationary period. Upon approval, the mandatory review date moves forward by a semester or a year (as requested). Assistant professors are not penalized for these extensions, often called tenure clock extensions, and should feel comfortable requesting them under the campus-approved guidelines.
Assistant professors may stop the tenure clock (extend the probationary period) for a variety of reasons (Faculty Policies & Procedures (FPP) 7.04.H), including:
- childbirth or adoption
- significant elder or dependent care obligations
- disability or chronic illness
- circumstances beyond the control of the faculty member
- nature of duties (such as clinical duties) or substantial change in duties of an appointment
- leave of absence
- COVID-19 (currently available to assistant professors employed at UW-Madison in spring 2020 or who began at UW-Madison in summer or fall 2020 or spring 2021)
Childbirth and adoption or COVID-19 related requests have an expedited process with presumed approval. More information on how to submit a request can be found here.
Annual reviews of an assistant professor who has received an extension are based on the individual’s progress toward a tenurable record given the time remaining on the adjusted tenure clock (FPP 7.05.D.). Most, but not all, extensions also extend the contract renewal date by the same amount of time.
Reasons for stopping the tenure clock are confidential (see memo).
Selecting a Faculty Division
In addition to departments and schools/colleges, faculty members are members of a faculty division:
This selection is critical because it determines the divisional committee that will review the assistant professor’s tenure dossier and make a recommendation to the dean as to whether the faculty member should be promoted to a tenured position at UW-Madison. It also establishes the division in which the faculty member is entitled to vote regarding various governance topics. Assistant professors can join any of the four divisions regardless of their department’s divisional affiliation.
The division is chosen by a faculty member close to the time of appointment at UW-Madison, based on the nature of the assistant professor’s research and teaching, and in consultation with the departmental mentor/mentoring committee or chair. Chair approval is required for the selection. A faculty member’s division can be changed by application and recommendation of the dean (Faculty Policies & Procedures 4.03).
For help in selecting a division, please contact Michaela Aust, divisional committees coordinator.
UW-Madison is committed to providing excellent mentoring (guidance) to all assistant professors. By policy, the departmental executive committee is required to establish procedures for guidance. Procedures for mentoring or guidance are part of the department’s tenure guidelines and must be given to each assistant professor at the time of hire. Assistant professors should work with their department chair to make sure that either their mentor or mentoring committee is determined at the appropriate time.
Assistant professors may be assigned a mentor or a mentoring committee depending on their department or division. The mentor or mentoring committee provides advice on core responsibilities: teaching, research, extension, and outreach/service through the tenure process. This may include clinical responsibilities.
Faculty Policies & Procedures requirements for mentoring and evaluation are summarized here.
Annual Evaluation (Oversight)
The departmental executive committee is required to establish procedures for annual evaluation (oversight) of assistant professors. Procedures for annual evaluation are contained in the department’s tenure guidelines and must be given to each assistant professor at the time of hire. Assistant professors should work with their department chair to make sure their evaluation committee is established at the appropriate time.
The departmental evaluation or oversight committee helps track an assistant professor’s progress towards tenure. It consists of one or more members of the department’s executive committee and may overlap with the mentoring committee. The committee prepares written annual evaluations that are approved by the executive committee and used during contract renewal and tenure review processes. The assistant professor will be provided with a copy of each written annual evaluation and may provide a written response (Faculty Policies & Procedures 7.05.D.).
Annual reviews of an assistant professor who has received a tenure clock extension are based on the individual’s progress toward a tenurable record given the time remaining on the adjusted tenure clock (FPP 7.05.). Most, but not all, tenure clock extensions also extend the contract renewal date by the same amount of time.
The reasons for stopping the tenure clock are confidential (see memo).
Newly hired assistant professors receive an initial 3-year contract. Typically, during the 2nd year, the departmental executive committee will evaluate progress towards tenure at the annual review and vote on contract renewal. This process will be repeated for subsequent contract renewals before departmental tenure review. Several months before the contract renewal meeting, the department chair will let the assistant professor know what materials to provide. Additional details about the process are provided in Faculty Policies & Procedures 7.07.
Should the department executive committee vote to renew and the dean concur, the contract will be renewed for one to three additional years (this may differ by school or college).
If there is a negative vote to renew the contact and the dean concurs, an assistant professor will be notified in writing. An assistant professor may request written reasons for nonrenewal and reconsideration. Following a negative reconsideration, an assistant professor can appeal to the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities (CFRR) on procedural grounds (see the panel below on appeals). The assistant professor receives a nonrenewal letter with a 12-month notice period.
Departmental Tenure Review Process
Typically, a year before the mandatory review date, the departmental executive committee will review an assistant professor’s work and make a tenure recommendation (procedures will vary by department). Tenure dossiers must meet the same criteria regardless of when they are submitted. Candidates and departments should be aware that multiple requests for review are not permitted. The department chair will prepare the tenure dossier in accordance with departmental and divisional tenure guidelines (see the panel above). The chair will consult the assistant professor, as well as the departmental mentoring and oversight committees.
Any extensions of the probationary period should be noted in the chair or dean’s letter in the dossier. To maintain confidentiality, the reason(s) for the extension(s) should not be cited, regardless of the circumstances.
If the executive committee does not endorse tenure, an assistant professor may request written reasons and reconsideration (Faculty Policies & Procedures 7.08). Following a negative reconsideration, an assistant professor can appeal to the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities (CFRR) on procedural grounds (see the panel below on appeals). The assistant professor receives a nonrenewal letter with a 12-month notice period.
Divisional Committee Tenure Review
Following a positive decision by the departmental executive committee, dossiers are sent to the dean, who asks the appropriate divisional committee for its recommendation.
Four divisional committees (Arts & Humanities, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences), each comprised of 12 elected tenured faculty members, establish and communicate criteria for tenure. They meet during the academic year to review tenure cases. Tenure dossiers must meet the same criteria regardless of when they are submitted. Candidates and departments should be aware that multiple requests for review are not permitted.
Negative decisions by the divisional committee or dean may include reconsideration or appeal to CFRR (Faculty Policies & Procedures 7.15). Please contact Heather Daniels, secretary of the faculty, for more information.
Approval of Tenure (Dean, Provost, and Board of Regents)
The dean recommends tenure to the provost, who approves the recommendation and transmits it to the chancellor for recommendation to the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. The board takes final administrative action on tenure recommendations in June. Promotions take effect on July 1 for 12-month appointments or the start of the contract year in August for 9-month appointments.
Appeals (Non-renewal, Tenure)
Nonrenewals and negative tenure decisions can be appealed to the Committee on Faculty Rights and Responsibilities (CFRR), a body of 9 elected tenured faculty members. CFRR reviews appeals on procedural grounds enumerated in UW System Administrative Code 3.08:
- procedures required by the faculty or board were not followed
- available data bearing materially on the quality of performance were not considered
- unfounded, arbitrary or irrelevant assumptions of facts were made about work or conduct
If the CFRR finds the denial of tenure was based significantly on impermissible factors as listed above, it may appoint an ad hoc review committee instead of remanding the case back to the department (Faculty Policies & Procedures 7.10). The CFRR is the final appeal step for all nonrenewals or negative tenure decisions.
For assistance with the appeals process, please contact Heather Daniels, secretary of the faculty.