Please see the Information for Assistant Professors page for more information on these topics and terms
Assistant professors are reviewed annually so that members of the department are knowledgeable about their work and progress and can provide support. The annual review is also when the contract is extended. All assistant professors are on an initial contract (often three years), which is extended through the probationary period by the department’s executive committee and the school or college.
Because assistant professors work on renewable contracts until they are reviewed for tenure and promotion to the rank of associate professor, annual reviews are opportunities for contract extensions. This gives the assistant professor and the department six years (or more if the tenure clock is extended, which extends the probationary period) document and collect material to support the tenure review. This will be the basis of a tenure “dossier.”
The person most responsible for bringing the assistant professor’s tenure case to the Divisional Committee. The chair helps the assistant professor make sense of the university structure, and how their work fits into that context.
Divisional Executive Committees of the four faculty divisions – Arts & Humanities, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Social Sciences – are responsible for reviewing departmental executive committee recommendations for promotion and tenure, and making their own recommendations to deans of schools/colleges. The divisional committee recommendation will be based on the tenure criteria of the division as well as the tenure department.
Divisional Committee members are elected faculty members who represent the variety of disciplines within a division. Divisional Committees meet monthly.
Divisional Committee chairs are happy to help department chairs who want advice on how to prepare tenure cases, and the Office of the Secretary of the Faculty – which coordinates the work of the Divisional Committees – makes sample dossiers available to assistant professors, faculty mentors, department administrators, and department chairs (contact Michaela Aust)
The Divisional Committee will discuss each assistant professor’s tenure case (dossier and supporting materials) and then transmit its vote to the dean, who conveys their recommendation to the Provost. Generally, a positive recommendation by the Divisional Committee is approved by the dean, provost, and the UW System Board of Regents.
Every department has an executive committee, which consists of all the tenured members of the faculty. They deal with budgetary and personnel matters, including annual reviews and tenure decisions. The departmental executive committee is required to establish procedures for guidance, annual evaluations, and tenure evaluations. A copy of the procedures must be given to each assistant professor at the time of hire.
The Executive Committee votes on renewal of contracts and on tenure. A non-renewal decision may be appealed.
Faculty Policies & Procedures (FPP or FP&P)
FPP are the university faculty’s shared governance documents, or the faculty’s “constitution.” FPP and other faculty legislation lay out, in basic form, the way the university works, including what Departmental Executive Committees do, what the Divisional Committees do, how tenure-track appointments work, the basics of annual reviews, and so on.
Mentor or mentoring committee (“guidance”)
Assistant professors should be assigned a departmental mentor or mentoring committee, which usually consists of members of the department’s executive committee, though it may also have a faculty member outside the department. Their role in the rest of the review process varies by department, though are generally assigned by the department chair in consultation with the assistant professor. They will provide advice on your teaching, research, and outreach/service activities, and navigating the university.
External and internal networking is essential for the advancement of an academic career, providing support and extensive research resources. With over 2200 faculty members at UW-Madison, there are bound to be many people with overlapping interests. There are probably as many opportunities on campus to share one’s work.
Preparing a case for tenure
Generally in the year before “going up for tenure,” the assistant professor and the department chair will decide what work to include, and organize all publications and/or creative work, evidence of grants submitted and won, syllabi and other teaching material, and evidence of service and/or public engagement; thinking about outside evaluators of scholarly work; and touching base with members of the review committee and mentor(s). Once assembled, the review committee and department chair will assemble the actual tenure “case.” Usually in year before the tenure year, the chair will send examples of your work for outside review for the tenure file.
Review committee (“oversight”)
Every assistant professor is assigned an annual review committee at the beginning of their first year. These individuals are assigned by the department chair to bring the year’s work — across teaching, research or creative activity, and service – before the executive committee for review. The executive committee must approve the written annual evaluation and provide that written evaluation to the assistant professor. In some departments, the review committee also serves as the mentoring committee.
Tenure and Promotion Criteria
Each divisional committee has for tenure and promotion, as well as the process it uses to evaluate tenure cases. Beyond these broad criteria, each department has a description of department-specific criteria and the departmental evaluation process for tenure and promotion. Every assistant professor should be given a copy of the departmental criteria at the time of hire and divisional criteria in the first year, when a faculty division (arts & humanities, biological sciences, physical sciences, social sciences) is selected.
The Tenure Clock
The tenure clock (probationary period) is set at hire and runs for a maximum of seven years, with the tenure decision coming in the sixth year. Experienced faculty may be hired with credit for up to three “tenure clock” years. The probationary period may be extended for a number of reasons, including childbirth or adoption, significant elder or dependent care obligations, medical circumstances, or other extenuating circumstances beyond your control that adversely affect progress toward tenure.
Shortened Tenure Clock
When a new faculty hire has prior service, the department and dean have flexibility in setting the probationary period. They may determine how much of that previous service, if any, is to be counted toward the maximum UW-Madison tenure clock (see FPP 7.04.B for specific detail). As with any probationary period, it is imperative that the exact determination of the maximum probationary period be finalized and discussed with a candidate before an offer is made. Letters of offer should state the maximum probationary period that will be permitted,
The tenure decision
The review committee will present the completed dossier and supporting materials, along with the confidential letters, to the departmental executive committee, which will review and make its recommendation to your department chair. The chair will then write a letter that contextualizes the work – in teaching, research, and service/outreach—and send the completed case to the dean, who will ask an assistant professor’s divisional committee to evaluate the dossier and supporting materials and make a recommendation on tenure and promotion.
More like a repository than a dossier, this is a record of an assistant professor’s work, generally organized in sections for research, teaching and service. This will be the basis of a tenure “dossier.” 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.