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I got tenure requirements in writing as part of a standard package of personnel policies.
Three thoughts on this topic. First, even with written standards a department or university can build a case against someone if they want to. But in most cases I would assume that is not desired. Second, Ash should feel free to FIGHT for her tenure. This does not always work, but in one case I know of someone who had all sorts of dirt and stuff in e-mails from colleagues that became a basis for getting tenure. It became a potential law suit. They got tenure (my opinion - they did not deserve it). Ash should leave there on her own terms. Third, people have lost tenure and gone on to great careers. There is a case of someone losing tenure at Stanford and picking up a career at NYU (not bad).

Pendaran Roberts

I've left academia. Thank god! It's horrendous hearing that tenure requirements are often not given in writing. I can't believe they offer contracts with no requirements for tenure clearly stated. So, you can work for 7 years and then be denied tenure for whatever reason they feel like essentially. I would have assumed that the requirements would HAVE to be in writing.


I work at an R2 and went through tenure a while back. When I was hired the chair gave me a list of department standards for tenure. It specified what the expectations were in research and service---about how many articles were expected, what quality, how different publication venues were weighed, etc. Not all departments at my school had them but most did. I don't know how actionable they are in the end b/c the provost has sort of final say on these things at my school, but it's possible.


I should add that the list of requirements was something intended to be included in the tenure application as a way to help the review committees understand how the department perceived the requirements. This would help the candidate because it described departmental expectations, so you didn't have review committee members (at the university level) applying some crazy standard from a different field. So strictly this document wasn't legally binding or something but more in the form of department guidelines.

TT lady

When I've asked for this, people typically say things like "well, it's not a strict number -- since it's hard to quantify, there's no document that says what the requirements are, but _typically_ a good tenure portfolio would include x number of articles per year ... [ etc.] ... You'll get an idea of how you are doing at your 3-year review." I find this mildly frustrating, but I suppose the idea is that there won't be surprises, since your colleagues and chair and 3-year review committee will let you know how you are doing. I wonder, though, if the motivation for this is that if you define a minimum, people will barely clear that bar, whereas a vague set of requirements leads to people stressing out and doing as much as they possibly can.

I interviewed once at a school that had a number of philosophy articles (anywhere) that would get you tenure. That would have been nice.


TT Lady and others,
I worked at a place that attempted to quantify things. Such policies cut two ways: they often end up being written in a way that is too tolerant (sometimes of very poor quality journals), which is not good; alternatively they can become the OBJECTIVE basis for denying someone tenure who may deserve it (but did not meet the SPECIFIED demands). If a department is too legalistic, they will slavishly follow the rules all the way to hell. All you need is an @hole or two in the department (surprise ... some depts have them).


I'm at a pretty fancy R1, and there's nothing like this. There's a document that describes the tenure and promotion process for the university as a whole, but it's nowhere near as concrete and specific as "n articles/books at any of the following x, z, y journals/presses".

Moreover, given the role that outside letters play, there couldn't be. That is, a big part of getting tenure is having outside letter writers say good things about your research. And while one can make predictions about what letter writers will say, given how much and where you've published, that's very different from having an easy-to-state standard that a university could be held to, e.g., in a lawsuit.

Michael Cholbi

Perhaps this will strike people as 'hard line', but: *Do not accept a job offer* unless the tenure requirements and procedures are provided to you in writing prior to acceptance. If they are not provided in writing, ask a person in charge (department chair, dean, whomever) what the tenure requirements and procedures are; take careful notes on what they say, write up your notes, and send them back to that person seeking verification that these are in fact the requirements and procedures.

Would you enter into a mortgage, a business partnership, etc., without knowing your rights and obligations? Tenure is a contractual arrangement; there are burdens on both sides. You have every right to be notified of what the candidates' burdens for earning tenure will be. Assert your rights on this front!


I had multiple job offers. All of them refused to give anything other than a "it depends. multiple publications, but obviously quality and quantity both interact." If I had struck the hard line, maybe one of them would have budged. But there were good (great!) philosophers waiting for the offer behind me, so probably I'd just have been SOL. I would have loved explicit and meaningful tenure standards in writing, and I asked for them, but that didn't seem to be in the cards for me.


I agree with Craig it could be hard to ask for what you might deserve. One problem, of course, is that they might give the offer to another candidate. While this is unlikely, when you have been struggling on the market and are now thrilled to have a job opportunity the amount of risk one is willing to take can be understandably low. When I was offered my TT gig I had this internal sense of anxiety that I would get some email claiming they changed their mind. I wasn't at peace until I signed the documents.

The other issue is that you do not want to appear needy, annoying, demanding, to people you will work with and who may be in a position to deny you tenure. If you push one of your faculty members you might make a bad first impression which can be hard to overcome. Or at least this might be a worry of a job candidate. And lastly, if the department straight out refuses few candidates will be willing to turn down a TT job for that reason.


On my campus visits this year, I explicitly asked about tenure requirements at each school. Two are notable: one where I got two very different answers (one from the Department and one from the dean), and one where they actually have spelled out and specific research requirements for tenure. The offer I accepted is at the latter school. The requirements do list a minimum quantity expectation (X articles), although they don’t specify the quality of journal and the written standards are careful to note that quantity is not sufficient.

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