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At my large, private R2, you receive a very brief letter saying you were either granted or denied tenure. If denied, the reasons are very brief. You have a very short time (I think a few days) to ask the provost for specific reasons why you were denied tenure (they have a few days to reply), and then you have 2 weeks to appeal directly to the president in written from. The president alone makes the final decision on the appeal.

I have not been through the process, but several colleagues have. The main reasons are almost always research, though I am aware of at least one instance where it was collegiality.

In my second hand experience, denials do not always seem fair or consistent, because the tenure standards are so fluid.

Anon R1 prof

Since there probably won't be too many who've gone through this who read this blog, perhaps I should chime in.

I was initially recommended being denied tenure at a large, public R1. I went through the appeals process and (eventually)"won" (i.e., got tenure).

Overall, it was of course pretty stressful. The appeal process added a year to the whole process.

However, the original case against me was (in my opinion) quite reasonable: lack of a sufficient number of publications.

All of my outside letters said good things about the quality of my publications, but one of them said the quantity was not enough, and that I shouldn't get tenure (unless my teaching/service were truly exceptional, about which they couldn't comment).

My department was (as far as I know) supportive, but the Dean at the next level up (and the committee that made recommendations to him) recommended denial.

During my appeal, I got to see (redacted) letters of rec so I could respond. I was able to figure out who wrote the negative letter, even though their name was redacted (I'm in a small sub-field). This was a mixed bag, since I wished I hadn't know whenever I have to run into this person at a conference. It turned out to be someone who had cited my work positively in one of their books, and someone I had every reason to think would write me a good tenure letter. But, they didn't. So it goes.

What saved me on appeal were two factors:
(1) Even though I didn't have many pubs the one's I had have been cited a lot. I could make a case for quality over quantity on that basis. This proved to be one of the winning arguments to the higher up committee made of science types (among others), where they care more about citation metrics.

If I hadn't had high citation counts, I think that would've been the end of my job.

(2) It also helped that my teaching was viewed as some of the best in the department (University).

In general, I felt like the process was fair (of course it worked out!). I did know going in that I was going to be a "hard case". I was under no illusions. No one did anything nasty and try to argue against me on grounds of "collegiality" etc.

I will say that the time I took off for being a parent counted against me in the eyes of the negative external letter, though it wasn't supposed to in the eyes of my University policies. That probably also helped me win my appeal.


Well, my experience was not good. The University and Department were fairly clear about tenure procedures, though there is some reason to believe they were violated. This was, in any event, what I thought, and what the independent appeals committee decided when I appealed the negative decision in my case.

Unfortunately, the University's policies explicitly described only the rules for submitting an appeal and the rules governing the Appeals Committee's assessment of the appeal. The University's policies said nothing about what happens in the case of a favorable outcome (that is, a decision on the part of the AC that the candidate's right to fair tenure proceedings were violated). It turns out the opinion of the AC was just passed back to the Dean--the original decision-maker on my tenure case--who said, "I disagree with the Appeals Committee; I think the tenure proceedings were fair.") (Which makes you wonder what the point is of an independent appeals committee.) So, that was that.

My legal understanding, now, is that, technically, where universities *have* no explicit policies, they can more or less just invent them on the fly. It was interesting in this case that there was the veneer of detailed and explicit policies, but they just kind of ran out at a certain point in the process. If I hadn't been denied tenure I never would have come to recognize that the University just didn't say anything about what happens if you actually "win" your appeal.

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