Appointment, Promotion, Leaves & Retirement

Harvard Gate DetailThe Faculty of Arts and Sciences appoints and promotes outstanding faculty who advance the leading edge of knowledge, teach and advise our undergraduates and graduate students, and make myriad contributions to the broader academic community. The FAS also appoints talented researchers who enrich the intellectual life in all our fields.

The FAS has a tenure-track system, where assistant and associate professors who succeed in their tenure review, based on criteria in the FAS Appointment and Promotion Handbook, will receive tenure.

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FAS Tenure Track Review Committee (TTRC)

ttrc@fas.harvard.edu

In AY 2020-2021, the FAS Tenure Track Review Committee (member list here) will undertake a review of the FAS tenure-track system.  As charged by Claudine Gay, Edgerley Family Dean of the FAS, TTRC will examine several aspects of FAS policies and procedures related to reviews for promotion to associate professor and to tenured professor.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences adopted a tenure-track system in 2005. In so doing, the FAS moved away from a system in which assistant professors and associate professors were guaranteed neither the right to be reviewed for promotion nor the availability of funding for a tenured position. In the tenure-track system since then, all tenure-track faculty are guaranteed a review according to specific time tables, and if the review is successful and they are promoted, funding is assured for their position.

In the past fifteen years, the FAS has made enormous progress in developing and implementing policies and procedures that increase rigor and consistency in the tenure-track system. Even so, the tenure track continues to reveal areas for possible change. With a decade and a half of data and experience behind us, it is time to comprehensively review our policies and procedures for associate and tenure reviews.

The primary goal of the tenure-track system is to build an outstanding faculty. The purpose of the current review is to assess whether changes to FAS policies and procedures would make the tenure-track system more effective in achieving that goal.

The Tenure Track Review Committee will consult with members of the FAS community, as appropriate, and will make recommendations by February 2021 for Dean Gay’s consideration.

(1) Associate Reviews

In examining policies and procedures related to reviews for promotion to associate professor, TTRC is charged with considering the questions below:

a)  How can we make more effective the way we assess teaching and advising?

b)  In what ways, if at all, can the external-letter process be improved?

c)  How can the review process encourage committees and departments to engage with the strengths and weaknesses of cases in a full and balanced way?

d)  To ensure that the candidate receives helpful feedback from the review, are we communicating the right information to them, and in the most appropriate way?

e)  What is the optimal length for the associate professor term?

(2) Tenure reviews

In examining policies and procedures related to reviews for promotion to tenure, TTRC is charged with considering questions such as those below:

a)  What guidance can be given to departments to help them effectively define a candidate’s field? 

b)  How can we make more effective the way we assess teaching and advising?

c)  How can we make more effective the way we assess service, formal and informal?

d)  How can we improve the external-letter process?

e)  How can the review process encourage faculty to engage with the strengths and weaknesses of cases in a full and balanced way?

f)  How do we ensure a full and fair review in cases in which a department does not have in-house expertise in the candidate’s field(s)?

g)  What should the process be for getting input from standing curricular committee members?

h)  What, if any, additional guidance should be provided about the confidential letters that individual faculty send to the Edgerley Family Dean of the FAS?  

i)  How can the Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP) better communicate its role and/or provide useful feedback from its deliberations to departments or candidates?

j)  In general, should more detailed feedback be given to candidates, chairs, and review committees? How, if at all, can or should the tenure review process be made more transparent?

No list of questions can capture every aspect of the FAS’s tenure-track system that might merit our attention. But the issues noted above are of high priority. If, in its work, the committee identifies other aspects of FAS policy and procedure in pressing need of review, it has latitude to explore those issues. However, this should not be at the expense of fully addressing the matters listed above.