Tenure-track faculty promotion and tenure

NSHE Code Chapter 3; University of Nevada, Reno Bylaws 3.3 and 3.4; and college and department bylaws govern the processes of academic faculty promotion and tenure.

Instructions for applying for promotion or tenure

Guiding principles

  • The faculty, department chair, and dean should determine at the time of hire into the program the faculty member's professional responsibilities in terms of teaching, scholarship, and outreach engagement or service. These expectations should be made clear to new faculty.
  • Each college should have a clear process for promotion and tenure.
  • Units should endeavor to uphold academic standards and values appropriate to peer institutions (Carnegie doctoral/research extensive, high research).

Overview of tenure and promotion

  • Early consideration for tenure
    • Assistant professors should normally be considered for tenure during their sixth year. Earlier consideration for tenure is rendered in exceptional circumstances.
    • Deans and chairs are advised not to allow new hires to bring in time in rank from other universities. Coming in with credited time only shortens the probationary period unnecessarily with no added advantage to the candidate.
    • Faculty who wish to be considered for tenure before the sixth year of their appointment should consult with their department chair and are encouraged to also consult with their dean. Their record should demonstrate extraordinary achievement in scholarship, teaching and engagement (as appropriate for their appointment). Their record should not simply be commensurate with the normal progress that one would expect of a tenure-track assistant professor.
    • Consideration is given for scholarly and creative activity produced at other institutions. However, it supplements the record of accomplishments done here during the probationary period, which is more heavily weighted.
    • Faculty who join the university at a senior rank (Associate or Full Professor) must be considered for tenure no later than the sixth year of their appointment. However, consideration for tenure before the sixth year should be encouraged.
  • Reconsideration

    The NSHE Code outlines the process and timeline for reconsideration from an adverse decision regarding promotion, salary, or tenure.

  • Extending the probationary period

    The NSHE Code allows the probationary period to be extended upon the approval of the president. Requests to extend the probationary period must include written justification.

    A tenure-track faculty member who seeks an extension to the probationary period should make the request early at the time of the circumstances that might justify an extension, not immediately prior to coming up for tenure.

    Tenure extension request form

  • External reviewers
    • A minimum of four and maximum of eight external peer-review letters are required for all applications for tenure and for promotion to associate professor (Rank III) or full professor (Rank IV). For promotions within Rank 0, requirements vary depending on the nature of the appointment. For Rank 0 research faculty, no fewer than three external letters are required. For Rank 0 instructional faculty and Rank 0 faculty whose assignment is clinical, external letters may be required by the college but are not required by the university.
    • It is the responsibility of the department chair to obtain external peer-review letters. These letters should be solicited under the following guidelines. The initial contact may be made via email or phone, but each reviewer should then receive a formal letter (which may be sent electronically) following the template provided in the Directions for Preparing and Submitted Applications for Promotion and/or Tenure on the Office of the Provost website.
    • Reviewers for tenure applications should be selected by the department chair in consultation with the tenured faculty of the department; reviewers for promotion to full professor, in consultation with the department's full professors. The chair should allow and encourage the applicant to suggest potential reviewers. It is recommended that the candidate submit a list of 5 or 6 potential reviewers. The candidate should bear in mind that half or more of the reviewers will come from individual noton the candidate's list. The reason for this is to avoid selecting a set of reviewers that are strongly biased in favor of the candidate. Therefore, the candidate should think carefully about how many reviewers to put on the list, and who to include. For example, if the candidate lists the top 20 people in the field, the committee may have relatively few additional qualified reviewers to call upon. The candidate may also submit names of potential reviewers the candidate feels should not be used.
    • Reviewers should be experts in the applicant's area of research and should not be closely associated with the candidate for promotion. Avoid reviewers that have or could reasonably be perceived to have a conflict of interest. For example, they should not be a current or former research collaborator, a former graduate mentor or thesis advisor, co-authors, or a former contemporary at another institution. Avoid reviewers who hold a position at an institution where the candidate has earned a degree, performed postdoctoral research, or had any other official appointment, regardless of whether the reviewer's appointment overlapped with that of the candidate.
    • Do not solicit letters from more than one individual as a single institution.
    • Minimize the number of reviewers from non-U.S. universities. Researchers from non-U.S. universities often do not understand the U.S. tenure system and the importance of writing a detailed evaluation. Thus, any non-U.S. reviewer should be selected with care, with the recommendation being to limit the number to 2 or less.
    • For tenure candidates, reviewers from universities must be tenured faculty, preferably full professors, in programs at institutions with a research stature that is comparable or superior to that of the University of Nevada, Reno.
    • A majority should come from institutions classified by the Carnegie Foundation as R1. Reviewers from institutions that are classified below R2 should be avoided.
    • For application for promotion to full professor, reviewers from universities must be full professors.
    • For application for promotion to associate professor, reviewers should preferably be full professors, with no more than one being an associate professor.
    • In certain cases, it may be appropriate to solicit reviews from individuals who are not in programs of equal or higher stature or desirable to solicit reviews from individuals who are not affiliated with academic institutions. In such cases, the department chair should explain their stature and suitability in the brief summary of the reviewers' qualifications that is part of the application packet.

Third-year probationary tenure reviews

  • Progress toward tenure and third-year review
    • "Academic faculty in tenure-track positions shall, in addition to the annual written evaluation, be entitled to a written mid-tenure review of their progress toward tenure (NSHE Handbook Title 4, Ch. 3, Sec. 4.7). These faculty "must be evaluated and advised regarding progress toward tenure recommendation no later than the end of the third full academic year as a probationary member of the academic faculty of the university and, if not granted tenure, annually thereafter." (University Bylaws 3.4.4.b.).
    • All reviews of faculty progress toward promotion and tenure should include honest, direct, candid, and productive feedback, and include the caveat that the review does not guarantee that the faculty member will receive tenure. Finally, reviews should include "evaluation in writing, including the program of improvement that must be undertaken to be considered for tenure at a later date" (UNR Bylaws 3.4.4(b).
    • The review should not use the ratings of "Excellent," "Commendable," "Satisfactory," or "Unsatisfactory" for teaching, research, or service, or for an overall rating. Rather, the review should clearly indicate whether the faculty member is making satisfactory progress towards tenure and/or promotion, specifically indicating areas of deficiency, and provide specifics on the program of improvement that must be undertaken.
  • Third-year review guidelines
    • The third-year review occurs during the spring semester of the probationary faculty member's third academic year on the tenure track.
    • The provost requires that probationary faculty in their third year prepare the Application for Promotion and/or Tenure, following the instructions above as part of the third-year review process.
    • "All third-year reviews shall be forwarded by the dean or major unit administrator to the Executive Vice-President and Provost." University Bylaws 3.4.4(c).
    • The provost will allow, but does not require, one external peer-review letter for the third-year review. If a letter is requested a reviewer from a R1 university is preferred.
    • The NSHE Code (5.12.2) requires that the chair and dean conduct third-year reviews "in consultation with the appropriate tenure review committee or promotion committee." Following consultation with the departmental committee, the department chair will prepare a written review on progress towards tenure, and attach any report from the department faculty or personnel committee, and submit it to the college, with a copy to the faculty member. Following consultation with the college committee, the dean will prepare a written review on progress towards tenure, and attached any report from the department faculty or personnel committee, and submit it to the provost, with a copy to the faculty member.
    • The chair should meet with the faculty member and discuss the third year review.
  • Fourth-year review guidelines
    • Fourth-year external review letters are strongly discouraged so as not to create ‘letter fatigue' amongst the possible pool of peer-reviewers for the candidate.
    • The fourth-year review occurs during the spring semester of the probationary faculty member's fourth year on the tenure track.
    • This review shall be done by the department chair and/or any appropriate department tenure/promotion review committee.
    • The process should be completed in accordance with department guidelines, and the chair should meet with the faculty member to discuss the review.
    • There is no requirement for college or provost level review of the fourth-year review.
  • Fifth-year preparation of promotion and tenure materials
    • In the spring semester of the fifth-year the faculty member should be preparing their promotion and tenure package. This preparation shall be in accordance with NSHE Code, University Bylaws, unit bylaws, and the guidelines provided on the Provost website.
    • The "fifth-year" should consist of the department chair providing support to the faculty member with regards to process, timeline, required materials, supplementary materials, and consultation. If the faculty member has previously been granted a tenure clock extension the intervening years beyond the third-year should follow the fourth-year review procedures outlined above until the year the promotion and tenure package is due, wherein the "fifth-year" procedures outlined here should be followed.