A look at how tenure works

Published research is a significant component of the process.

Temple’s faculty is comprised of nearly 3,700 members, with around a quarter of them being tenure or tenure-track. However, the process of achieving tenure is not unanimously known or understood at Temple.

Tenure is a contractual agreement between the university and a full-time faculty member in which after a probationary period, the faculty member is reviewed at multiple academic and administrative levels, earning job security and more academic freedom.

“The faculty member knows they have some freedom to pursue new ideas, to follow their research in the direction that the findings take them,” Kevin Delaney, vice provost of faculty affairs, said. “They know they have the standards to be a tenured professor.”

The procedure for tenure begins most often with a faculty member hired into a tenure-track position, Delaney said. The hiring process is very competitive, and hiring committees review national and international applicants. The president then makes the job and contract offer, and if an applicant is hired, he or she becomes a full-time faculty member and works for six years as an assistant professor.

A tenure-track professor is evaluated for tenure in their sixth year, he added. They must fulfill the three criteria of excellent research, teaching and service. The review process begins at the department level, in which a committee of faculty members reviews the candidate’s work. There are also external reviews of the research submitted from professors at other universities.

The review then moves up to the chair of the department, and then to a committee of faculty members in the college that the faculty member is a part of, Delaney said. After that, it moves to the dean of the college, a university-level committee, the provost, the president and finally the Board of Trustees, who grant tenure status.

Each step of the review process builds on the one before. The faculty member receives reports at each level and is given the chance to write a rebuttal if he or she wishes. The process takes about nine months.

Temple’s tenure process is similar to that of other Research I universities, like Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania.

“I think the ideal model is what we’re trying to achieve in this school where we have a mix of tenured faculty and tenure-track faculty, non-tenure track faculty and adjuncts,” David Boardman, dean of the School of Media and Communication, said. “They each bring different attributes to the students and to education and to knowledge-creation.”

Boardman, the former editor of The Seattle Times, was appointed as dean two years ago with no prior career in higher education. He received tenure because of his experience and achievement in his career in journalism.

“I still had to go through the same process for tenure,” Boardman said. “In my case, the university made a determination that the level of my experience and achievement would be the equivalent of someone who had published an academic journal and achieved tenure that way.”

Tenured and tenure-track professors’ main responsibilities involve research and leadership roles within faculty and administration.

Non-tenure-track professors are full-time faculty members working under a one-year renewable contract or under two- to five-year contracts. The majority of their work is through teaching. Adjuncts are part-time faculty members.

The majority of classes that students take are taught by non-tenured professors.

Lian Parsons can be reached at lian.parsons@temple.edu or on Twitter @Lian_Parsons.

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