Inside the Tenure Process

Written by Maximilian Dunham

Achieving tenure is an incredibly lengthy process, with a variety of stages and opinions involved. 

The Faculty Handbook states that, “The award of tenure attests to the College’s judgment that a faculty member has demonstrated a level of ability and achievement as both teacher and scholar that is consistent with the professional standards of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges.”

Dean of Faculty Sandra Wong said, “Excellence in teaching is paramount. Faculty members on the tenure track are evaluated in the bases on their teaching, scholarship, and service.” A faculty member on the ‘tenure track’ is hired initially as assistant professor and then undergoes the long hull to achieve tenure.

The process begins at the all faculty third year review. According to the handbook, during a faculty member’s full third year at CC, the college conducts a diagnostic “review of his or her effectiveness as a teacher, scholar, and member of the College community.” The criteria of assessment during this review is the same for the tenure review. However a positive 3rd year review does not guarantee tenure, but it does clear one onto the next step.

In a faculty member’s sixth year, the College decides whether to award tenure or issue a terminal contract for the following academic year. This does not mean a faculty member has been at the college for six years, but they have been promoted to one of the ‘professorial grades,’ and have been in that position for six years. “You could have been here 15 years or more before you get tenure,” said Wong. This duration makes sense considering the amount of consideration that goes into the decision and the prestige of the position.

Some aspects of the tenure portfolio include: a statement by the tenure candidate describing their aims and goals as teachers and their philosophy of teaching, three reports of classroom visits by tenured colleagues, a scholarship review by outside experts in the field of study, letters of evaluation from students and alumni taught by the candidate, written assessments of the candidate from colleagues outside and inside the candidate’s department, a letter from the candidates’ department chair, in addition to many more recommendations and assessments. The file is then given to The Personnel Council, who adds their recommendation, before it goes to the Dean and President for final review.

Students’ opinions are taken into account for this decision. The final tenure file must contain 25 letters from students who have taken a course with the candidate before submitted. Wong said, “Those letters are very important to review committees because they provide the opportunity for students to talk about the quality of organization and clarity in the candidates’ teaching. They tell us how challenging a course is, how clearly a professor explains the material, and what kind of feedback they give.” These assessments come out of the course evaluations students have to complete and additional surveys sent out individually.

It makes sense that achieving tenure is such a lengthy process, considering its implications. When a professor receives tenure it means that they will have a job at CC indefinitely, unless the tenure is revoked, which is exceedingly rare.  In the professional world, few occupations have the opportunity to receive the job security tenure provides. At CC, there is no quota for how many teachers can reach tenure. Currently, around two-thirds of the regular faculty have tenure or are on the tenure track. This number is not unusual for a liberal arts school.

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