Tenure For Regular Full-time Members of the Faculty

An appointment without term is authorized by the Board of Trustees upon the recommendation of the president.

1. The Meaning of Tenure

An appointment with tenure means an appointment without limit of time that can be terminated only for adequate cause or under extraordinary circumstances because of financial exigencies. Academic tenure and academic freedom are distinguishable but linked in the life of a college or university. Without freedom to explore new ideas, or to criticize existing beliefs and institutions, higher learning would become a sterile exercise and society would suffer accordingly. Academic freedom must be sustained for all faculty without regard to rank or tenure, recognizing the fact that the use of such freedom may anger powerful vested interests in the larger society or arouse the ire of administrators, faculty colleagues, or students within the academy. Tenure is an institutional safeguard for the conditions of academic freedom.

The protection of academic freedom by a guarantee of permanent tenure, therefore, represents an important part of the continuous effort that must be made to preserve the freedom of thought and speech that is the breath of life for a democratic society. This being so, then, tenure imposes upon all who receive it the reciprocal obligation to make the fullest use of such freedom and to carry the results of honest and imaginative inquiry to the larger society even though this act may challenge cherished beliefs and established institutions. Tenure requires also that faculty members foster freedom of inquiry for their colleagues and their students and respect the virtues of intellectual integrity and the claims of reason and evidence.

2. The Timing of the Tenure Decision

As already indicated, faculty members whose first regular full-time appointment is at Amherst College will normally be considered for tenure in their seventh year at the college. In exceptional circumstances, a department may, with the agreement of the faculty member, make a recommendation for tenure before the seventh year. A faculty member failing to receive a positive tenure decision will not normally be considered again for tenure. Faculty members who are denied tenure in or before the seventh year will, if they wish, have a terminal appointment for the academic year after the year in which a tenure decision is made. If more than one year remains in such  persons' appointment following a negative tenure decision, then faculty members may fulfill their remaining time of appointment until the end of the eighth year with the understanding that upon completion of this time employment by the college ends. (For exceptions to this schedule, see D, 5 above.)

3. The Criteria for Tenure

The college values faculty whose commitment to the life of the mind is demonstrated through excellence in teaching, scholarship, and/or the creation of works of art, and contributions to professional service.  Amherst tenures faculty who demonstrate growth, achievement, and continuing promise in both scholarship and teaching, evinced by a notable record of scholarly and/or artistic accomplishment and a demonstrated ability to teach undergraduates effectively.  These two aspects of a candidate’s record are of primary consideration in the tenure decision.  Strength in one will not compensate for shortcoming in the other.  A record of scholarly excellence must include evidence of original research that is peer-reviewed or of comparable scholarly rigor and standing, and/or its equivalent in the creative arts.  A record of teaching excellence must include evidence of the ability to convey knowledge and engage students in rigorous and stimulating ways and a commitment to their intellectual growth.  Additionally, faculty members are expected to contribute to their home departments and programs, to the life and work of the college, and to their professional fields (voted by the faculty, April 26, 2022).

4. Procedures Followed in Tenure Decisions

In the spring of the academic year preceding that in which a tenure decision will be made for an individual candidate, the candidate and department chair will be informed in writing by the provost and dean of the faculty of the schedule and procedures to be followed.

a. Departmental Recommendation. A recommendation concerning tenure originates in the candidate's department(s). The tenured members of the department(s) will make a recommendation to the Tenure and Promotion Committee for or against an appointment with tenure. In cases where there are fewer than two tenured faculty in the department of a candidate for tenure, the provost and dean of the faculty and the Tenure and Promotion Committee will appoint an ad hoc committee of tenured faculty in related departments to supplement or serve in lieu of the departmental committee in making a recommendation to the Tenure and Promotion Committee. In cases where a Faculty member holding appointments in two departments is recommended for tenure, a tenured colleague holding appointments to the same two departments will participate in the deliberation and voting in both departments. The Tenure and Promotion Committee, however, in its own consideration of the case, will not give double weight to the colleague's evaluation. The tenured colleague is expected to submit one letter summarizing the individual's evaluation of the candidate for tenure. Departmental recommendations will include the following (voted by the faculty, December 1991):

(1) A departmental letter of recommendation containing a judgment about:

(a) teaching effectiveness;

(b) scholarship, creative work and growth;

(c) contribution to the general life of the college community and to the profession;

(d) any considerations of departmental structure.   

(2) A separately submitted, confidential letter from each tenured member of the department(s), including those on leave, assessing the candidate's qualifications. The substance of reservations expressed in individual letters should be reflected in the department's letter (amended by the faculty, March 1999).

(3) A current curriculum vitae, including a list of all courses taught at Amherst College and the years in which they were taught, and a list of senior theses supervised.

(4) Copies of the candidate's scholarly and creative work with, when applicable, a characterization of the journals in which or the press by which the work was published.

(5)  For the tenure review, departments are required to have solicited end-of-semester evaluations of teaching from all students from every course, including every special topics course, taught by a tenure-track faculty member, with the exception of honors students, after the last semester considered as part of the reappointment review through the semester before the faculty member stands for tenure. These end-of-semester evaluations are signed and normally solicited in essay format in all classes in the final week of each semester on a common evaluation form approved by the faculty. After the submission of grades, they are made available to the instructor without the names of the respondents. In addition, on an annual basis, departments are required to solicit from all honors students advised by a tenure-track faculty member that year, whether the students complete their honors work or not, confidential “annual” letters, after students receive a final grade (after one semester, if students do not complete honors work, or after two semesters, if they do). In addition, on an annual basis, departments are required to solicit from all research students who were supervised by a tenure-track professor for 240 hours (the equivalent of six weeks of full-time work) or more that year confidential “annual” letters. Departments solicit annual letters from research students in the year in which the research experience took place—at the end of the academic year for research students who worked during the academic year, and at the end of the summer for those who worked during the summer.  In all cases, annual letters from research students are solicited before the start of the next academic year. Annual letters from honors and research students that were reviewed at the time of reappointment and those received after the time of reappointment become part of the candidate’s tenure dossier. In addition, at the time of tenure review, departments are also required to have solicited, after students have received final grades, confidential “retrospective” letters of evaluation from all students from every course, including every honors and special topics course, taught by a tenure-track faculty member after the last semester considered as part of the reappointment review through the semester immediately preceding the semester in which the tenure review takes place. In addition, at the time of tenure review, departments are required to have solicited retrospective letters of evaluation from all research students who were supervised by a tenure-track professor for 240 hours (the equivalent of six weeks of full-time work) after the last semester considered as part of the reappointment review through the semester immediately preceding the semester in which the tenure review takes place. The department letters soliciting confidential annual and retrospective letters from students are included with their responses.  Annual letters from honors students and retrospective letters are summarized in the departmental recommendation, a redacted version of which is shared with the candidate. Candidates are not provided with the letters themselves. Students asked to write letters are informed that their response will be treated as confidential by the college. Reviews and ratings from informal and commercial websites, or any other anonymous materials, are inadmissible as evidence. All written evidence used to evaluate teaching effectiveness assembled at the time of reappointment is also considered at the time of tenure review (voted by the faculty, May 17, 2022, and May 26, 2022).

(6) Letters from no fewer than six and normally no more than eight, or in the case of joint appointments ten external reviewers who are leading scholars or practitioners in the candidate's field, to be chosen equally from lists compiled by the candidate and the department(s) (voted by the faculty, May 1999); the department's letter of solicitation to them; and, a description of the process by which these persons were chosen as external reviewers, their qualifications, and their relationship, if any, to the candidate.

(7) Letters from colleagues in other departments, including those who have served on committees or taught with the candidate.

(8) The departmental evaluation of teaching effectiveness should draw upon a representative range of teaching activities in addition to evidence described in (5). Evaluation should derive from, but need not be limited to, conversations about courses with some members of the department; attendance by some members of the department at a number of class meetings at mutually agreed upon times; assessment, by the candidate with at least one senior member of the department, of the accomplishments of at least one of the candidate’s courses at the end of a semester. Evaluations of teaching effectiveness may also be included in the letters described in (2) and (7) (voted by the faculty, March 1999).  Evaluations of teaching effectiveness should also be informed by the discussions of the tenured members of the department, the substance of which is conveyed during annual conversations (voted by the faculty, April 2014).  Annual conversations with the chair are held each year until the time of the faculty member’s tenure review.  Procedures for annual conversations can be found in section III., D., 4. (voted by the faculty, April 2014).

b. Schedule for Submission of Departmental Recommendations. These materials will be submitted to the provost and dean of the faculty for communication to the Tenure and Promotion Committee by October 1 of the year of the tenure decision.

c. Communication with Candidate. The department chair will by October 1 provide the candidate with a copy of the department's letter. That letter shall be edited to protect confidentiality, but must include the number of positive and negative votes and abstentions. The chair will discuss that letter with the candidate (amended by the Faculty, April 2000).

d. Rights of Candidates for Tenure. Candidates for tenure will submit letters on their own behalf to the Tenure and Promotion Committee by October 1. If they wish to comment on the departmental recommendation, they may send written commentary, in confidence, to the Tenure and Promotion Committee by October 15 (amended by the faculty, May 2012).

e. Tenure and Promotion Committee Responsibilities in Tenure Recommendations. The Tenure and Promotion Committee reviews each tenure case individually, all members of the committee reading the documents submitted in each case. Its role in tenure cases is to make recommendations to the president. When a candidate for tenure is from the same department as a member of the committee, that member shall not be present during the committee's discussion of the candidate's case, including when straw votes are taken, or vote on the case. The member shall be present during any sessions in which the committee meets with the department and shall participate as a department member in that circumstance. The member shall also be present during sessions in which the committee discusses all cases together, including when final votes are taken, but shall not participate in the discussion of the candidate's case, or vote on it. Abstentions or absentations because of conflict of interest or other conscientious reasons are always acceptable when the vote is taken (voted by the faculty, May 17, 2022).

At least four members of the Tenure and Promotion Committee must review and vote on each tenure case. In cases in which two or more members of the committee are required to abstain from such voting and discussion because they are from the same department as the candidate, or for any other reason, alternate Tenure and Promotion Committee members serve as replacements and are seated with voice and vote together with regular members of the committee for the session in which the candidate's case is discussed and the session in which the candidates' cases are compared and a final vote taken. The alternates are drawn from the Tenure and Promotion Committee ballot, with the first alternate being the first runner-up, etc., excluding faculty members from the candidate's department (voted by the faculty, May 17, 2022).

After preliminary discussion of each tenure case, the Tenure and Promotion Committee will notify the recommending department(s) in writing about such aspects of the case as the committee finds to be in need of further clarification. The department(s) may then respond by letter or may request a meeting with Tenure and Promotion Committee (voted by the faculty, May 1999). In addition, if the Tenure and Promotion Committee, by straw vote, is tending toward a recommendation at variance with that of the department, it will meet with tenured members of the department to hear arguments as to why it should support the department's recommendation.

The Tenure and Promotion Committee will then make its recommendations to the president. The provost and dean of the faculty, as secretary to the Tenure and Promotion Committee, will in each case maintain a record of the sum and substance of the committee's deliberations in arriving at its recommendations, including the number of positive and negative votes and abstentions, and will communicate that summary to candidates, upon their request, once the president has formulated the president's own recommendation to the trustees and has communicated it to the department chair and the candidate, and once the committee has drafted and approved the sum-and-substance record (amended by the faculty, September 1999).

f. The President's Responsibilities in Tenure Recommendations. The president sits with the enure and Promotion Committee to review all tenure cases. The president, after receiving the Tenure and Promotion Committee's recommendation, consults with the provost and dean of the faculty, and then formulates the president's own recommendation to the board of trustees. If both the department and the Tenure and Promotion Committee make negative recommendations, the president will recommend a negative decision to the board of trustees. If both the department and the Tenure and Promotion Committee make positive recommendations, the president will convey these recommendations to the trustees, together with the president's own.

If the president intends to make a negative recommendation to the board, he or she will inform the Tenure and Promotion Committee, the department chair and the candidate for tenure of the fact. If the president makes a recommendation contrary to that of a department or of the Tenure and Promotion Committee, or of both, he or she will present to the board the written recommendations of the department and the minutes of the Tenure and Promotion Committee and will, prior to the board meeting, give the reason(s) for that recommendation to the Tenure and Promotion Committee, the department chair and the candidate for tenure.

These procedures do not preclude presidential intervention in the tenure process of a department if, after consultation with the Tenure and Promotion Committee, the president believes such intervention is warranted.

g. Notification of the Tenure Decision. The final decision concerning tenure, whether affirmative or negative, will be communicated by the president to the faculty member concerned. If the decision is affirmative, the faculty member will receive explicit notification in writing that he or she is now a tenured member of the faculty. If the decision is negative, the college will endeavor to give the faculty member eighteen months' notice before final termination. This will entail an additional one-year terminal appointment.

A faculty member who has been notified of a decision not to grant tenure may request from the provost and dean of the faculty an explanation of the reasons which led to that decision. If the candidate believes that improper procedures were followed, or that the negative decision constitutes a violation of academic freedom, the candidate has the right to request a hearing by the Committee on Adjudication (see Grievance Procedure).