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, an academic faculty member whose first regular full-time appointment is at Amherst College will normally be considered for tenure in his or her 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. A faculty member who is denied tenure in or before the seventh year will, if he or she wishes, 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 a person's appointment following a negative tenure decision, then the faculty member may fulfill the 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 teaching, scholarship and creation of works of art, and a concern for the general life of the college. Although distinguishing one quality from another--even for the purpose of discussion--separates what is inseparable in the life of a single individual, the distinctions which follow are an attempt to provide a clear description of the qualities the college seeks, especially among faculty who hold appointment without term. Effective teaching is regarded as a prime factor for reappointment and promotion. The college also gives great weight to the continued scholarly growth of faculty members. Research, publication and creative work are considered important indications of such growth. In addition, the college takes account of a faculty member's general contribution to the life of the college community.

While the balance among the varieties of intellectual distinction prerequisite to tenure may vary from individual to individual and from field to field, effective teaching or significant contribution to the community's well-being cannot compensate for absence of scholarship or creative work. Institutional considerations may play a role at the time of tenure, but if they are invoked, the president will give a full account of the reasons why. Institutional considerations include factors such as the tenure structure of the department, the rank structure of the department, and the fields of competence of the faculty member being considered for tenure in relation to those already represented in the department. Although the college has no formula for the percentage of faculty on tenure, or for the distribution of faculty by anticipated retirement or rank generally or within departments, a particular judgment may be made which takes such factors into account (adopted by trustee vote, April 4, 1992).

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 Committee of Six 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 Committee of Six 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 Committee of Six. 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 Committee of Six, 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 his or her 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)  Note that, by faculty vote, evaluations of teaching are to be requested of all students from every course, including every honors and special topics course taught by a tenure-track faculty member.  These evaluations are to be signed and are normally to be solicited in essay format in all classes in the final week of each semester on a common evaluation form approved by the faculty (voted by the faculty, May 23, 2019).  After the submission of grades they will be made available to the instructor without the names of the respondents.  All written evidence used to evaluate teaching effectiveness including the semester-end evaluations solicited from students in all courses, the retrospective letters solicited at the time of reappointment review, and the retrospective letters solicited at the time of tenure review from all current and former students taught since the time of reappointment.  The department letters soliciting letters from students should be included with their responses.  Solicitation of retrospective letters must include all students from every course, including every honors and special topics course taught by the candidate (voted by the faculty, October 1998).  Each person asked to write such a letter should be informed that his or her 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 (voted by the faculty, May 23, 2019).

(6) Letters from no fewer than six (6) and normally no more than eight (8), or in the case of joint appointments ten (10), 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., 2. (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 Committee of Six 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 Committee of Six by October 1. If they wish to comment on the departmental recommendation, they may send written commentary, in confidence, to the Committee of Six by October 15 (amended by the faculty, May 2012).

e. Committee of Six Responsibilities in Tenure Recommendations. The Committee of Six annually reviews its procedures for the consideration of tenure cases. It then 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, though remaining present, neither participate in the committee's discussion of, nor vote in the case. Abstentions or absentations because of conflict of interest or other conscientious reasons are always acceptable when the vote is taken (voted by the faculty, October 1986).

In cases where three or more members of the Committee of Six are required to abstain from discussion and voting in tenure cases because they come from the same department as the candidate, alternate Committee of Six members shall be seated with voice and vote together with regular members of the committee for the session in which the candidate is discussed and the session in which the candidates are compared and a final vote taken. The alternates shall be drawn from the Committee of Six ballot, with the first alternate being the first runner-up, etc., excluding faculty members from the candidate's department.

After preliminary discussion of each tenure case, the Committee of Six 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 Committee of Six (voted by the faculty, May 1999). In addition, if the Committee of Six, 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 Committee of Six will then make its recommendations to the President. The provost and dean of the faculty, as secretary to the Committee of Six, 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 his or her 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 Committee of Six to review all tenure cases. The president, after receiving the Committee of Six's recommendation, consults with the provost and dean of the faculty, and then formulates his or her own recommendation to the board of trustees. If both the department and the Committee of Six make negative recommendations, the president will recommend a negative decision to the board of trustees. If both the department and the Committee of Six make positive recommendations, the president will convey these recommendations to the trustees, together with his or her own.

If the president intends to make a negative recommendation to the board, he or she will inform the Committee of Six, 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 Committee of Six, or of both, he or she will present to the board the written recommendations of the department and the minutes of the Committee of Six and will, prior to the board meeting, give the reason(s) for that recommendation to the Committee of Six, 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 Committee of Six, 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 he or she believes that improper procedures were followed, or that the negative decision constitutes a violation of academic freedom, he or she has the right to request a hearing by the Committee on Adjudication (see Grievance Procedure).