What’s Your Tenure Policy?

Thanks to Dan and Angel for inviting me to post.  This is my first post-tenure post, and also my first guest post.  I am a perma-blogger at The Faculty Lounge, so it will be fun to see how things work around here.

A number of schools are facing the question of how to structure their tenure calendars.  It seems that in many places within the legal academy, tenure and promotion are combined into a 5-7 year, one-time occasion where a professor goes from untenured Assistant (or initial Associate) to Tenured Full Professor.  And in many other places–often those schools following a traditional university model–like my home school of Syracuse University College of Law–the tenure process is much longer.  Promotions: Assistant–>Associate–>Full Professor.  And Untenured to Tenured, with no default attachment of promotion and tenure.  Some schools may be a hybrid of the two: at promotion from Assistant to Associate, tenure is automatically granted.

What are the merits of both, and why is there such wide variations to career advancement within the legal academy?  Under the traditional model, it gives voting faculty more opportunity to review works of colleagues before achieving the rank of Full.  Meaning, by the time the candidate goes up for the last promotion, s/he will have been reviewed (externally and internally) and voted on no less than three times, not including yearly reappointments as a 1st or 2nd year professor. This same traditional model requires the candidate to submit copies of syllabi, articles, and self-evaluations almost each year–a repetitive process. Under the other model–let’s call it “Legal Model,” it looks more like a law firm, where the associate moves into the partner rank.  (This says nothing about equity v non-equity partners.)  Obviously, the process is combined. Perhaps there is less communication under the Legal Model, because the junior professor has not had enough formal review.

Having just gone through the tenure process, one year after the promotion process, and two years after the reappointment process, and 1-2 years **before** the next promotion to Full, I must say that I can see the merits of both sides.  There is much room for discussion.  What is the policy at your school?

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1 Response

  1. dave hoffman says:

    Duncan Hollis did a post on this at Opinio Juris based on data he and I collected. Check it out — though it might be dated now.