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Guidelines on Shared Faculty Appointments

I. Principle and Values

Although faculty members are conventionally appointed to a single academic unit in the College of Arts and Sciences, various professional or programmatic reasons may justify developing an arrangement that shares duties and responsibilities across multiple units (departments, divisions, schools, centers, institutes, etc. ). When deviating from traditional single-unit appointment practice, there is special need for clarity about expectations to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

The guidelines below create an administrative structure and process that balances the need for consistency with university policy while still allowing flexibility in designing the terms and conditions of faculty appointments. Shared positions offer the potential for fostering innovative work and creating new knowledge, attracting and retaining high quality faculty, and emphasizing interconnections. The need for a shared appointment occurs when there is a university/programmatic need driven by research and teaching priorities. There are two categories, but four types, of faculty appointments that warrant shared responsibility agreements:

Joint appointments that share/apportion regular instructional, research, or clinical duties among multiple units:

  • Tenure/tenure-track and research faculty appointments established upon hire, with responsibilities among multiple units, e.g., Bioinformatics/Biology; CERI/Earth Sciences

  • Split appointments that apportion responsibilities of UofM faculty as they assume new institutional duties, e.g., Director, Marcus Orr Center for Humanities/History

  • Associate appointments which remain in force only as long as participating parties mutually wish to continue the agreement and with the understanding that level of involvement is based on the individual's time and interests.

  • Adjunct Graduate Faculty appointments, e.g. , for faculty at St. Jude or University of Tennessee Health Science Center

  • Collegial appointments, indication of promised involvement with a second unit but the relationship is uniquely personal and reflects that individual's willingness to invest in the secondary unit, e.g. , physics professor with a courtesy appointment in chemistry.


When a joint appointment is created, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be initiated by the involved Dean(s) and coordinated with the heads of the units involved as well as the involved faculty member. When an associate appointment is created, the chair of the initiating department will draft a brief MOU with an approval line for the Dean(s). Section III lists the various items that should be included in the MOU, as applicable to the position.

II. Guidelines on Terms and Conditions of a Shared Appointment

The establishment of a shared appointment reflects an alignment of the teaching, research, and professional service interests of the faculty member with the mission and goals of the units involved. Although the guidelines presented below cannot possibly cover all contingencies, it is anticipated that formalizing the shared arrangement will benefit all parties involved and reduce the potential for conflict or harm to the participants. Academic Units: The units participating in the shared appointment will be identified, with one designated as the administrative unit of record for the faculty member and consequently will have the lead responsibility in personnel issues, payroll, mail address, etc. Each unit should help the faculty member become part of its community, including participation in unit meetings and events, receiving regular communications, and involvement in tenure and promotion processes. Distribution of Work: The MOU will explicitly outline the expected distribution of faculty duties and responsibilities including:

  • the anticipated teaching load, clearly specifying how teaching assignments will be made, the teaching load in each unit, and whether courses will come from an existing pool of courses in each unit or new courses will be expected to be developed. Teaching load expectations will be individualized to the overall responsibilities of the position;

  • service expectations for the position, especially given the risk of having a faculty member burdened with a doubled service expectation, including department meetings, department initiatives, student advising, assessment activities, etc.; and,

  • the agreed upon general definition of the field(s), types, and productivity levels of scholarship anticipated (realizing that research agendas evolve over time). Overall, the individual's research agenda should be relevant to both of the participating units and external funding expectations should be made explicit. Appointment Process: At the time of proposing a joint appointment, the Dean's Office(s) and involved academic units will agree on an outline of the key procedures they will use to recruit, select, evaluate, promote, and resolve disputes.

When proposing to hire a new faculty member for a joint appointment, the proposal should describe the rationale for establishing a joint position, the nature and expectations of the position, the academic units to be involved in the joint appointment, the composition of the search committee, the recruitment plan/selection process, and the specific qualifications sought.

Candidates will likely have substantive graduate course work or substantive experience and/or publications in the respective area(s). The proposed terms of the joint appointment will be discussed with all candidates at the time of their interview, with a written draft of the memorandum of understanding provided to the candidates. When the joint appointment is offered at the time of the faculty member's initial hire at The University of Memphis, the specification of primary and secondary departments, budgetary allocation, and workload distribution will be included in the President's letter of appointment to the faculty member.

The memorandum of understanding will be finalized as part of the negotiation process. When a split appointment is offered to a faculty member already employed at the UofM, the memorandum of understanding serves as documentation of the expectations to and from each participant. Period of shared appointment: The length of the appointment should reflect the nature of the position. Evaluation, Promotion and Tenure: Prior to the evaluation period, leaders of both units should be transparent about the assessment procedures they will use and the evaluation criteria that will be applied. The evaluation standards and criteria should take into account the unique features of the collaboration as well as the differences between the involved units.

The format and deadlines for reporting annual or mid-tenure accomplishments should be coordinated to avoid or minimize duplication of reporting effort. The assessments will be based on the total performance, with both the home and sharing unit involved in completing the evaluation; feedback provided to the faculty member will be detailed and specific. For efficiency purposes, one unit will be responsible for initiating the evaluation report. The sequence of the evaluation should be agreed to as part of the MOU; the second unit will share the evaluation report with the initial unit head to assure open and cross-communication among all stakeholders. The tenure and promotion process for joint appointments will follow university policy and timelines. The process followed will be specific to the responsibilities of the position. For example, some interdisciplinary joint appointments may suit a unified process for promotion and tenure as the clearest and simplest way to assure representation of involved academic units. In these situations, the proportionate representation on the internal committee from the participating units should be outlined in the MOU. Other joint positions may require independent and sequential assessment processes, with each unit's committees communicating with each other as to their findings. Separate letters from each of the heads of the units will be provided to the College committee (with an exchange of information between the unit heads).

Care will be taken in selecting external reviewers for tenure/promotion to identify scholars capable of looking beyond a disciplinary-specific lens and who can understand the whole picture of the faculty member's academic contribution. The solicitation of external reviewers for tenure/promotion will proactively describe the nature of the shared appointment and interdisciplinary work to be reviewed. When faculty members have joint appointments in two or more colleges, deadlines for annual reviews, award nominations, leaves, etc. may differ. Deans of colleges involved in joint appointments should consult with each other and reach mutually acceptable agreements regarding deadlines which will be communicated to the faculty member.

Change: As the role and responsibilities or interests of the faculty member evolve over time, it is expected that the initial understandings guiding the agreement will change. Difficulties with the joint appointment may also occur. Working with the Dean's Office(s), modification of the terms of agreement will be required if there is modification of work distribution, budgetary issues, substantial change in expectations, the faculty member wishes to rescind his/her joint appointment status, or either academic unit wishes to reconsider the agreement. Although rights to change the MOU should not be assumed, the faculty member should be informed about what options are available. Mutual agreement is needed on whom the faculty member should contact if he or she wishes to renegotiate the terms and conditions of the joint agreement and whom to contact if the faculty member wishes to terminate the agreement.

The Dean's Office(s) will clarify any constraints in place for changing a budgeted shared appointment, especially when this involves an assistant professor wishing to discontinue a joint appointment prior to tenure/promotion review. Conflict Resolution: The faculty member should first express concerns to the home unit and work with the lowest level possible to resolve issues. If the academic unit becomes concerned about the individual's performance or conduct, administrators knowledgeable about the concerns should consult with the Dean's Office(s). Consultation with the Dean's Office(s) will also occur if there are serious inter-unit conflicts or if major programmatic changes suggest needed modification of the arrangement. Assurance of the individual's due processes is critical. Disciplinary action, if deemed necessary, must be recommended jointly through appropriate channels.

III. Checklist of points to be covered in the Memorandum of Understanding, as applicable:

  1. Academic unit(s) and/or program(s) sharing the appointment, indicating which unit serves as the faculty member's home administrative unit and tenure home.
  2. If a new hire, tenure status, e.g. , tenured, tenure-track, non tenure (if tenure track, when tenure review will occur).
  3. Rank or title of the faculty member.
  4. Length of the Shared Appointment.
  5. Workload Division (teaching and service; research agenda).
  6. Understanding regarding:
    1. membership on unit level committees, voting rights and involvement in graduate student admissions and advising; role in the unit's tenure and promotion procedures
    2. administrative support--office location, staff/secretarial help (faculty with joint appointments will generally have a single office in the primary unit)
    3. professional support, including mentoring, access to labs, equipment, IT support, graduate student support, and funds for professional development, travel and supplies; approval process for academic, research, and non-academic leaves including responsibilities for provision of adjunct replacement; and,
    4. allocation of overhead receipts on grants, start-up costs, relocation expenses, matching funds on grants, indirect cost sharing and buyout policy.

  7. Review procedures (annual evaluations, re-appointments, salary increase recommendations, tenure, and promotion). Process for modifying or terminating the shared appointment; retreat rights and/or constraints to retreat rights. Signatures: The involved academic unit leaders, Dean(s) and Provost all sign the memorandum of understanding. Copies will be provided to the units and the faculty member.

(Thursday, December 02, 2010)