Tenure Track Faculty

Balancing demands for teaching, research, and service

Faculty members in departments have diverse career histories and developmental trajectories. The department leadership should take this variation into account in determining teaching and service assignments and in evaluating faculty members' expectations and accomplishments in research, teaching, and service and contributions to the overall goals of the department. Within the context of each discipline, junior faculty members must successfully learn how to juggle the competing demands of teaching, research, and service if they are to achieve regional, national, and international standing and to contribute to the department in a productive and positive manner. When mentoring faculty, realistic advice regarding the challenges of balancing demands should be explored.

Teaching: While most, if not all, faculty members contribute to the teaching program of the department, prior teaching experience and research expertise should be taken into account in determining teaching loads and assignments. For early career faculty members, a balance between lower division and upper division (and sometimes graduate) classes is often preferable. Ideally, all departmental faculty members will contribute to teaching the undergraduate curriculum, especially introductory courses. To the extent possible, the initial courses for new faculty should draw upon the individual faculty member's research expertise and interests. When faculty members are hired in a research area that is not well represented in the curriculum but a goal for the department, new courses might be considered to reflect the new faculty expertise. Typically the new faculty member takes the lead in developing such course/s.

Monitoring the effectiveness of teaching is critical. This is especially critical during the initial years of employment to establish that quality teaching is an important measure for the department and college. Effectiveness of teaching should be addressed as part of the process for setting annual goals during the academic year and importantly during the annual evaluation of faculty. When teaching issues have been identified, recommendations for improvement should be discussed and their implementation tracked.

While teaching effectiveness is of particular concern with new faculty members, it remains an important part of annual evaluation, mid-tenure review, tenure and promotion decisions, and post retirement contracts. Thus, the chair should regularly monitor teaching effectiveness of all faculty members especially at the time of annual review.

Service: Similar to teaching, service assignments within the department, college, and university for early career faculty should be carefully weighed such that pre-tenure faculty members are not overwhelmed with service responsibilities. Ideally, service for pre-tenure faculty will primarily be related to departmental needs. At the same time, it is important that all faculty become familiar with "service sector" work within the university and contribute effectively to the service needs of the department, college and university. In short, it is important for the department chair to carefully and purposefully balance the demands of service assignments. At the same time, it is important to emphasize that the faculty member is part of the department and that being a responsible member of the department is essential.

Research: All faculty members need to be supported in their efforts to conduct research and to disseminate the results of their research. Research productivity is an especially important aspect of annual review discussions and evaluations.

In their annual review of tenured faculty, both Associate and Full Professors, Chairs should assess and then discuss the current research program of each faculty member. This discussion should go beyond "how many publications are coming out," but instead focus on the research projects and what faculty members are particularly enthusiastic about doing. In short, while "output" is important, addressing the hows and whys of the research activities of each faculty member is perhaps more helpful. Helping to sustain faculty enthusiasm for their research activities is an invaluable contribution of the chair.

Chairs themselves need to attempt to balance teaching, research, and service in their own careers while chair. In short, service to the department and the university should not overpower attention to research and professional service. The chair and senior faculty should remember that they serve as models for junior faculty. Further, helping junior faculty learn how to plan/outline an explicit research program/agenda and their other workload will help the chair understand how they are balancing competing demands.

Departmental Guidelines for Tenure and Promotion

Each department has its own guidelines for tenure and promotion. When guidelines are revised, they are forwarded to the Dean's office for review. When approved at that level, they are forwarded by the Dean's office to the Provost for review. When approved at that level, they are posted on the Provost's website. When the department's tenure and promotion guidelines are revised, faculty should be reminded that in future tenure and promotion decisions, the new guidelines will be in effect. To keep current, the guidelines should be reviewed within the department at least every 3 years by the entire faculty.

Mid-tenure reviews

Mid-tenure review should be envisioned as an opportunity for the faculty member, the chair, and the tenure and promotion committee members to delve deeply into the progress the mid-tenure faculty member is making with regard to eventually meeting expectations for tenure and promotion. Built from the record of the annual evaluations, the discussion shifts from feedback from the department chair to a reading from the department's tenure and promotion committee. Thus, the mid-tenure review should accomplish several things, including:

  1. Assessing how well the mid-tenure faculty member is proceeding in his/her tenure process regarding teaching, research, and service

  2. Providing possible modification of the course of his/her work and/or encouragement of the direction he/she is going in.

  3. Considering a modification in the mentoring process
  4. Asking the faculty member for suggestions for support that would make a difference in teaching, research, and service productivity.

In short, the mid-tenure review should accomplish much more than an assessment of where the faculty member is at that time and should be seen as a focused opportunity to find supports and possible solutions when there appear to be problems in productivity. When faculty accomplishments are substantial, these accomplishments should be recognized and the faculty member strongly encouraged to continue in a similar vein.


Typically chairs serve in a mentor capacity for faculty members, especially at the time of annual review. But it is important that another faculty member, preferably a tenured one, serve as an "in-depth" mentor. This tends to work best when the faculty member identifies someone who might play this role, but the chair also might have recommendations for someone who would work well as a mentor. The important thing is that the mentor and the faculty member need to be able to work together well and to regularly confer. In some cases a faculty member might want to have a mentor from another department. It also is possible to have more than one mentor. It is important to try to get a mentor system set up for new faculty during their initial year. These relationships work best when it is possible for the faculty member to address an array of professional development issues with his/her mentor.

Early termination of a tenure-track faculty member

Late winter, the chair must decide whether to continue the employment of untenured tenure track faculty members into the following academic year. Prior to initiating the formal paperwork process, the chair needs to consider the possibility that an untenured faculty colleague should not be "renewed" for another year. While early termination only occasionally happens, there are times when a faculty member is not making good progress as a productive member of the department with regard to teaching, research, and service. When it becomes clear that there is not a good "fit" between a faculty member and the department's expectations, the chair should discuss the situation with the Dean well in advance of making the decision. The chair should have problems/issues documented in prior annual evaluations, if possible.