Third-Year Review Procedures for Tenure-Track Assistant Professors

(revised May 2013)

All assistant professors in the College are recruited with the hope that they can be successful here. It is for this reason that the College’s policy on career advice or mentoring is based on the view that the interests of departments and programs and of the College and the University are served when faculty receive useful professional advice – often called mentoring. The goal of faculty career advising is to provide opportunities for all tenure-track faculty to acquire feedback and information about strengths and weaknesses. It is the responsibility of departments and programs to provide formal faculty career advising. In addition, career advising should be provided to all tenure-track faculty in a meeting with their chair or director at least once a year; the focus of this conversation should be their research, teaching, and service activities that year in relation to their progress toward tenure. These discussions should be constructive and diagnostic, and should include information about the third-year review and tenure and promotion review processes. Without predicting the likelihood of success at the end of the probationary period, chairs and directors should address areas of strength and areas for improvement in the faculty member’s teaching, research, and service and should provide suggestions about goals and strategies for improvement.

All assistant professors begin with a three-year contract which may be renewed after a successful review is conducted in the third year. This review is, therefore, a serious evaluation and must not be pro-forma or informal. While the advice given previously is relevant to this review, the review is not simply another occasion for advice. The department or program in which an assistant professor is appointed must follow written procedures and reach a formal decision about whether to renew an assistant professor. For those assistant professors who are renewed, it is important to note that the review is designed to be helpful to the faculty member and does not become part of the promotion record for the College. The document may be used by departments and programs in their deliberations and may be referenced in materials which give accounts of those deliberations. But in the interest of encouraging a frank exchange at this stage, the third-year review is the one exception to the policy that all materials in the case must be forwarded to the College when the promotion and tenure case is submitted. Assistant professors that meet the standards for renewal should be advised on how best to prepare for their promotion. The needs of both the department or program and the junior faculty member will be served only if the third-year review is thorough and wide-ranging, and the feedback to the assistant professor is detailed and candid.

The College understands that the standards of what must be accomplished after three years vary from discipline to discipline. A contract should not be renewed in cases where the achievements at the time of the third-year review suggest that an assistant professor is unlikely to meet the standards for promotion to tenure. Assistant professors who are renewed should be informed about any shortcomings in their record, together with suggestions for what is needed to correct these shortcomings. Such advice is important; however, the faculty member should understand that following this advice does not guarantee promotion to associate professor with tenure.

Procedures for third-year reviews

Every department and program must comply with the following procedural standards for third-year reviews:

  1. The review must follow established procedures. Every department and program must have written procedures for the third-year review process that spell out in detail how the review will be conducted and how the decision for renewal will be made. Many units appoint an ad hoc review committee for each candidate. The membership of such a committee may not include any faculty who would encounter a conflict of interest in participating in the review of the candidate. (See Policy on Faculty Conflicts of Interest and Conflicts of Commitment) Faculty members who have a conflict of interest should not participate in any element of the review process or be present in any discussions of the case.
    Reviews for faculty with joint appointments: Information about the joint review process standards and procedures should be provided to the faculty member at the time the joint appointment is approved. Generally, the units involved should follow the principles suggested in the College’s promotion guidelines:
    1. the units should coordinate, or ideally, collaborate on the faculty member’s review process, and 
    2. the units should provide integrated communication with the faculty member, so that he/she is not given conflicting information or advice by the units. In general, it is best for third-year review practices to mirror promotion practices as closely as possible in anticipation of the joint tenure review. Equally, it is best for the units to make a joint decision and to issue joint feedback to the faculty member.
      In the event units reach a different decision about renewal of the faculty member, the process detailed below (see item 7) is to be followed. It is appropriate for the units to consider the structure of the appointment at the third-year review with the understanding that any changes in appointment must be approved by the Dean and the Executive Committee.
  2. The faculty member under review must be given a copy of the procedures. In their first year, all assistant professors must be given a copy of their unit’s third-year review procedures along with an explanation of the review process. By the end of their second year, the chair or director or his/her designee should have met with the assistant professor to outline the third-year review procedure and provided a written document of the review schedule and materials needed.
  3. The review must be thorough. The third-year review must consider the scholarship, teaching, and service of each assistant professor under review. Normally this means that individuals should submit for review: an up-to-date curriculum vitae, all publications (including those in draft, in press, and under review), teaching evaluations and course syllabi, a record of courses taught, a list of graduate and undergraduate students with whom individual instruction was undertaken, and a list of service responsibilities performed. In some fields, a record of successful and unsuccessful attempts to achieve external funding is also critical. The faculty member should prepare written statements for each area of activity as part of the review process.
  4. Outside evaluation letters should not be part of the third-year review process.
  5. The review must produce written feedback. At the end of the review, the assistant professor must receive a written evaluative summary of the review findings and the outcome of the renewal decision. The outcome of the review must not include statements that promise, suggest, or otherwise imply future promotion to associate professor with tenure. None of the content in a third-year review document constitutes a commitment regarding the outcome of subsequent deliberations on promotion and/or tenure.
  6. The faculty member under review is to receive notification of the decision regarding renewal. A department or program that decides to renew an assistant professor for another three years must ensure that the notification process includes a discussion of the timing and procedures for the department’s or program's promotion review process. The faculty member should be reminded that the policy for promotion is also on the Academic Affairs website in the Promotions section.
  7. Decision-making procedures. We recommend parallelism with the tenure review process with respect to the manner in which the renewal is decided (i.e., voted on by the normal decision making body).
    When a department or program recommends non-renewal of an assistant professor, a copy of the complete third year review dossier, the unit’s third-year review guidelines, and a detailed explanation of why renewal is not recommended are to be forwarded to the appropriate LSA Divisional Associate Dean. The dossier will be reviewed and forwarded to the LSA Executive Committee. If the Executive Committee concludes that the unit has conducted a thorough review and has valid reasons for non-renewal, the candidate may then be notified by the unit. Should the Executive Committee have questions regarding the review process, the unit may be asked to provide additional information.
    Terminal year: The University SPG 201.88 and the LSA Faculty Code require that notice of intention not to recommend reappointment must be given to the faculty member in writing no later than September 15 of that academic year. If the unit recommends non-renewal, the faculty member is offered a terminal one-year contract for the year following the decision.
  8. The 2013-2014 Third-Year Review Summary Report form must be completed and a copy sent to the LSA Divisional Affairs Office by April 15, 2014. Once the third-year review meeting has occurred, the Third-Year Review Summary Report form is to be signed by the chair, director, or program representative and the faculty member. A copy of the form is then sent to Mandy Harrison (2150 LSA) by April 15th of the third year. This form is not intended to capture everything covered in the unit third-year review report or in the chair or director meeting. The College does not wish to receive the full written evaluation from the unit in order to encourage candor in the evaluation and ensure the candidate an opportunity to address shortcomings without concern that the College may develop preconceptions about promotion and tenure. Rather, the third-year review summary report form is intended to confirm that appropriate discussions and procedures have been followed and to provide the Dean’s Office with information on mentoring plans for the faculty member, both past and future.
  9. Submittal forms to renew the faculty member’s contract end date must be completed and submitted to the LSA Divisional Affairs Office by May 1, 2014. In order for the records of the University to correctly reflect the contract end date of the faculty member, a submittal form must be processed. Departments and programs should submit the appropriate submittal form to Deborah Erskine (2156 LSA) promptly after the unit’s renewal decision. If the assistant professor is to be terminated, this deadline may be extended in order to permit Executive Committee review of the termination.
  10. Faculty members who are renewed are granted a “nurturance” leave and should submit a request for Duty Off-Campus. The nurturance leave is taken administratively as Duty Off-Campus either for one semester at full pay or two semesters at half pay. A leave request form is required (even if the faculty member chooses to work on campus) and should be submitted to LSA Divisional Affairs (Mandy Harrison, 2150 LSA). Faculty members continue to accrue sabbatical equity during this period. In some disciplines it has proven useful for faculty to take the nurturance leave prior to the third-year review. Requests for such leave must be accompanied by unit assurance that a successful third-year review is anticipated, and must be approved by the appropriate Divisional Associate Dean.

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