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  Cornell University

The University Faculty

Office of the Dean

Tenure Track Promotions: HR Guidelines

5.1 Overview

Tenure represents the highest level of investment in academic freedom and responsibility by Cornell University and its professors. The University Faculty adopted the following statement on May 11, 1960:

Academic Freedom for the Faculty of Cornell University means

Freedom of expression in the classroom on matters relevant to the subject and the purpose of the course and of choice of methods in classroom teaching; from direction and restraint in scholarship, research, and creative expression and in the discussion and publication of the results thereof; to speak and write as a citizen without institutional censorship or discipline


Responsibility to perform faithfully the duties of the position; to observe the special obligations of a member of a learned profession and an officer of an educational institution to seek and respect the truth; to make it clear that utterances made on one’s own responsibility are not those of an institutional spokesman.

The strength of a department, a college and the University depends on the wisdom of the decisions on tenure appointments. No single factor is more important to the future of the University than the excellence of its faculty.

No individual has a right to tenure; the ultimate good of the institution, as judged by the process of evaluation, is paramount. Few other decisions about individuals involve such extensive solicitation of advice, internal and external, or have so many steps in the approval process.

While it is generally understood that departments are not authorized to confer tenure, at times there is the feeling that the de facto power is at the department level. There have been instances where department chairpersons, in discussions with candidates or appointees, have minimized the possibility of a negative decision at levels beyond the department. While it is true that the majority of departmental decisions are approved, there is a significant fraction which are not. Thus, caution is advised in any discussions of the probability of the approval of a recommendation.

At Cornell deans have considerable freedom in administering their colleges. In the case of tenure appointments, however, the University review of a dean‟s commendation is not pro forma.

While most tenure recommendations from colleges are approved, each is scrutinized by the provost, and the judgment of the department, the ad hoc committee, and the dean is not automatically accepted. The Board of Trustees approves the appointment of individuals to tenure by secret ballot.

From a technical appointment perspective, “tenure” refers to academic appointment with no end-date, or “appointment with indefinite tenure.” At Cornell University tenure is applied in appointments only to the titles University professor, professor and associate professor, and only in such appointments specifically designated to be tenure-eligible.

Those upon whom tenure has been conferred are appointed for an indefinite term.  However, according to the Bylaws of the University:

All appointments to the staff of instruction and research which are funded from non-University sources (e.g., federal or state appropriations, research or other service contracts or grants) shall be subject to modification or termination in the event that such funding shall cease to be available to the University for such purposes.‟

A college or department cannot make a faculty appointment on external funds without prior approval from the dean and the provost. Such approval will be granted only for a short period and only if it can be demonstrated that unrestricted funds soon will be available.


5.2 University Criteria for Tenure

 It is not possible to establish, at the university level, detailed criteria for tenure appointments for the many academic units in the University. The basic criteria are clear: excellence in carrying out the responsibilities of the position and unusual promise for continued achievement. Since the requirements and criteria of a department may change, each decision is a separate action, and independent of any other current or previous decisions within or outside the department.

The responsibilities of a faculty member include teaching, research and other scholarly achievement, public service, advising students, and contributing to the department, the college and the University. Not all faculty members are assigned all these responsibilities. The emphasis given to each responsibility, as determined by existing circumstances, varies among the colleges and departments of the university and may even change within a department.

The department, the chairperson, and the dean have the responsibility of weighing the different roles of each faculty member and evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of the candidates for tenure, taking into account the mission and needs of the department and the college. These include the interests of the unit and the University to promote racial, ethnic and gender diversity among the faculty. But regardless of how the department weighs the relevant factors in any particular case, no candidate may be granted tenure who does not meet the requirements for overall excellence.

Failure to meet any of the diversity factors may not be used as a negative element in the evaluation of any candidate.

Given the rigorous standards for tenure at Cornell, individuals whose performance has been acceptable, or even of high quality, may not receive promotion. Many candidates for tenure, in evaluating their own progress, often develop unrealistically positive attitudes relative to their chances for promotion. On the other hand, across the university, only about one-half of the candidates for tenure are promoted.

Since a tenure appointment is not a right, and since it could result in a collegial relationship within the department for a period of decades, the department faculty has considerable latitude in reasons for making a negative recommendation. However, such factors as race, color, creed, religion, national or ethnic origin, gender (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, gender expression and identity, veteran status, age, or actual or perceived disability must not be a basis for such decisions.

5.3 The Probationary Period

Probationary tenure status (or being on the tenure track) is the period of evaluation before the tenure decision. For faculty early in their academic career, usually assistant professors, the probationary period is normally six years. The beginning of the probationary period does not necessarily coincide with the first appointment at Cornell. While there are some appointments at the tenure level, the majority of the tenure appointments at Cornell result from a positive evaluation of performance during the probationary tenure period.

The initial appointment to the Cornell faculty of a highly qualified person who already is credited with significant achievements may be at the rank of associate or even full professor, but without indefinite tenure. Such appointments are for a limited term of not more than five years, typically in a probationary tenure status. Such appointments are made when there is uncertainty concerning some aspect of the role the faculty member is to assume. For example, an individual with an industrial background might have an established reputation in research but no teaching experience. In such a case the purpose of the probationary period is to establish competence in teaching and the ability to perform in an academic environment.  That is, the award of tenure is deferred until the faculty member and the University become well-acquainted and a review leading to the long-term tenure decision is possible.

Since initial appointments of associate professors and professors in probationary tenure status are expected to result in a tenure appointment after a shorter period, the evaluation should be rigorous. It is better to have a rigorous evaluation before the appointment is made than have a negative decision years later.  For this reason, the procedures to be followed are the same as those for an external appointment to tenure.  Prior approval of the dean and the provost is required before such offers can be made.

More commonly, however, an individual enters an academic career with minimal experience, and if tenure and promotion to the rank of associate professor is to be awarded, it follows a period in probationary tenure status as an assistant professor. The length of that period depends on the amount of professional experience the individual has acquired between earning the terminal degree in the field and the initial appointment as assistant professor. If that period is no more than a year or so, the candidate‟s tenure clock is six years. In such cases the initial appointment is normally for three or four years at the assistant professor level. A candidate who, by the end of this appointment, has fulfilled the expectations of the department is reappointed in the same rank for a second term, to a total of six years at that level; the candidate usually is reviewed for promotion and tenure during the sixth year at Cornell, typically the third year of the second term of appointment as assistant professor.  If the tenure review is successful and achieves the final approvals of the provost and Board of Trustees, the individual is given an appointment without an end-date, that is, “appointment with indefinite tenure,” also known as tenure.

According to the Trustees‟ Bylaws of the University, a faculty member may not hold the position of assistant professor for more than the equivalent of six years of full-time service, unless in the judgment of the provost, a temporary extension is warranted. There is no provision at Cornell for de facto tenure after any number of years.

There are other possible patterns. A candidate for tenure may have sufficient experience elsewhere in a professorial rank to justify a reduction in the six-year probationary period.  In such a case the department may recommend an appointment as an assistant professor with the stipulation that the tenure decision be made in less than six years.  The maximum reduction in the probationary period normally is three years.

In all cases of appointments involving probationary tenure status, it is important that the candidate understand the procedures and the tenure decision. Information on the timing of the tenure decision should be in the letter of appointment and any reduction of the probationary period because of prior experience should be clearly noted.

The following are other factors about the length of probationary tenure status:

  1. Cornell Academic Parental Leave policy provides for automatically extending the tenure clock for primary or co-equal caregiving parents (including parents of adopted and foster children); please consult pages the policy, particularly pages 44-45 at The same policy‟s section on “Leave Options in Caring for Family or for Yourself” includes provisions for requesting tenure clock extension if interference with the academic program is substantial around eldercare or caring for special-needs children.
  2. The length of the probationary period for part-time faculty is prorated (“… Fulfillment of length of service requirements will be judged on the basis of equivalency to full-time service; e.g., two years of half-time service would be equivalent to one year of full-time service. Part- time faculty members would be considered for tenure not later than the equivalent of the sixth year of full-time employment … . …” For more information and other provisions please consult the Part-Time Appointment Policy , in the Faculty Handbook or the Appointments section of this policy.)
  3. A leave of absence without pay extends the term of an appointment only when this is recommended in writing by the department chairperson and approved by the dean. The department chairperson and the individual should arrive at an explicit understanding of whether a leave is to be counted as part of the probationary period. The department chairperson attaches to the form requesting the leave a statement describing this understanding and gives the professor a copy. The dean‟s signature on the statement indicates approval.  This policy was approved by the Deans‟ Council on December 18, 1972. It is necessary to notify the Academic Personnel Policy Office about such extensions surrounding leave without
  4. Faculty study leave is included as part of the probationary
  5. Policy for Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) Leave provides that “professors in probationary tenure status who anticipate substantial disruption to the academic program on which tenure evaluation would be based may request an adjustment in the tenure clock or timetable. With the department chair‟s support, approval may be recommended to the dean and the provost.” Please consult the policy “Leaves for Professors and Academic Staff,” the section on Intergovernmental Personnel Act Leave, pages 36-37 at
  6. Policy governing Academic Short-term Medical Leave provides that “in many cases, Short-term Medical Leave will not alter the tenure timetable; however, professors in probationary tenure status whose research and teaching programs have been seriously compromised may request in writing that the tenure timetable be revised by a semester or a year. Approval of such a request, specifying the new review schedule, requires review by the department chair, the dean, and the provost, via the Academic Personnel Policy Office, except as provided for in Cornell Academic Parental Leave.”
  7. The tenure clock is designed to provide an equitable number of semesters for a professor to develop tenurable achievements and trajectory and for the review potentially to conclude with implementation of Trustee approval. Acting on a professor‟s request supported by the chair and the dean, the provost has the final authority to extend a tenure clock (including time permitted in the title) to restore equitable time on the tenure clock.

5.4 The Reappointment of Assistant Professors

 While it is highly desirable to keep tenure candidates informed of their progress, it is not easy to predict the outcome of a formal review some years in the future. New faculty members frequently are inexperienced in teaching, are beginning their scholarly effort or are establishing research programs. For these reasons assistant professors generally are reappointed to a second term except in those cases where it appears that the chances for eventual tenure are small. Thus, individuals may attach undue significance to a reappointment in terms of eventual promotion.

This is especially true when they have received no negative information in regard to their performance.

Some of the misunderstandings arise from the fact that an extensive and formal evaluation occurs only once during the probationary period. It may be only in the sixth year that external reviews are sought and teaching and service evaluation trends are compiled over a number of years. At times, under this intensive review, the candidate does not fare as well as the department faculty had expected.

While there are difficulties with ongoing evaluations of the chances of an assistant professor being promoted, efforts should be made to pass on as much information as possible to candidates for tenure in an honest and straightforward manner.

At the time of reappointment, the chairperson should assemble as much relevant information as might be available and convene a meeting of the tenured faculty. The strengths and weaknesses of the candidate in scholarship, teaching and service should be evaluated and the faculty should arrive at a recommendation on reappointment. The individual should be informed of the details of this evaluation, particularly in respect to any weaknesses, with an appropriate caution that the evaluation is preliminary relative to the eventual tenure decision. This information should be in a reappointment review report (with care to protect confidentiality) given to the candidate or in the reappointment letter.

n addition, the chairperson has the responsibility of remaining informed of the individual‟s performance. Discussions should be held periodically with at least some tenured members of the department to obtain a broader view of the candidate‟s performance. If the chairperson receives any negative information regarding the candidate‟s performance, it should be discussed with the individual. Assistant professors may not be aware of such negative aspects of their performance and they should be informed so that they have the opportunity of taking corrective action. Further, if such information is not divulged, the candidate easily could develop an unrealistic expectation of a positive tenure decision.

Insofar as possible, candidates should be informed at the beginning of their probationary period of the criteria on which they will be judged at the time of their tenure review. However, it is not feasible to do so except in general terms. It is not appropriate to state, for example, that a positive tenure decision will result from a specified number of publications, a particular award, or certain scores on teaching evaluations.  Obviously, the combination of the quality of the research or scholarly publications with the volume of work is a factor which requires judgment at the time of the review and which is impossible to put in quantitative terms.

It is very difficult to specify the requirements for promotion to such a degree that the individual can confidently predict the outcome of the faculty decision relative to the tenure review.

While the above discussion has been limited to assistant professors, there are at times individuals with rank of associate professor or professor who are in a tenure probationary period. In these cases, it is the responsibility of the chair, in consultation with other faculty, to be aware of the progress of such individuals and to discuss any potential deficiencies with them.

5.5 Promotion to Tenure


5.5.1 Decision To Undertake a Tenure Review

Recommendations for tenure appointment originate in the university’s Trustee-authorized academic departments or, if not organized on a departmental basis, tenure-authorized schools.  Permission to initiate a tenure review must be obtained from the dean, because it commits the college or school to long-term support of the position.

 If tenure review is requested to be conducted early, before the department‟s normal schedule anticipating the end of the probationary period, an explanation should be provided to the dean, who requests approval of the provost before the evaluation can be initiated.

A department is not bound to undertake a tenure review for all those on the tenure ladder.  The appointment of a faculty member for a definite term may be terminated for reasons involving staffing patterns, the decline in relevance of a research area to the mission of the department, or lack of funds. In such a case, the faculty member should receive written notice as early as possible that there will be no review and should be given a one year terminal appointment and be informed of any other suitable open faculty positions in the university.

For the purpose of determining the start of the terminal appointment, the date of notification shall be considered to be the date of written notification of the first negative decision, and shall be unaffected by subsequent appeals. Notice of a terminal appointment must be given in writing to the individual, which allows that individual to serve two full academic terms following receipt of the first written notice of the negative decision. An academic term (i.e., semester) is the period of time beginning two working days before registration and ending on the last day of final exams. For those notified of nonrenewal before the start of the final year of appointment, the final year fulfills the requirement of two terms of notice.

The faculty member may appeal the decision not to conduct a tenure review, unless the decision denied a request for early review, which is not subject to appeal. The “Procedures for Appealing a Decision Not To Conduct a Tenure Review at the End of the Ordinary Tenure Probation Period on the Basis of Factors Other Than the Candidate‟s Merits” may be found as an appendix in the Faculty Handbook or on the University Faculty website The Procedures were adopted and amended by University Faculty governance and approved by the Board of Trustees.  They provide that the professor shall be informed of the appeals rights and the Procedures. The Procedures prescribe specific timeframes and protocols for notifications, incumbent on both the candidate and the chair, and the authority of the Dean of the University Faculty in extending deadlines. They also interpret the process for schools not organized on a formal departmental basis.

When a departmental decision is reached not to undertake the tenure at the end of the probationary period, the department must notify the dean who in turn notifies the provost.

If the position is to be terminated for financial reasons, this decision should be made before the tenure review is begun. Therefore, permission to proceed with the review must be obtained from the dean. This permission also allows the dean to decide if a review should be undertaken before the completion of the probationary period.

If the dean makes the preliminary decision not to initiate a tenure review at the end of the probationary period for reasons other than the candidate‟s merits, the dean shall inform the candidate and the department in writing of the reasons for that decision. Per the aforementioned Procedures, for a two-week period following receipt of the dean‟s statement the candidate and/or the department shall have the opportunity to respond to the dean, prior to the dean‟s final decision.

If a dean or a department makes a final decision not to initiate a tenure review at the end of the probationary period for reasons other than the candidate‟s merits, the candidate may appeal that decision at the University level under the aforementioned Procedures. The decision of the provost shall not be subject to further appeal.

5.5.2 Appointment Options Before and After the Tenure Review is Initiated

 If the candidate chooses not to stand for review for tenure, the candidate may serve out the remainder of the existing appointment and apply for other academic appointments at Cornell, or the department may change the individual‟s assigned responsibilities and appoint to a non- professorial title; but the department and college are under no obligation to do so.

Trustee legislation establishing the senior lecturer title in January 1974 provided that “Persons holding professorial appointments may not be transferred to Senior Lecturer or Lecturer positions as a means of maintaining the employment of persons who have not qualified for retention via tenure appointment in accordance with criteria and procedures governing such appointments.” Provosts‟ policy extends that prohibition to all academic titles.  It pertains after the tenure review has begun.  There are no provisions for exception.

After a significant number of years, the question may arise whether an individual who has been denied tenure in one college may be appointed to an academic title in another academic unit. At the December 19, 1978, meeting of the Dean‟s Council it was agreed that it is not generally good practice for one college to appoint a faculty member to a professorial rank who was not awarded tenure in another college. If such an appointment appears appropriate, it should not be made without prior consultation between the respective deans and department chairs.

5.5.3 The Department Review

 The detailed procedures followed at this level are variable and are not fully prescribed in university policy. Except for those procedures mandated by the college or school or by the Provost‟s Office, the department may conduct this review as it deems appropriate. Local procedures should be known to department or school members, and the department chair or school deans should apprise new faculty members of them.

When a review for promotion to tenure is conducted, it is required to be thorough and well-documented, since the decision that is made is of far-reaching importance both to the individual and to the university.

Gathering Materials

The first step in the process is a review of the candidate by the faculty of the department or school.  For this purpose, and with the assistance of the candidate

  1. a complete curriculum vitae and list of publications and such information as patents are assembled, together with copies of the most relevant of the publications.
  2. Typically the candidate is asked to submit statements of goals and achievements in research, teaching, advising and extension/service.
  3. Documentation of success in teaching is collected, in the form of course-evaluation questionnaires and letters from both selected and randomly chosen graduate and undergraduate students.
  4. Evidence of service to the community, the department, the college, and the university is compiled.
  5. Letters are solicited from colleagues in the university and from outside experts to provide an evaluation of the quality of the candidate’s work and its impact on the scholarship of the field.

Who Among the Tenured Faculty is Involved in the Review

A department has considerable latitude in the procedures it can follow. For example, a department may want to involve faculty from related areas, nontenured faculty, or students in the decision or obtain informal advice from them. Departments have the option of including in the decision tenured faculty who are off campus or otherwise unavailable. The tenured faculty has the right to select those who will be involved in the decision. Many departments appoint committees to gather the tenure material, to obtain external reviews and to read and evaluate the publications of the candidates on behalf of the faculty. In such cases all the faculty may not review all the information in detail.

The Review and Vote

The aim of the review is to assess the achievements of the individual during the probationary period, as well as the promise shown for growth and further achievement. The detailed procedures by which the department conducts its assessment vary, but they must include the basic elements mentioned above as well as

  1. making the documentation gathered during the review available to the tenured faculty members of the department
  2. holding a meeting of the tenured faculty members for the announced purpose of discussing and voting on the promotion in question
  3. taking the vote.

There is no general prescription for interpreting the vote; some departments do not consider such a vote positive unless the margin of positive over negative votes is quite large. A majority vote for promotion does not bind the faculty to forward a positive recommendation to the chair; the faculty has the right to decide whether the vote is of sufficient margin to make a recommendation. When fewer than four tenured faculty are voting, the chairperson should consult with the dean on the possibility of expanding the number of those voting.

The Role of the Chair

The decision of the faculty is reviewed by the department chair, who has the responsibility of making a recommendation to the dean.  The department chair is not bound by the vote or recommendation of the faculty, although he or she must report it to the dean. The chair represents the department in making and explaining to the dean the department’s recommendation for or against tenure. The chair may forward the material to the dean without a recommendation. A department or a chair should not forward a recommendation to the dean that it hopes will be reversed.

Negative Decision

If, after a tenure review is carried out, the department‟s tentative tenure decision is negative, it is communicated to the candidate before being given to the dean, and the candidate has an opportunity to request a reconsideration by the department.  The procedures for this may be found as an appendix in the Faculty Handbook or on the University Faculty website The Procedures were adopted and amended by University Faculty governance and approved by the Board of Trustees.  They provide that “any faculty member has a right to receive a timely reconsideration of a negative departmental tenure decision before that decision is forwarded to the dean” and that the professor shall be informed of the appeals rights and the Procedures. The Procedures prescribe specific timeframes and protocols for notifications, incumbent on both the candidate and the chair, and the authority of the Dean of the University Faculty in extending deadlines.  They also interpret the process for schools not organized on a formal departmental basis. If the department‟s final decision is negative, the chair formally informs the dean of the decision and the reasons for it and transmits the documentation to the dean for review. If the chair‟s recommendation is different from the decision of the department, the reasons for the chair‟s recommendation should be explained in detail in the letter to the dean. Abiding by the requirements of the Procedures, the dean reviews the decision of the department.

Positive Decision

If the department’s recommendation is positive, the chair forwards the following documentation to the dean (with appropriate differences to reflect extension, performance, artistic or design responsibilities):

1.  A letter from the department chair to the dean.

This letter should fully assess the evidence and the testimony, give the results of the vote of the tenured faculty, comment on the candidate‟s strengths and weaknesses in the areas of responsibility considered in the evaluation, and state the importance of each factor in reaching the decision.  The final decision depends on the mission of the department, as seen by the faculty and the dean, and on the current situation in the department. This letter might comment on any aspects of the candidate‟s publications that were important in the departmental decision but that might not be known to those who are to further evaluate the candidate. In those areas where it is appropriate, information on patents, translation of research, and the volume of external funding the candidate has attracted may be included in the letter.  Although the financial information does not itself have any bearing on the decision, it may add insight into the candidate‟s research ability when research proposals have been evaluated by peer groups. In the case of a positive recommendation, if external funding has not been obtained in an area where it normally is expected, an explanation should be given.

2.  The scholarly or public service publications of the candidate.

These should include the material in press, along with an evaluation of the quality and importance of the publications. (Some departments give the candidate an opportunity to select publications to be emphasized in the evaluation.) Distinctions should be made in the bibliography between publications in refereed journals, agency reports, and internal documents. The candidate should supply the bibliography to be used in the evaluation. The fact that new material becomes available after the review has begun is not sufficient reason to repeat the process. The documentation should have a separate listing of the scholarly works that were included in the tenure material. This provision is made to avoid any future uncertainty of what scholarly material was evaluated.

3.  If teaching was one of the responsibilities of the candidate, an evaluation of performance in this role should be supplied, either in the letter to the dean, or in a separate document, supported by course teaching evaluations with analyses of scores and trends, and letters from students and advisees.

4.  If the candidate is a member of the Graduate Faculty, information on the direction of graduate students. This information should include the number of students for whom the candidate has served as the chairperson or a minor member of the Special Committee, and the number of students who have received degrees under the individual‟s direction. This information should be supplied by the candidate.

5.  If college or university service is to be considered in the evaluation, pertinent information obtained from the candidate.

6.  Letters evaluating the candidate‟s performance and promise. A copy of the letter which solicited the external information should be included. When external letters are sought, the department should give such referees a charge that is as specific as possible. Complete letters, not excerpts, should be transmitted. The letters should be from established scholars outside Cornell in areas related to that of the candidate. In some departments the candidate may suggest some of the external reviewers from which the department may make a selection. At least five letters should be from peers outside Cornell who have not been closely associated with the candidate and who have not been selected by the individual under consideration. If it is not appropriate to obtain such letters, the reason should be given. A separate sheet should be provided listing the names of those from whom letters of evaluation were requested, noting those suggested by the candidate and those who did not submit evaluations. The qualifications of the referees should be summarized. or documented.

When an external source is asked to review a candidate‟s scholarly publications, the reviewer should be supplied, as a matter of courtesy, with as much of the material to be evaluated as is conveniently possible. External reviewers are not necessarily expected to present a detailed critique of the candidate’s work although they may do so. Their role is to evaluate the candidate‟s accomplishments and stature in the field. In special situations, if the dean wants a detailed critique that would require a significant commitment of time, arrangements might be made to compensate the external reviewer.

If information on the candidate was obtained orally or if further information was sought from those who had previously submitted letters, the substance of this information should be included and the source noted.

Letters from individuals closely affiliated with the candidate will not be considered sufficient evidence of scholarly attainment. Letters which are not solicited by the department or those involved in the review may be given little weight in the decision.

Some departments include in the documentation the letters of evaluation that were solicited when the candidate was appointed or reappointed as an assistant professor, but letters that are years old are not considered an assessment of the present scholarly status of the candidate, and the confidential process for tenure referees likely will yield letters of different value from those supporting an applicant for appointment.

7.  A recent curriculum vitae supplied by the candidate and any statements of goals and achievements in research, teaching, advising and extension/service.

8.  A copy of letters pertinent to the communication of expectations to the candidate, such as those of appointment, reappointment, or performance

9.  Any other information that had a bearing on the decision of th

10.  Ballots or supporting letters from the department faculty, if part of the process.

5.5.4 The College Review

 After the department‟s initial review and any reconsideration are completed, the decision is reviewed at the college level by the dean. If the department‟s recommendation is positive, the dean must appoint an ad hoc committee of faculty members outside the department to study the evidence and advise him or her in reaching a decision.  Even if the department‟s recommendation is negative, the candidate still may request that the dean appoint the ad hoc committee. Either the dean or the ad hoc committee may seek additional information from the college, from the university, or from external individuals; this information is added to the documentation.  The dean is not bound by the recommendation of the faculty or the chairperson or the advice of the ad hoc committee, but the committee report must be forwarded with the other material if the dean‟s decision is positive.

College-Level Procedures:  Deans’ Ad Hoc Committees

 When a positive recommendation for a tenure promotion is received from the chairperson of a department, the dean must appoint an ad hoc committee to serve as an advisory body in the deliberations. When the recommendation is negative, the dean also may consult an ad hoc committee, or the candidate may request that the dean appoint the ad hoc committee – the dean should follow procedures and timetables in the Faculty Handbook “Procedures for Appealing a Negative Tenure Decision.”

In recruiting faculty members from outside the university for tenure appointments, it is sometimes important to act quickly. In such cases, rarely the dean may forgo the normal ad hoc committee process and seek advice from outside the department by whatever mechanism is deemed appropriate.

In smaller colleges of the university which do not have a normal departmental structure the dean may want to have the ad hoc committee report before the tenured faculty considers the promotion and make the report available to the faculty in their deliberations.

The ad hoc committee must consist of no fewer than three members, either from inside or outside the University.  Where feasible, the inclusion of external scholars is recommended.

Members of the department from which the recommendation for tenure originated are not eligible to serve. If possible, at least one member of the committee should be selected from outside the college of the candidate.

The charge to the committee should be outlined broadly by the dean. In making their decision, the members of the committee should take into account any criteria for promotion promulgated by the college or department or provided to the candidate in the letters of appointment and reappointment. In accordance with university policy, no consideration or discussion can be given to protected-class status, such as gender (including pregnancy), marital status, race, ethnic or national origin, religion, creed, actual or perceived disability, or age (although the length of time since the degree is a legitimate factor in considering the amount of work that has been accomplished), sexual orientation, gender expression and identity, and veteran status.

In its evaluation the committee uses the material supplied by the department and the dean. If it believes that adequate information has not been supplied, it may request additional information from internal or external sources.  The committee members evaluate the evidence and the candidate‟s scholarly work to the degree they are qualified to do so. Expert opinion from scholars in the field outside Cornell also may be sought. The committee should focus on the excellence of the candidate‟s scholarship, teaching, and service and the potential for future contribution to the department.

To eliminate any confusion about the basis for its decision, the committee should concern itself only with the qualifications of the candidate, not with other factors, such as department staffing patterns, tenure ratios, or the future of a particular subdiscipline. If advice on these matters is required, the dean should seek it by another procedure or by giving a separate charge to the committee, requiring a separate report.

The ad hoc committee should submit a written report to the dean within six weeks of receiving the assignment. If more time is necessary, the committee should formally request an extension.  The department chairperson and the candidate should be informed of any delays.

To promote open consideration of the candidate within the ad hoc committee, its report is confidential, and anonymity of the membership is essential. Under no circumstance should the candidate have access to the report, even if the names of the committee are deleted. To preserve anonymity, the committee may make requests for additional information from the department through the dean.

The report is a college document and will be returned to the dean after the final decision has been made.

College-Level Procedures:  Potential Denial of Tenure

 If the dean reaches a preliminary decision to deny tenure to a non-tenured faculty  member whose promotion to tenure has been recommended by his or her department, the dean within three weeks of that decision furnishes the candidate and the department with a preliminary written statement of the reasons for that decision and the nature of the evidence within the limits set by the need to preserve confidentiality.  For a  two-week period following receipt of the dean‟s statement, the candidate and/or the department has the opportunity to respond to the dean. If, following this response, the dean is not persuaded to change the decision to deny tenure, the dean forwards the file, together with an explanation for the decision, to the provost.  If the provost does not have any concern or reservation about the dean‟s proposed decision, she or he informs the college dean, and the decision becomes final and subject to appeal.  If the provost does have a concern or reservation, she or he forwards the file to FACTA, the University Faculty Advisory Committee on Tenure Appointments, for consideration at a meeting of the full committee, following the procedures used by the committee in cases following positive recommendations by the dean. After receiving FACTA‟s recommendation, the provost consults with the dean. Until the dean has received a response from the provost, the dean‟s decision remains provisional. The University Level Appeal Procedure of the “Procedures for Appealing a Negative Tenure Decision” does not commence until the dean‟s decision is final, and is not supplanted in any way by FACTA consideration.

The procedures adhere to the requirement of two independent decisions in a tenure recommendation. If an individual or a group involved in a negative decision also are part of the subsequent decision, the policy of two negative decisions would not be fulfilled. For example, if the recommendation of a department faculty is negative, a negative recommendation of the department chairperson does not fulfill the requirement if, as is usual, the chairperson was involved in the faculty decision. If the first negative decision is at the provost‟s level, a second negative decision is not required.

The Provost‟s Office must be notified informationally of all negative tenure decisions that are final at the college level. This notification should include the rationale submitted to the dean by the department and the results of the dean‟s review.

College-Level Procedures:  Dean’s Positive Recommendation for Tenure

If the recommendation of the dean is positive, the dean notifies the department and forwards a justification of the decision, with all the other specified material, to the provost. The material is submitted via the Academic Personnel Policy Office according to a schedule issued each summer by that office that anticipates a Board of Trustees‟ meeting prior to expiration of the candidate‟s probationary appointment.

The following should be supplied:

  1. The report of the ad hoc committee.
  2. A letter from the dean assessing the recommendation of the chairperson and evaluating the evidence submitted and the appropriateness of the recommendation for the department.
  3. If the dean does not follow the recommendation of the ad hoc committee, a statement of the reasons.
  4. Any additional information obtained by the ad hoc committee or the dean. This information should be aggregated rather than distributed to relevant sections of the dossier, so that the information available at each level of review may be identified.
  5. The materials provided by the department, except that large quantities of original end-of- semester course evaluations and publications should be retained by the college to be provided only upon the specific request of FACTA or the provost.

5.5.5 The University Review

 The Faculty Advisory Committee on Tenure Appointments (FACTA) advises the provost on all proposed promotions to and appointments with tenure, except that the provost may waive FACTA review for candidates who have held tenure previously, either at Cornell or elsewhere.

If the dean‟s tenure recommendation is positive, it is reviewed by FACTA. FACTA‟s guidelines for dossier materials are available online at  The review is conducted according to the committee‟s own procedures. Those procedures are available from the Dean of Faculty, but historically may be summarized as follows:  Four members of the committee are chosen at random to reach each file. If all four members are positive with no concerns or reservations, a positive recommendation is forwarded to the provost. If any one of the four has reservations, each member of the full committee reviews the file. The committee‟s decision is sent to the provost within four to six weeks of receiving the file.

FACTA‟s recommendation is advisory to the provost. The provost‟s decision leads either to forwarding a positive recommendation to the Board or to consultation with the dean pending clarification or denial.

Positive tenure recommendations ultimately are presented under presidential authority by the provost to the Board of Trustees for consideration according to Trustee procedures. The Trustees‟ vote is by secret ballot and the Board action is transmitted to the dean by the Academic Personnel Policy Office.  The dean in turn notifies the faculty member of the decision.

The final decision regarding tenure is made by the Trustees. The decisions of the provost and of the Trustees are not subject to appeal.


 In all cases of new appointments to the faculty that involve tenure considerations, faculty legislation recommends a procedure of evaluation (please consult this policy‟s section on Academic Appointment for “Faculty Legislation on Selection of New Professorial Faculty Members”). Less documentation for the dossier may be available for appointments at the tenure level than for promotions to tenure.

Appointments at the tenure level offered to those outside Cornell usually are based on evidence of high scholarly reputation, productivity, and potential. Since the pool of candidates is national or international, this evidence should be overwhelming.  If any weaknesses are evident in the candidate‟s research or scholarship, the department must explain why this candidate was chosen.

Frequently there is little information available on the teaching ability of the candidate except what is obtained from the previous institution or inferred from the presentation of seminars. Under such circumstances great weight will be placed on the letter from the department chairperson or director to the dean. An individual whose credentials do not indicate teaching experience suitable for Cornell students should be given a probationary tenure (tenure- track) appointment to allow pedagogical development, mentoring and evaluation.

Since it is necessary to obtain approval from the dean and the provost before making an offer involving tenure, unusual procedures may be necessary if timing is critical. Rarely the dean may forgo the normal ad hoc committee process and seek advice from outside the department by whatever mechanism is deemed appropriate. In the letter to the provost the dean should note the urgency involved in the recommendation so that consideration of the appointment can be expedited.

No commitment to tenure can be made without the approval of the Board of Trustees. However, if prior approval is obtained from the provost, the individual can be informed that positive recommendation will be made to the Board on a specified date. If the necessary approvals have been obtained and the appointment is to begin before the Board meets, an interim tenure-track appointment is necessary.


 Any action granting tenure requires approval by the provost and confirmation by the Board of Trustees at any of the Board‟s four meetings (October, January, March, May).

For candidates who have not previously held tenure, university-level procedure includes review by a University Faculty Committee, FACTA.

Providing time for FACTA review and provost‟s consideration requires that materials be forwarded by the dean‟s office by the dates issued each summer by the Academic Personnel Policy Office, available at

For candidates who have held tenure previously, at another institution or at Cornell, the provost determines whether to seek the advice of FACTA. Because the provost could seek FACTA advice, dossier submission should adhere to the issued schedule. For senior recruitments with prior tenure for whom finalized Cornell tenure is important, a dean may feel certain that FACTA review will be waived and the provost‟s tenure decision positive; even so, late submission of the tenure dossier still must anticipate time for the provost‟s decision and for the printing of the Trustees‟ tenure items, which occurs several weeks before the Board meets.


 Letters of evaluation and the report of the ad hoc committee, considered confidential documents, will not be filed in the individual‟s personnel file.

When final action, whether positive or negative, is taken on tenure recommendation, the Provost‟s Office returns all materials to the dean. The materials will reside in the college offices for a period specified in the University Policy on Retention of University Records; it is essential that such documents be retained as specified in the policy in case of subsequent grievance or court action.

Any information considered confidential by Cornell will be surrendered to the courts or to government agencies only after appropriate legal action.


 Associate professors with tenure normally are considered for review for promotion to professor in the sixth year of such an appointment; strong justification is required for an earlier recommendation for promotion.  At that time, the department chair convenes a meeting of the full professors to decide whether a formal review for promotion should be initiated. If the full professors decide not to initiate a review, the chair will discuss their decision with the candidate. The candidate may request a formal review at that time, and his or her request will be granted automatically. If the candidate agrees to a postponement, the chair will, at the beginning of the following year, consult the full professors and the candidate again, and initiate a formal review unless the candidate requests that the review be postponed. If the candidate has been reviewed at least once after serving as an associate professor for seven years, the chair will consult the candidate at least triennially and will initiate a formal review unless the candidate does not want one.

If a department chair is an associate professor and is subject to a review, it is the responsibility of the dean to conduct these discussions or to assign the responsibility to a senior member of the department.

If a candidate has received a formal review that has not culminated in a recommendation of promotion, the candidate may, after two or more years have elapsed, request a second review, and this request will be granted. (If the first review was unsuccessfully appealed, the two years are measured from the time of the appeal committee‟s decision.) There is no upper limit to the time a tenured faculty member may serve in the rank of associate professor.

The criteria for promotion from associate professor with tenure to professor are excellence and potential in teaching, research, or extension, and a judgment on whether the individual has fulfilled the promise on which tenure originally was granted. The procedures for the promotion differ from college to college within the university, but in all colleges a departmental review is required, and a detailed rationale for the promotion must be submitted to the dean along with the vote of the full professors among the faculty.

The departmental procedures applicable to the promotion to professor are the same as those outlined above for the award of tenure, except that it is the vote of the full professors (tenured, if the candidate is tenured) in the department which is taken and recorded. The documentation need not be as extensive as it is for promotion to tenure, and the setting up of an ad hoc committee is at the dean‟s discretion unless the recommendation of the department is negative and the candidate requests such a committee. If research is one of the candidate‟s responsibilities, the dean may want to seek the advice of an ad hoc committee, since external opinions should be sought on such a candidate‟s accomplishments and promise.

The dean is not bound by the recommendation of the department as expressed by the chair. If the dean disagrees with the judgment of the department, he or she will – if this has not already been done – set up an ad hoc committee. If the dean reverses the department decision, he or she will forward all the materials, including the ad hoc committee‟s report, to the provost for review.

Promotions from associate professor with tenure to professor are made on the authority of the provost and do not undergo Trustee action. Promotions may be effective on November 1, January 1, April 1 or July 1. Each summer the Academic Personnel Policy Office issues a schedule for the coming year‟s central reviews of deans‟ promotion recommendations.

Procedures for appealing a negative decision on promotion to professor may be found as an appendix in the Faculty Handbook or on the University Faculty website

Last Updated: July 4, 2017 at 8:03 am