Executive Summary


University Provost David Campbell appointed the Task Force for Non-Tenure-Track (NTT)/Contract Faculty in June 2008 with the charge to examine issues and concerns relating to non-tenure-track faculty on Boston University’s Charles River Campus (CRC), study current policies and practices, and help formulate changes that will:

  • Reinforce and enhance the stature and productivity of NTT faculty
  • Ensure that faculty have clear career paths
  • Help faculty receive appropriate recognition, support, and compensation

Both nationally and at BU, academic appointments outside the tenure track have grown substantially in the last thirty years. At Boston University’s Charles River Campus, 38.7% of all full-time faculty held non-tenure-track appointments in 2009. The growth in NTT numbers reflects a change in the nature of academic employment as well as in the academic enterprise as a whole. The reasons for this change and its consequences for students, faculty, academic institutions, and the society in general are subject to fierce debate. On the one hand, the trend appears to hold out the prospect of lower costs and greater flexibility; on the other hand, it raises concerns about job insecurity, the weakening of academic freedom, and a lack of commitment and institutional support.

The Task Force reviewed NTT faculty roles, procedures, and practices at the different colleges of Boston University’s Charles River Campus, and analyzed data on faculty composition and work satisfaction. In addition, we met with faculty and administrators to discuss their expectations and concerns about non-tenure-track appointments and how they should be handled in the future. We found that NTT faculty are dedicated teachers, advisors, and scholars who value their affiliation with Boston University. They are highly qualified professionals, most with terminal degrees and active research records in their fields. Some are among the longest-serving BU faculty. We also found that there were no clearly defined and well-understood criteria and processes for professional advancement. In some colleges, detailed statements of duties, responsibilities, and evaluation for reappointment do not exist. This situation creates several problems—some real, some perceived. Many NTT faculty members are concerned about unequal treatment, under-recognition of their work, lack of opportunities, and apprehension about being considered second-class citizens by colleagues within the tenure system. Such problems can undermine BU’s commitment to the values of equity and fairness and pose an obstacle to creating a great university.

We chose the following principles to guide our discussions. We believe that they should apply across the University:

  • Fairness
  • Transparency
  • Incentives for excellence
  • Administrative and fiscal flexibility

Based on the above principles, this document makes recommendations on the following issues:

  • Faculty roles and ranks
  • Initial appointment process—searches, job descriptions, contract length
  • Reappointment at the same rank—procedures and contract length
  • Career paths and promotion—evaluation criteria, procedures, mobility between career paths
  • Change of title and mobility between tracks
  • Faculty development—mentoring, travel funds, course releases, sabbatical leave, research funds

While addressing these problems, we consistently confronted a specific difficulty to which we draw particular attention: schools and colleges have their own needs and cultures, but an integrated view of the University is needed for achieving interdisciplinary cooperation and transparent decision making. Moreover, the Strategic Plan of Boston University calls for a “culture and philosophy of One BU.” There is an inherent tension between proposing University-wide solutions and allowing different units reasonable latitude to chart the course that makes sense to them. We have tried to steer a middle course, formulating principles that are applicable across the University while providing flexibility for individual colleges to design their own processes.

We summarize our recommendations below, and the full Task Force report elaborates on how our recommendations were derived.

Faculty Roles and Titles

  • Standard professorial titles should be given only to faculty who are expected to contribute in all three areas of research, teaching, and service, as specified by the Faculty Handbook.
  • Individual colleges may balance their emphases on teaching, research, and service differently depending on the mission and institutional needs of the college. This weight should be reflected in each college’s Faculty Expectations document. There should be no difference, however, in expectations for T/TT and NTT faculty holding the same rank and title within the same college.
  • NTT faculty who hold appointments at standard professorial titles that have been given in the past with responsibilities for teaching and service, a higher teaching load, and no expectation of research, should be allowed to retain their rank if they so wish and upon recommendation of their department and college.
  • Going forward we recommend that in colleges with a tradition of tenure, standard professorial titles be reserved for tenure-track or tenured appointments only.
  • The school/college and University administrations should consider, on a case-by-case basis, converting to T/TT those NTT appointments that are indistinguishable in their responsibilities and expectations from T/TT. In colleges where tenure is the norm, these cases will be reviewed by the College Tenure and Promotion Committee. In colleges where tenure is rare, a review process should be established that is consistent with University criteria and with the tenure requirements and procedures of other BU colleges.
  • Schools and colleges should have clear and detailed descriptions of the responsibilities and expectations specific to clinical faculty.
  • Academic departments should identify ways of increasing the involvement of research faculty in the educational and research agenda of the department, e.g., through regular presentations of their work to students and faculty, seminars and guest lectures, and especially interdisciplinary initiatives.
  • The University should explore models for creating incentives for research faculty with proven research records to grow their external funding. Eligibility criteria for this incentive may include seniority in rank and research achievements, among others. For instance, some institutions offer various forms of support to research faculty, such as several months of hard salary support for proposal development and/or advising of doctoral students.
  • Schools and colleges should clarify the differences in responsibilities and expectations in teaching, program leadership, service, and professional activities for Lecturer, Senior and Master Lecturer, and then make promotion to the Senior and Master ranks available to appropriately qualified Lecturers.

Initial Appointment and Reappointment at the Same Rank

  • Searches: Open national searches should be held for all positions of professorial ranks. Research professorial appointments present a special case in that they are further constrained by the terms and duration of grant funding. Appointments at a Lecturer rank should generally be conducted through local searches; if schools and colleges occasionally opt to search for Senior or Master Lecturers (as well as promoting faculty internally to these positions, which should be their primary use), a national search may be appropriate.
  • Schools and colleges should clarify the criteria and process for selecting and appointing NTT faculty and prepare written guidelines specific to standard, research, and clinical professorial ranks as well as to Lecturer ranks.
  • Along with the appointment letter, new faculty should receive a job description that clearly outlines their responsibilities and rights, performance expectations, and renewal process.
  • Contract lengths for initial appointments of NTT faculty should ordinarily fall into the following ranges: one year for Assistant Professor and Lecturer, 2–3 years for Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer, and 2–5 years for Professor and Master Lecturer (Table 1).
  • Colleges should formulate requirements for reappointment specific to each faculty appointment type—i.e., standard, modified (clinical and research), and lecturer titles.
  • The decision for reappointment should be based on explicitly stated criteria for one-year appointments and in addition take into account annual performance reviews in case of multi-year appointments.
  • Contract lengths for reappointment at the same rank should ordinarily fall into the following ranges: 1–3 years for Assistant Professor and Lecturer, 2–5 years for Associate Professor and Senior Lecturer, and 3–7 years for Professor and Master Lecturer (Table 1).
  • Notification should follow the established BU Notification of Reappointments or Non-Reappointment timetable (BU Faculty Handbook, section “Appointment and Reappointment of Faculty at the Charles River Campus, item D, 1”):
    • One-Year Contracts: “Not later than March 1 if the appointment expires at the end of that academic year; or if a one-year appointment terminates during an academic year, at least three months in advance of its termination.”
    • Two-Year Contracts: “Not later than December 15 of the second academic year of service, if the appointment expires at the end of that year; or, if an initial two-year appointment terminates during an academic year, at least six months in advance of its termination.” The Task Force recommends that whenever possible a concerted effort should be made to give a notice of non-reappointment by August 31 in order to allow the faculty more time to seek another academic position.
    • Three- or More Year Contracts: “One academic year before contract expiry. Not later than August 31 in the penultimate year of the appointment.”
  • We recommend that for a two-year professorial contract, the notification date in the Faculty Handbook (December 15 of the second year of service) be moved forward to not later than August 31 in the penultimate year of the appointment, similar to the three- or more year contracts. Such a change would allow faculty who are not reappointed to start the search for a position in the fall, when most faculty searches are being conducted. Delaying the search until December will most likely have an adverse effect on the faculty member’s chances of finding a position.


  • Promotion of NTT faculty should be based on the Faculty Expectations of the individual colleges as approved by the Provost. These Faculty Expectations documents should be specific, stringent, and detailed in describing all criteria for renewal and for promotion. The expectations for NTT Faculty should take into account the specific needs of the college as well as differences in the job descriptions of NTT and T/TT, such as differences in teaching loads, advisory duties, and program or curriculum coordination responsibilities, among others. These discrepancies may lead to different expectations for promotion for NTT and T/TT faculty at the professorial rank working in the same field but in different colleges. However, tenure status cannot be the sole basis for different promotion expectations within the same college. That is, there should be no difference in expectations for promotion for NTT and T/TT faculty of the same rank and title working in the same college.
  • Schools and colleges should spell out the criteria and process for promotion and appointment of NTT faculty with modified (clinical and research) professorial titles and lecturer titles as distinct from NTT or T/TT faculty with standard professorial titles. The differences must be explained in carefully worded and specific phrasing.
  • The promotion of NTT faculty with unmodified professorial titles should differ procedurally from the promotion of NTT with modified professorial titles:
    • Promotion of faculty with unmodified professorial titles should follow the procedure specified in the BU Faculty Handbook for T/TT faculty with those titles. The University Appointment, Promotion & Tenure Committee (UAPT) should, however,
      • base their decision on the NTT Faculty Expectations of the college, not on expectations for T/TT faculty or Faculty Expectations at other colleges;
      • ensure representation and/or input from NTT faculty who hold the same or higher rank as the one considered for promotion.
    • The promotion reviews of faculty with modified professorial titles should continue to follow the current approach, i.e., they should be conducted at the department and college level, and the recommendations of these reviews forwarded directly to the Provost, eschewing a UAPT evaluation. The individual schools and colleges should develop policies and procedures recommended and approved by the faculty and by the dean that specify the review process, including composition of the committee, requirements for dossier, letters, timetable, etc.
  • Non-tenure-track faculty are eligible for promotion after sufficient length of service, and the decision to stand for promotion may be initiated by the faculty member. There is no rigid schedule for promotion but usually a minimal length of service in rank before promotion is expected. The recommendations of the Task Force for typical minimum lengths of service in rank are five and ten years before promotion to Senior and Master Lecturer respectively, and six years before promotion to Associate Professor (Table 2).
  • The promotion procedures should ensure appropriate representation of NTT faculty at each stage in the review and decision process of individual promotion cases.
  • Salary raises for promotion should be provided outside the merit pool, as has been recently established.

Change of Title

  • NTT Assistant Professors who have been in the same rank for more than 10 years and have no clear prospect for promotion to Associate Professor, in consultation with and upon recommendation of the department and the dean of the college, may transition to Senior or Master Lecturer. In exceptional circumstances and upon review, an extension may be considered. The University Council Committee on Faculty Policies should develop procedures for implementing this recommendation that take into account the history of NTT appointments and give faculty sufficient time to prepare to meet the requirements of the policy change.
  • Any changes of title, whether for groups or individuals, that are effected for reasons other than simple promotion, should be discussed in advance first with the college and departmental leadership and then with all faculty members who may be affected. This discussion should outline the principles informing the change and a clear process for the transition, and allow for faculty concerns to be voiced and answered. This procedure is essential to preserving unit morale and the professional dignity of the faculty concerned.

Participation in Governance

  • The Faculty Council should review the provisions for participation in faculty governance and identify appropriate ways for including faculty who have a considerable length of service at BU but hold Lecturer or Instructor ranks and thus are currently excluded from participating in faculty governance.

Faculty Development

  • The Associate Provost for Faculty Development should work with the schools and colleges to establish a faculty development program to ensure that NTT faculty can produce research and scholarship that meets Boston University’s criteria for academic rigor and to ensure that teaching faculty remain professionally active. This program may include but is not limited to:
    • Faculty mentoring
    • Course releases: sometimes even a single course release enables faculty to complete scholarly or professional projects
    • Sabbaticals
    • Research summer stipends; subventions for publication projects; conference travel funds
    • A system of incentives for senior research faculty, such as funds for supporting grant writing and recognizing proven research record and funding procured, that will further the growth of faculty research programs and ultimately external funding. For all internal funding, criteria for eligibility, proposal evaluation, and end-result evaluations should be clearly stated and made broadly available in writing.