Tenure and Promotion on the Charles River Campus

When a faculty appointment is “tenured,” it means that the appointment is without term, in contrast to non-tenured appointments, which have a term specified by a contract. The section of the Faculty Handbook below describes the procedure for granting tenure, and other sections discuss the circumstances under which tenure may be revoked, for example, Termination for Cause and Program Discontinuation and Consequent Faculty Terminations. Faculty appointments normally are based in departments or similar divisions within the schools and colleges that comprise the University. If a department or an entire school or college is eliminated, tenured faculty may no longer have a valid appointment. Please see Department and Program Discontinuation and Consequent Faculty Terminations for further information.

A. Tenure

  1. The general criteria for awarding tenure are a strong record of a) teaching, b) scholarly and/or creative work, and c) University and professional service. While the relative weight accorded these areas of professorial activity may vary among the Schools and Colleges, a national reputation for excellence in scholarly and/or creative work is required.
  2. The award of tenure to an Assistant Professor shall include promotion to the rank of Associate Professor. In the School of Law, tenure track faculty members enter as Associate Professors and are considered for tenure and promotion to Professor at the end of the standard probationary period.
  3. There shall be no presumption for the award of tenure in any individual case.
  4. The services of a faculty member on tenure may be terminated only for adequate cause as provided in the policy, “Suspension or Termination for Cause,” or as a result of a discontinuation as provided in University Policies on “Department and Program Discontinuation and Consequent Faculty Terminations.”

B. Tenure Review Schedule and Notification

  1. Full-length Probationary Period: Faculty members holding tenure track probationary appointments must be considered for tenure not later than in theirseventh year of service at Boston University unless the probationary period has been extended as described in Section 3, below.
  2. Reduced Probationary Period for Prior Service: The mandatory year of tenure review for members of the faculty who have prior full-time professorial service at another institution of higher learning will normally be set for a time earlier than the seventh year, by mutual agreement between the faculty member and the Dean at the time the offer of a tenure track probationary appointment is made and accepted.
  3. Extension of the Probationary Period: Extraordinary circumstances beyond a faculty member’s control may have a significant negative impact on the ability of a faculty member to pursue their University responsibilities during the probationary period. In these circumstances the faculty member’s Dean may request that the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs postpone the tenure review deadline for one year, provided that the request is made within one year of the beginning of the period of impact, and before the submission deadline for the candidate’s promotion application within the School or College. The faculty member also retains the right, after consultation with his or her Chair and/or Dean, to request review at the originally specified time.
    • Note that a Childbirth Leave and/or a period of Family Leave for Child Bonding or Caregiving results in an automatic one-year extension of the tenure review deadline, as described in the section on Childbirth Leave and Family Leave for Child Bonding or Caregiving.
    • The total extension of the probationary period may not exceed two years, regardless of the combination of circumstances that resulted in the extension(s).
    • Examples of additional circumstances in which an extension of the probationary period may be warranted are provided below. This list is not exhaustive; please contact the Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs regarding these and other situations in which an extension request may be contemplated.
      • delay of one semester or more in access to committed laboratory space in which to conduct research
      • accidental destruction of critical resources required for scholarly or creative work
      • medical leave of a semester or more
      • personal situations that have a severe impact on professional activities, including the life-threatening illness or death of a partner, a spouse, or a child
    • The following COVID-19 extension provision shall remain in effect until the end of academic year 2029-30, at which time, it shall be removed from the Faculty Handbook without any further action required by any deliberative body: Every faculty member in the probationary period in academic year 2019-20 who will not have received a tenure decision by May 15, 2020 and every faculty member whose employment began between July 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020, shall have their tenure review deadline postponed for one year due to the extraordinary circumstances associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. This one-year COVID-19 extension will be in addition to the maximum total 2-year extension referenced above. The faculty member retains the right, after consultation with their chair and/or dean, to request review at the originally specified time rather than postponing review under this provision.
  4. Early Tenure Review: A faculty member holding a tenure track probationary appointment may request tenure review prior to the scheduled tenure review year. After consultation with the department Chair, the Dean may approve such a request. Once an early tenure review is approved by the Dean, the newly scheduled tenure review will be considered a mandatory review. Note that an early review that is unsuccessful because of withdrawal by the candidate or denial of tenure, will result in a terminal-year appointment that may supersede a previously existing appointment of longer term.
  5. Terminal Year: If tenure is not awarded following a tenure review, the candidate will be appointed to a terminal appointment for one academic year.

C. Tenure Review Process

  1. At the beginning of the semester preceding the academic year in which the faculty member is to be reviewed for tenure, the Dean will provide the candidate with guidelines for compiling their section of the dossier and a complete timetable for the review process. In cases in which Boston University has previously granted tenure to a faculty member in a particular department, school or college, the University Provost in consultation with the relevant Deans may determine it appropriate to consider the faculty member for tenure in another Boston University department, school, or college. If so, the University Provost, in consultation with the Deans, shall determine which new materials, if any, are required for the tenure file. In making this determination the University Provost and Deans shall consider when the original tenure or promotion file was prepared as well as whether the candidate’s areas of scholarly and/or creative work are distinct, cognate, or congruent with those of the academic unit considering the new tenure case. In all cases, the file will be reviewed consistently with the Tenure and Promotion section.
  2. The candidate, the department Chair, and the Dean are responsible for the compilation of their respective portions of the dossier and the submission of all materials pertinent to an adequate consideration of the candidate’s qualifications and abilities. The results of each level of the review process shall be incorporated successively into the candidate’s dossier.
  3. The first level of tenure review takes place in the candidate’s department. Tenured members of the department examine the candidate’s dossier, meet and discuss the qualifications, and vote on whether or not to recommend the award of tenure. Individual senior non-tenure track faculty members may participate in the tenure review, if so approved by the Dean. The lack of any tenured faculty appointed in the department does not preclude tenure review. In such instances, the Chair should consult with the senior faculty of the department. The Chair of the department reports the result of the vote or consultation as well as their own recommendation to the Dean. In the case of significant dissent, the Chair should do their best to convey a sense of the arguments on each side
  4. The faculty of each School or College, in accordance with procedures recommended by the faculty and approved by the Dean and the University Provost, select a School Appointment, Promotion and Tenure (APT) Committee whose members are Associate or Full Professors. The APT Committee examines and discusses the candidate’s dossier, including the recommendation of the faculty and of the Chair of the candidate’s department. A report embodying the substance of the discussion and the recommendation of the Committee is then furnished to the Dean of the School or College.
  5. The Dean makes a recommendation regarding the award of tenure and so notifies the candidate. If the recommendation is positive, the Dean forwards the candidate’s complete dossier, including the Chair’s report and recommendation, the APT Committee report, and their own recommendation and the reasons therefor, to the University Provost. If the Dean’s recommendation is negative, the Dean informs the candidate and provides information about the appeals process (for Appeals see Sections D and I).
  6. The University Provost forwards the case to the University Appointment, Promotion and Tenure Committee (UAPT), whose members shall be sixteen Associate or Full Professors selected by the Provost and the Chair of the Faculty Council by mutual agreement. The UAPT Committee reviews the case and votes. A report embodying the substance of the UAPT Committee’s discussions and recommendation is added to the dossier and all materials to date are provided to the University Provost.
  7. The University Provost makes a recommendation regarding the award of tenure. If the recommendation is positive, the Provost forwards the candidate’s dossier including the UAPT report and their own recommendation to the President. If the Provost’s recommendation is negative, the Provost informs the candidate and provides information about the appeals process (for Appeals see Sections D and I).
  8. The President notifies the candidate of their decision.
  9. The candidate may withdraw their tenure application at any stage of the process before the decision by the President. However if the faculty member withdraws their application, the faculty member’s appointment becomes a terminal-year appointment for the academic year following the tenure review, regardless of the amount of time that would have remained on the faculty member’s appointment following the scheduled tenure review year.

D. Appeal Path for a Negative Tenure Decision

    1. On the Charles River Campus, a tenure case progresses to the Dean, regardless of the votes at earlier levels. The Dean’s negative recommendation is the final decision, unless an appeal is successful. Therefore, there are three steps in the tenure review at which a candidate may appeal a negative recommendation, as shown in the following table:
Level of Negative Recommendation Appeal Reviewer Outcome
Dean University Provost Supports appeal → sends case to UAPT
Denies appeal → decision is
University Provost President Supports appeal 
promotion is granted
Denies appeal → decision is
President denies after
positive recommendation
by the University Provost
Reconsideration by the
Supports appeal → promotion
is granted
Denies appeal → decision is final
  1.  The processes used to appeal a negative tenure decision are described in Section I: Appeals.

E. Information

The candidate shall, upon request, be given copies of reports and rationales from each level of the Tenure Review process. To facilitate this procedure, reports and rationales are formulated and/or redacted in such a way as to preserve the anonymity of participants in the judgment to the extent that this is consistent with the communication of the basis of judgment at each level. The candidate is not given access to individual evaluation letters or direct quotations from evaluation letters which are submitted in confidence.

F. Timetable of the Tenure Review Process

In the case of an ordinary Tenure Review, the general timetable will be as follows: the candidate’s complete dossier including their application, the recommendations of the candidate’s Chair, department, APT Committee and the Dean, as well as the external letters and all supplemental material must be uploaded to the Provost’s secure website by February 1 of the year in which the decision will be made (mandatory tenure review year). Individual Schools and Colleges have their own internal timetable to meet this central submission deadline. The University Appointment, Promotion and Tenure committee reviews the cases for promotion to Associate Professor, with or without tenure, and applications for Tenure alone, between February 1 and April 15 and all candidates are notified of the final decision by the Provost or President no later than May 15 of their tenure review year. Please note that all candidates in the regular review cycle are notified on the same date, which may be earlier than May 15 in some years. Promotion applications are no longer sent to the Trustees for final approval.

G. Accelerated Tenure or Promotion Process

On occasion, the University may wish to attract eminent individuals from outside the University who would not accept appointment to the faculty without immediate tenure or senior rank. Or the University may be confronted with the need for a quick tenure or promotion decision in the case of one of its own faculty members who has an offer from another institution and would be likely to accept the offer unless awarded tenure or promotion at Boston University. In such circumstances, the Dean and University Provost shall call for expedited consideration, reporting, and recommendations by the department faculty, the Chair, the School or College APT, the Dean, the UAPT, and the Provost. Based on this information, the President may choose to approve the award of tenure, promotion, or initial senior rank to the candidate or faculty member.

H. Promotion Not Related to Tenure Review

Eligibility for promotion within a track is open to full-time:

  • Lecturers and Senior Lecturers
  • Assistant Professors and Associate Professors not on the tenure track
  • Tenured Associate Professors
  • Clinical Assistant Professors and Clinical Associate Professors
  • Research Assistant Professors and Research Associate Professors
  • Associate Professors of the Practice

On the Charles River Campus, there is no promotion path for Instructors.

I. Appeals Process for Negative Promotion Decisions, With or Without Tenure

1. The candidate must file an appeal of a negative recommendation within 30 calendar days after being notified in writing of the negative recommendation. If a request is filed after the 30-day time period, the Appeal Reviewer may deny the appeal as untimely. The filing of an appeal does not extend the terminal appointment period.

2. The appeal of a negative recommendation must be based on one or more of the following grounds: (a) the candidate has met all criteria for promotion and the decision was erroneous on the merits; (b) the promotion review process was marred by significant procedural errors that substantially affected the outcome of the decision; or (c) the promotion review process was affected by unlawful discrimination that substantially affected the outcome of the decision. When filing an appeal, the candidate must identify all grounds on which it is based, as the candidate will be afforded only one opportunity to request a review of a negative recommendation.

3. Appeals based solely on claims that the negative recommendation was erroneous based on the merits of the case will be reviewed by the appropriate Appeal Reviewer, who will inform the candidate of the decision in writing. The Appeal Reviewer’s decision is final.

4. If an appeal on the merits of the case includes claims that procedural errors or unlawful discrimination substantially affected the outcome of the decision, and the Provost convenes a committee to review those claims as described below, the Appeal Reviewer will defer a decision on the appeal of the merits of the promotion recommendation until the committee has issued its report.

5. If the faculty member’s appeal of a negative promotion or tenure recommendation is based on, or includes allegations of:

(a.) procedural errors or deviations from standard processes during the review that were significant enough to substantially affect the outcome of the decision; or
(b.) bias or discrimination on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, ethnic origin, age, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other unlawful basis that was significant enough to substantially affect the outcome of the decision

then the Provost will determine whether:

(a.) the candidate has articulated claims of procedural errors or unlawful discrimination that, if ultimately supported by the evidence, would provide a basis to re-examine the negative recommendation; and
(b) a formal review by a faculty committee will aid in determination of relevant facts.

The Provost’s decision on whether to proceed with committee review is final.

6. If the Provost determines that committee review is warranted, the Provost will appoint an ad hoc faculty committee of three senior faculty (naming one as Chair) and notify the candidate of their appointment. A candidate who believes that any of the ad hoc committee members cannot participate as an objective fact finder must inform the Provost within seven calendar days. The Provost will decide if there is a need for an alternate committee appointment.

7. The ad hoc committee’s review process may include review of documents, including the promotion dossier, as well as witness interviews and consultation with other University personnel including the Equal Opportunity Office, as appropriate. The witness will be given advanced notice as to the nature of the appeal prior to the interview. The candidate may select a faculty member advisor who may accompany the candidate to any appearance before the ad hoc committee for purposes of providing support, but who may not directly participate in the review.

8. The ad hoc committee should seek to complete its review and issue a written report containing its findings of fact to the Provost within 75 calendar days. Review of the appeal by an ad hoc committee does not extend the terminal appointment period.

9. The Provost will review the ad hoc committee report and make a final decision as to whether procedural errors or unlawful discrimination may have affected the outcome of the promotion recommendation. In making that decision, the Provost may consult with whomever the Provost decides is appropriate. If the Provost finds the outcome may have been affected by procedural errors or unlawful bias, the Provost should establish an internal mechanism to reconsider the decision. The Provost will inform the candidate of the decision in writing. The Provost’s decision is final.

10. This review process, including the identity of the members of the ad hoc committee, information obtained in the review process, and information disclosed to witnesses consulted by the committee should be kept confidential by all participants, including the candidate and witnesses. The ad hoc committee will not disclose to the candidate the identity of the external evaluators, individual evaluation letters, or direct quotations from evaluation letters which are submitted in confidence.

Last revised on March 21, 2023, by the University Council.