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Northwestern University

Reappointment for Tenure-Line Faculty

The information here is for reappointment candidates and chairpersons.  
See also dossier deadlines and links to helpful documents.

A department recommendation for reappointment of an assistant professor must provide evidence of high quality in scholarship, teaching, and service and the promise of future distinction.  Actions to reappoint are typically taken in the fall and winter quarters of an assistant professor’s third year. 

Extending the Tenure Clock

A tenure-track faculty member may request that one year be added to his or her probationary term in cases where particular circumstances have arisen to interfere substantially with the research or other projects which the faculty member intends to submit as part of his or her tenure review.

Such circumstances may include parental responsibilities relating to the birth, adoption or rearing of a child; personal or family emergencies, for example, chronic illness of the faculty member or a member of the immediate family; or the failure of the University to meet a commitment with regard to research facilities (e.g. promised space is not made available). Although the decision on each request will depend on the specific circumstances, requests to prolong the probationary term by one year for circumstances relating to the birth or adoption of a child will automatically receive favorable consideration; requests related to childrearing will generally receive favorable consideration. (Application should be made after the birth or adoption.)

Except in unusual circumstances, clocks will not be stopped during a year of research or employment elsewhere, nor does this policy apply to situations that arise normally as a faculty member’s program expands and evolves (e.g. the faculty member wishes to obtain additional space; an important grant application is turned down; the member embarks on a new line of research). Review the University policy about parental leaves and extensions.

Reappointment Timeline

In June, the Dean’s Office sends a letter to each chair listing all tenure-track assistant professors whose appointments expire the following August 31.

In the Fall Quarter, departments consider candidates’ work and standing in light of the standards outlined above. Department members review papers, chapters, grant proposals, teaching materials, any outside letters that may have been collected, and other items before the meeting at which a vote on reappointment is taken.

In early February, one copy of the full dossier is forwarded to the Dean’s Office.  The documents in support of reappointment (see below) should be submitted as a single PDF file to Steven Cole

In March, after reviewing each case, the Dean sends each candidate an offer of reappointment or an offer of a terminal year on the College’s faculty. The new status, whichever it is, takes effect the following September.


1) Department letter

All members of the voting faculty should be familiar with the candidate’s work and have read at least a sample of it.  The chair’s letter should state the voting process: the vote, including abstentions; the number of eligible voters; and the names of those eligible faculty who voted and who did not. The body of the letter should present the department’s recommendation, indicating the degree of the department’s conviction in making its recommendation to the Dean. It is imperative that a full and candid account of departmental discussion, both positive and negative, be included in the department letter. The department letter should also evaluate the candidate’s teaching. If the candidate’s teaching has not yet reached a level of high quality, the department should outline corrective measures being taken or planned. The department should also consider the candidate’s role as a mentor of graduate students. Finally, the letter should comment on the candidate’s service, and his or her role as citizen in department, College, and University

2) Curriculum Vitae

The candidate should follow College guidelines for preparing the CV.

3) Candidate's statement

The candidate should prepare a statement of several pages discussing progress in research and teaching and outlining plans for the second term of appointment. The candidate should give some attention to the probable course of his or her work after current projects are completed. The candidate should indicate what efforts are being made to improve teaching and address any problems in classroom performance. 

4) Possible external referees

The Dean, like the department, has the option of seeking the advice of authorities elsewhere. The letter should list the names and addresses of several outside referees in the candidate’s sub-field, and should note any special relationships between referee and candidate.

5) Teaching materials

As part of the candidate’s dossier, the department should forward evidence for the conclusions presented in the department letter: CTEC evaluations and statistical summaries, classroom materials (syllabi, examinations) if available, reports of classroom visits by senior faculty, other pertinent materials.

6) External and student referees already consulted

In its deliberations, the department may consult three to five external referees; in some cases, it will have to consult them in order to make an informed judgment. If the department consults external reviewers, no more than half should be named by the candidate. The department should arrive at other names independently. The department must provide reviewers with the candidate’s current vita and offer to supply copies of publications as needed.  The department may also wish to solicit written comments about the candidate’s teaching from former students.

Most departments find that the third-year review is an excellent time to discuss progress-to- date with a junior faculty member and to map out corrective action where necessary. Among other things, the department should ask whether research is progressing in a coherent and productive fashion. The department should call the candidate’s attention to activities that are likely to draw energy away from the essential tasks of research, teaching, and service and also verify that the service required of the faculty member, whether departmental or otherwise, is not excessive.

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