Standards for promotion to associate are the same as standards for awarding tenure

Guilford has long maintained a separation between tenure and promotion to associate rank. Up until 2004, promotion to associate normally occurred after tenure with a separate review. It was usually awarded at least two years after tenure, sometimes longer if faculty members did not pursue it or if their departments did not nominate them, or if the Dean advised against it. Although some colleges and schools do separate tenure and promotion to associate, most do not, and those who do maintain separation normally award them in the same year and seldom hold separate reviews.

The college has been discussing this issue at least since 1997 (the limit of the current Clerk’s experience here). Many faculty members, mostly newer faculty, have complained about what they see as non-standard separation between tenure and promotion. Some arguments they have put forward include:

  • Tenure and promotion are generally linked in higher education
  • Tenure, with the accompanying potential for permanent job security, is a far greater reward than promotion, which in the past has only granted the recipient a $1000 raise to base salary. This $1000 figure has remained steady despite inflation, and it was not uniformly awarded to all recipients of promotion, so that some faculty members received promotion in name only with no accompanying reward.
  • Having tenured assistant professors was a non-standard practice in higher education, meaning that Guilford professors with unusual low rank might suffer when competing for grants, fellowships, or outside jobs. Opponents of combining tenure and promotion did not feel that Guilford had any obligation to make faculty members more competitive when applying jobs at other colleges.
  • Undergoing another significant review in the 8th or 9th year was stressful and annoying, especially when it came with little or no reward other than a title most faculty elsewhere are granted along with tenure.
  • Because there were no standards and no schedule specified, it was technically possible to stand for promotion at any time and not wait until tenure, making the separation tradition an unwritten and uncertain precedent rather than a definitive policy.

Some faculty, mostly long-serving senior faculty members, preferred to retain Guilford’s separate reviews. Among arguments put forward by these faculty were the following:

  • Having a separate review for faculty post-tenure gave the college another scheduled chance to review faculty between tenure and promotion to full professor. This argument was more frequently cited before the college instituted the current system of post-tenure reviews held every five years, when it seemed no longer to apply.
  • Combining promotion and tenure could have the effect of raising standards for tenure. This argument assumed that FAC would apply stricter standards for promotion to associate than they do for tenure, something that some felt FAC would do, but which is not written in the handbook, which contains no specific standards for any promotion.

In 2003, after some years of discussion on this issue, faculty agreed that it would be permissible for faculty to stand for promotion and tenure in the same year rather than waiting for an unspecified time after tenure to stand for promotion. The first faculty members to receive tenure and promotion in the same year under this system did so in 2004 (the current Clerk among them). This process still held separate reviews – one for tenure early in the review cycle, usually in fall term, and then a second for promotion, usually in the following spring term.

Even with this system in place, it was unevenly applied. Some faculty, who felt ready for promotion and had the support of their departments and colleagues, stood for promotion and tenure in the same year. Others were not nominated by their departments, or were counseled against standing for both by senior colleagues or by administrators, and thus followed the old pattern of delayed promotion. Some faculty were allowed to use the same materials for their second (promotion) reviews, while others had to submit a revised portfolio addressing the additional courses and work done between the two reviews. In one year, FAC, citing time constraints, proposed deferring all reviews for promotion to associate to the following year.

Under the current handbook (visible on this page), faculty must be nominated for promotion by others, but no timeline or connection to tenure is specified. The draft proposed language (containing a lot more information on standards, structure, and schedule) is also visible on that page. The draft language retains the possibility to award tenure but not promotion, but discussion at faculty meeting on April 20th seemed to indicate that this distinction led to confusion about standards and was not necessary or wise to retain, and that faculty might prefer a cleaner system where tenure and promotion were identical and linked in all cases.

Questions to ponder:

  • Are there any current arguments to keep promotion and tenure separate?
  • Is there any need to retain an option for FAC to recommend tenure but not promotion? If so:
    • What kind of person would warrant tenure (with lifetime employment) but not promotion (with only an uncertain salary bump)?
    • What additional standards for promotion to associate can we describe that extend beyond those for tenure?


Leave a Comment