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Longitudinal data tracking individual academic career trajectories from first hire through tenure or departure are generally lacking, even in university-specific analyses. This is an important gap that can be readily remedied through the efforts of institutional researchers, with appropriate resources. This report’s analysis of departmental data does, however, allow a direct examination of the tenure and promotion decisions since we asked departments to report on every tenure and promotion case they considered in the prior 2 years, independent of the outcome of the case. This allows us to obtain data on both successful and unsuccessful tenure cases. However, it will not overcome any bias due to attrition prior to these milestones.

The chapter first describes the nature of tenure and promotion processes in RI institutions. Second, it describes the outcomes of tenure and promotion decisions. Finally, the chapter uses multivariate methods to examine how tenure and promotion for men and women are affected by university programs and policies, such as changes to the tenure clock.


Both tenure and promotion decisions are evaluations or reviews conducted by peers of a faculty member’s professional activities, which lead to significant status changes. Tenure can be considered as a change from a probationary or fixed length appointment to an indefinite appointment. Such a change provides the faculty member with greater freedom in his or her professional activities or greater economic security, or both, although further promotions depend on continued research productivity and contributions to teaching and service.

Promotions are changes in status, such as from assistant to associate or from associate to full professor. The tenure decision and first promotion mark the transition between tenure-track assistant professor to associate professor. Most often tenure and promotion to associate professor occur at the same time, although some universities make these decisions separately. In the committee’s survey, of 407 departments in RI institutions that responded, 318 (78 percent) granted tenure and promotion to associate professor together in a single decision. Disaggregated by discipline, Table 5-1 shows that 72 to 79 percent of departments decide tenure and promotion together, with the exception of chemistry, where 85 percent of 74 responding departments make one decision.

These decisions typically take place in the sixth year. Among the 407 responding departments, the modal response was 6 years elapsing between hiring and the tenure decision, with a range of 2 to 12 years. Fully 83 percent of departments indicated the tenure decision was made in the fifth or sixth year. As shown in Table 5-2, similar results were found within each discipline, with the exception of mathematics, where about one-quarter of departments responded that untenured faculty come up for tenure in 2 to 4 years.

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