College of Arts and Sciences

Tenured Faculty

Moving from tenure and associate professor to full professor

In departmental meetings, the faculty should regularly and openly discuss departmental expectations so that individual faculty members have a clear understanding of the department's promotion guidelines, process and criteria. The timing of the application for full professorship should reflect the thoughtful assessment by the candidate as well as forthright feedback from the department chair.

Once faculty members have attained tenure and promotion to associate professor, chairs should consider their progress toward full professorship at the time of annual review. Faculty members on their own can have a difficult time assessing whether they have accomplished enough to consider applying for full professor. Realistic, but supportive, advice from the chair is critical. It is very disheartening for a faculty member to apply for full professorship and to get turned down. At the same time, it is not fair to the faculty member for the chair to not encourage him/her to apply for full professorship when he/she has achieved the necessary accomplishments. Tenured faculty members should be encouraged to attend the annual provost sponsored workshop where full professorship is discussed. This is an issue that should be discussed with the faculty mentor as well as senior faculty members in the department.

Making counter offers to retain faculty members

High performing and achieving faculty members may be offered positions at other institutions. When a faculty member notifies his/her chair that he/she has an offer that he/she is considering, the chair should contact the dean to discuss the situation and how to respond. The faculty member must have a written offer from the other institution. If the chair wishes to retain the faculty member and the faculty member appears to be willing to consider a counter-offer, the chair can request resources for such a counter offer in discussions with the dean. The chair should be prepared to summarize not only the accomplishments of the faculty member but explicitly address the faculty members fit with the aspirational goals of the department. In such a situation, the dean discusses the conditions of the counter-offer with the provost and a decision is made about (1) whether to provide a counter offer, and if so, (2) what the conditions of the counter offer would be. If the chair, dean, and provost are in agreement about the counter offer, this information is conveyed by the chair to the faculty member. The faculty member then makes his/her decision about whether or not to take the counter offer. The dean's office submits the paperwork to implement the conditions of the counter offer.

According to university practice, only two such counter offers can be implemented for a given faculty member during his/her career at the University of Memphis.

Working with non-productive tenured faculty members

A very difficult challenge for chairs is working with faculty members who have tenure, but who have not continued to be productive. The performance issues occur on a continuum and require an appropriate response that matches the level of the problem. Ideally, a gentle reminder of expectations and identification of resources to help the faculty will be all that is necessary. If the problems continue or the seriousness increases, a collaborative, problem solving and mentoring approach may be helpful. Documenting the problem(s) and suggested improvement actions in writing at the time of annual review is critical. Such faculty members need to receive clear and explicit messages about how they are underachieving as well as a chair's recommendations/expectations for making improvements. Firmness in these discussions is important so that there are no misinterpretations about the problems the chairs sees with the faculty member's performance and no misinterpretations as to the steps the chair intends to take in the future. The chair should discuss the performance issues and strategy for improvement with the dean, and if resources will be needed, the dean may be able to assist.

Generally, serious performance problems occur most noticeably as ineffective teaching, as student and parent complaints accumulate. With hindsight, the chair will realize that performance problems have been growing with promises of improvement not realized. Before further discussions are held with the faculty member, however, the chair should discuss with the dean the issues, improvement strategies, and effect on the department before proceeding. The dean will advise the chair on possible additional strategies, resources available to assist the faculty member, and additional steps that may need to be taken. See the faculty handbook regarding termination procedures: Expiration, Relinquishment, and Termination of Tenure.

Part III: Faculty Leadership

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Last Updated: 1/14/13