The emergence of COVID-19 has drastically upended the academic enterprise. Because of physical distancing, many non-tenured faculty members are facing additional, unexpected obstacles in their promotion and tenure trajectory. Transitioning classes to online learning environments will detract from research efforts, and winding down laboratory operations will result in a more direct reduction in research output. While trying to stay healthy themselves, many faculty members are also balancing job responsibilities with kids at home, adapting to telework, etc.
Universities are recognizing the strain that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on non-tenured faculty. Some institutions are choosing to extend tenure and promotion timelines. For example, Creighton University announced a one-year extension of the tenure probationary period for pre-tenure faculty. Vanderbilt University posted a message on its website from the Interim Chancellor and Provost Dr. Susan Wente assuring faculty they will be granted a one year extension:
“In light of these increased demands at work—and for many, at home—that could slow down or temporarily interrupt your professional career, the deans of all our schools and colleges are in agreement with the provost and interim chancellor that we should take the unusual measure of granting an automatic one-year extension to the tenure clock of all probationary faculty who are not currently under review for tenure.”
Other universities are readjusting their standards for promotion and tenure. The Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at Michigan State University, Dr. Christopher Long promised to consider the challenges caused by COVID-19 in promotion and tenure decisions:
“I promise to take the challenges of the present moment into consideration during annual staff and faculty reviews and in the tenure, reappointment, and promotion process. When evaluating your colleagues, I will ask you to do the same. We have entered uncharted territory, and it would be unjust to expect business as usual.”
Researchers are using crowdsourcing to generate a list of the universities reevaluating tenure and promotion processes to account for the disruption caused by COVID-19. DORA will continue to support researchers by highlighting these examples of good practice on social media.