About Appointments and Promotions

This handbook is a resource to familiarize all faculty and staff with the policies and procedures for promotion and tenure cases and new hire appointments within the School of Architecture + Planning (SA+P).

The purpose of MIT’s guidelines for appointments and promotions is to ensure that candidates for appointment, promotion, and tenure receive a thorough and fair review of their qualifications and accomplishments. This handbook describes how the Institute’s policies are implemented within the School of Architecture + Planning.

Specifically, this handbook summarizes procedures and schedules, and provides guidelines for preparing and reviewing cases to support the following personnel actions

  • appointments
  • reappointments
  • promotions
  • tenure

for the following classes of personnel

  • faculty
  • academic instructional staff
  • academic and sponsored research staff

These guidelines are not intended to constrain the style or limit the specific concerns of department evaluations, but to provide a framework on which to base the equitable evaluation of individual candidates.

NOTE: This handbook is intended to be consistent with and to supplement MIT Policies and Procedures, not to replace it nor to create an implied contract. Although pertinent information from Policies and Procedures for appointments and promotions is included here for convenient reference, this handbook’s purpose is to assist with the normal appointment and review processes. For exceptions, unusual circumstances, and full guidance about faculty rights and responsibilities, consult MIT Policies and Procedures. MIT Policies and Procedures is the final governing document.

How this Handbook is Organized

The chapters of this book explain the steps necessary to appoint and promote faculty and other academic and sponsored research positions. The appendices, which constitute an integral part of this handbook, delineate the content of the documents that drive the process, and provide in-depth background about the principles that shape this process. In the electronic version of this handbook, text that cross-references another section of the handbook or a website is a live link.

Chapter 1: About Appointments and Promotions. The balance of this chapter defines fundamentals of MIT’s personnel practices.

Chapter 2: About Faculty. This chapter defines terms unique to tenure-track faculty and the different faculty ranks. Its general description of faculty appointments and promotions may be useful to newcomers to MIT and anyone dealing with the faculty appointment and promotion process for the first time.

Chapter 3: Faculty Appointment and Promotion Process. An overview of the appointment, promotion, and tenure process for faculty is provided in this chapter. Although the general process is similar for all personnel, the faculty process is unique in both its stringency and its complexity.

Chapter 4: Academic and Sponsored Research Staff Appointment and Promotion Process. This chapter broadly describes the appointment and promotion process for non-faculty academic staff and research staff. Administrative staff, including sponsored research administrative staff, and support staff appointments are not covered in this handbook; for more information on appointing and promoting these employees, see the Human Resources Employment Policy Manual.

Chapter 5: About Academic Instructional Staff. Academic instructional staff appointments are non-tenure track teaching positions, including visiting faculty from other institutions. This chapter describes the different positions within this category and outlines the specifics of the appointment, reappointment and promotion processes for this group of appointments.

Chapter 6: About Research Staff. Research staff members are professionals who work in departments, laboratories, or centers primarily on externally funded research. This chapter describes the positions within this category and the processes for appointment, reviewing and promoting individuals within these ranks.

Appendices. The appendices are an integral part of this handbook. They contain:

  • background documents that assist in understanding the faculty promotion and tenure process
  • charts of key aspects of the appointment, promotion, and tenure processes
  • description of the contents and structure of a faculty appointment or promotion case, including sample letters and required documentation
  • search, diversity, and confidentiality policies for both the School and MIT

Core Values

Intellectual and Professional Leadership

Faculty and academic/research staff at all levels and ranks in the School of Architecture + Planning (SA+P) are expected to work at the very highest levels of scholarly and professional competence. Work within the SA+P is diverse and broad ranging, so forms of academic and professional accomplishment vary. However, high and rigorous standards apply equally across all areas.


Achieving the educational benefits of diversity in MIT’s academic community is a fundamental goal of the Institute and the SA+P. Diversity, broadly defined, is critical to fulfill our educational mission in an increasingly diverse and complex world, see http://web.mit.edu/facts/mission.html.

During President Reif’s inaugural address (September 21, 2012), he promised to “lead MIT to continue to make significant contributions in the area of race and diversity, equity and inclusion.” He noted that the findings of the Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity, and the reports of the Institute Diversity Summit, have provided many suggestions for practical change including better ways to search for and mentor new talent, and to improve the orientation process for new members of our community. He continued by saying, “I am asking every member of the administration to work closely with me to make sure that our best practices become the norm across MIT.” At MIT, the dimensions of diversity are many—ranging from race, ethnicity, and gender to nationality and culture to economic status to sexual orientation to intellectual perspective. Diversity in all these and other dimensions must be reflected throughout the campus population, including students, faculty, and staff.

Faculty and staff diversity is essential not only to contribute to the educational experience of students, but also to ensure that the SA+P attracts and retains the most outstanding scholars and practitioners regardless of gender, ethnicity, or other attributes. The SA+P is committed to building a faculty and staff that is world-class, and is determined to make academic careers successful and rewarding for individuals from all parts of society. Both MIT and the SA+P have been able to achieve faculty and staff diversity in many dimensions through regular outreach and recruitment processes. But achieving diversity of gender and race — creating an environment where women and underrepresented minorities can be as productive and valued as their other colleagues — is one of the most difficult and ambitious endeavors in American higher education and has been especially elusive at elite institutions, including MIT.

In terms of creating a true culture of inclusion, MIT remains a work in progress. The president, the provost, the deans, and the MIT faculty have taken actions to make it clear that this work is supported by the innovative policies and practices necessary to bring about real change and to achieve a diverse campus community capable of realizing the MIT mission to its fullest. Some of these actions and their purposes are:

Institute Community and Equity Officer (ICEO Officer): This position focuses on matters of community, equity, inclusion and diversity on campus. Upon the announcement of this position President Reif stated his hope that by the time MIT selects its 18th president, diversity will no longer need to be a matter of presidential declarations, because it will be a welcome, obvious reality and a vital source of MIT’s creative strength.

The ICEO serves as a thought leader on the subjects of community, equity, inclusion, and diversity; a focal point for organizing MIT’s related activities and conversations; and a hands-on practitioner who disseminates best practices and inspires the awareness and enthusiasm to help them flourish.

Committee on Race and Diversity (CRD): This Committee’s charge was written by MIT President Charles M. Vest in February 1994 and has guided its programs and goals ever since. CRD is charged with fostering better relations among diverse racial and cultural groups at MIT and helping the community realize the benefits of its cultural and racial diversity. In carrying out this charge, the committee was asked to assume these responsibilities:

  • Stimulate and coordinate a systematic action agenda for improving race relations within the MIT community, including programs, events, and activities that foster appreciation of the many races and cultures at MIT (inside and outside the classroom), and/or that are designed to help eliminate bigotry or prejudice on campus.
  • Develop, maintain, and promote a monthly calendar of campus activities and events directly involving or relating to issues of race relations, and serve as a clearinghouse of information on such activities.
  • Develop and distribute a resource guide containing information on various services, programs, individuals and organizations that can be of help in promoting positive race relations for the MIT campus.
  • Administer a modest grants program to support projects and activities that promote multicultural understanding and positive race relations within the MIT community. The committee should publicize the availability of the grants each fall, receive and review proposals, and make awards. Primary emphasis will be on activities proposed by students or student groups. However, any member or group within the MIT community (students, faculty, and staff) is eligible to receive such grants, although these funds should not be seen as a substitute for expenditures that departments would ordinarily be making.

Members of the committee are appointed by the president from among the faculty, students, staff of MIT and include people with different racial and cultural backgrounds. The committee does not attempt to reflect the full diversity of the MIT population in its membership, but rather works with the various racial and ethnic groups to develop an overview of issues and concerns, as well as opportunities for promoting better relations on campus.

Report of the Initiative on Faculty Race and Diversity: Launched in April of 2007 “to study how race affects the recruitment, retention, professional opportunities, and collegial experiences of under-represented minority faculty members at MIT.” A team of faculty, representing all five of MIT’s Schools, helped develop the Institute’s initiative to study how race affects the recruitment, retention, professional opportunities, and collegial experiences of under-represented minority faculty members at MIT.

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs): Are employee-led groups formed around common interests, issues and/or a common bond or background. ERG members create a positive work environment at MIT by actively contributing to the Institute’s mission, values and efforts specific to inclusion, such as recruitment and retention. All of MIT’s ERGs are open to any employee. Human Resources sponsored the launch of four Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). See a list of current ERGs and information about forming ERGs at MIT.

The Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, Queer + Programs (LBGTQ+ Programs): LBGTQ+ Services supports numerous student, employee, and alumnx groups as well as other departments and initiatives on campus aiming to foster equity, intersectionality, and the continuum of social justice. They seek to foster a safe and welcoming environment for LBGTQ+ students and to ensure that the educational mission of MIT is upheld for all students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Meetings are once a month and address specific projects dealing with the concerns of the LBGTQ+ community. Anyone affiliated with MIT and LBGTQ+-friendly is welcome to join or participate.

The MIT Center for Work-Life and WellBeing: MIT Center for Work-Life and WellBeing offers a wide range of programs and resources that address specific life issues and events for faculty and staff. Consultations and referrals are available at no cost to MIT staff, faculty, as well as partners and families.

Addressing the issue of career advancement for women and minority faculty within MIT: There are many effective practices and support mechanisms in place to foster the retention and success of faculty and staff. But multiple barriers to the success of women and underrepresented minorities exist that have yet to be addressed. “Many of the issues surrounding the potential for bias and marginalization within the Institute will be resolved only when women faculty are fully represented and integrated throughout our departments and administration,” acknowledged the provost in March 2002, when the school equity committees published their final reports.

SA+P Faculty Diversity Committee: The SA+P Faculty Diversity Committee was established to serve as an advocate for women and minorities during the search process. The regular and well-established hiring processes in the SA+P already take into account many diversity dimensions (special talents, intellectual perspectives, etc.). The members of the faculty diversity committee are comprised of three to four faculty members (ideally members of their departmental diversity committees) and a faculty chair or co-chairs appointed by the dean. The committee is responsible for developing and updating standards for all aspects of the search process, assisting and advising search committees, and approving and monitoring search plans and reports and formulating retention and mentoring practices and policies.

Confidentiality and Communication

The appointment, promotion, and tenure processes require the participation of many people inside and outside the Institute, and the outcomes of these processes are likely to have profound effects upon the careers of the candidates. Both the participants and the candidates have a lot at stake in these processes.

Clear communication and prompt feedback to all candidates are expected. Such communications convey professionalism as well as respect, collegiality, and courtesy to the candidate. As a practical matter, open lines of communication pre-empt queries and rumors that can cause difficulties later on. However, much of the material gathered is highly confidential and is often obtained under the condition of confidentiality. Therefore, it is essential that all communications received during the process be protected.

Review committees must balance the need to inform the candidate with the obligation to protect the confidentiality of solicited information. That obligation is succinctly stated in the solicitation letter sent to referees. This letter can be viewed in Appendix G: Sample Letters to Reviewers.

At each level of review, questions may be raised which require additional information or clarification. Unofficial communication with the candidate to report the progress of the case may be misinterpreted and should therefore be avoided. Although information gained during the promotion process may be useful to the department head in providing feedback to the candidate, this information cannot contain details of the contents of referee letters, nor can it provide details of votes and decisions at various stages of the process.

Key Concepts and Definitions

Appointment Categories

Each appointment category described in this handbook is administratively distinct. This means that promotions can be considered only within a category and not between categories. For example, a principal research scientist can be appointed, but not promoted, to a faculty rank.

The ranks or levels within each personnel category considered in this handbook are listed below.


  • Assistant Professor
  • Associate Professor without tenure
  • Associate Professor with tenure
  • Full Professor

Academic Instructional Staff

  • Lecturer; Senior Lecturer
  • Adjunct Associate Professor; Associate Professor of the Practice
  • Adjunct Professor; Professor of the Practice
  • Technical Instructor
  • Visiting Assistant Professor; Visiting Associate Professor; Visiting Professor
  • Visiting Lecturer
  • Professor Emeritus; Professor, Post-Tenure

Academic Research Staff and Sponsored Research Technical Staff (SRS)

  • Research Specialist, Technical Assistant, Technical Associate (SRS sponsored)
  • Research Scientist; Research Associat
  • Principal Research Scientist, Principal Research Associate (SRS sponsored
  • Research Scientist (SRS sponsored)
  • Senior Research Scientist, Senior Research Associate (academic)
  • Postdoctoral Associate, Senior Postdoctoral Associate
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Research Fellow
  • Visiting appointments
  • Research Affiliate

Appointment Transactions

Appointment is the process of hiring someone from outside the SA+P, or moving a person from one category to another. Appointments of faculty, academic instructional staff, and research staff can be made at any level.

Reappointment is the process of renewing an appointment within the same rank.

Promotion is the process of moving from one rank to a higher rank within the same category.

Tenure is a particular type of promotion that applies to faculty only.


Questions about this handbook should be directed to:

Dineen Doucette (for policies and procedures)
Manager of Finance and Human Resource Administration

Peggy Cain (for faculty appointment and promotion)
Assistant to the Dean