Faculty Appointment and Promotion Process

This chapter broadly describes faculty appointment and promotion processes. Details of these processes are provided in the appendices.

Process Fundamentals

Stages

The appointment process begins with the approval of the dean to fill an open tenure-track faculty position. The first stage of the process requires a search for the best qualified candidate for appointment. Once a candidate has been selected through the search process, that candidate’s qualifications must be reviewed and approved. Only after the review stage has been completed and the candidate has received all appropriate approvals may the appointment be made.

Promotions, including tenure, are procedurally equivalent to hiring from the outside, except that the search stage is not applicable. Only the review stage is required.

Cases

The case is the set of documentation gathered to support an appointment or a promotion for a particular candidate. The purpose of the case is to present an appraisal of the candidate in relation to teaching, research, and service, including leadership in the programmatic development of the department. A standardized case structure has been developed to ensure a consistent review standard for all candidates, see Appendix D: Case Preparation. The exact content and format of a particular case will vary Case Preparation). The exact content and format of a particular case will vary depending on the action required and the rank of the candidate. Cases take a minimum of three months to prepare.

Faculty are advised to keep yearly records of their teaching, advising, research, service, and professional activities for future use in the documentation of their promotion or tenure cases.

Leadership Responsibilities

Department heads, School Council plus, School Council, Faculty Diversity Committee, assigned committee members and the dean have overall responsibility of our appointment and promotion processes.

Department Heads. The responsibilities of the department head include:

  • appointing members of search and review committees;
  • normally, seeking the advice and approval of the relevant group of department faculty members (faculty at least at the level of the proposed appointment or promotion who review the case prepared by search or review committee);
  • deciding whether to proceed to School Council with a case;
  • presenting an endorsed case to School Council;
  • communicating to a candidate the decisions made (approvals or denials) by the different governance groups (department faculty, School Council, Academic Council, Executive Committee) that review the candidate’s case.

School Council Plus. The School Council Plus is the advisory body of the SA+P. The members of this group are the dean, associate dean(s), department head of Architecture, department head of Urban Studies and Planning, academic head of Media Arts and Sciences, director of the Media Laboratory, director of the Center for Real Estate, director of the Program in Art, Culture and Technology, the chair(s) of the Faculty Diversity Committee, director of the Design Initiative, the assistant deans, and the director of communications.

The School Council plus is responsible for:

  • reviewing strategic planning within the SA+P;
  • providing advice to the dean concerning initiatives across the School and Institute.

School Council (Academic Subgroup of School Council Plus). The Academic Subgroup of the School Council is the voting body of the SA+P. The members of this group are the dean, associate dean(s), department head of Architecture, department head of Urban Studies and Planning, academic head of Media Arts and Sciences, director of the Media Laboratory, director of the Center for Real Estate, director of the Program in Art, Culture and Technology, and the chair(s) of the Faculty Diversity Committee.

The School Council (Academic Subgroup of School Council Plus) is responsible for:

  • reviewing appointment, promotion, and tenure recommendations made by each department;
  • providing formal advice by vote to the dean concerning submission of the case to Academic Council.

Faculty Diversity Committee. The Faculty Diversity Committee, chaired by a faculty member appointed by the dean, oversees the implementation of Institute and SA+P affirmative action policies. In particular, it is responsible for:

  • approving faculty search plans, interim search reports and final search reports before they are sent on to the dean;
  • meeting with faculty search committees to assist them with their diversity goals;
  • assisting the dean in periodic reviews of the SA+P’s status in achieving broadly-defined diversity.

Dean. The responsibilities of the dean include:

  • periodically reviewing, with assistance from the Faculty Diversity Committee, whether the SA+P is achieving its diversity goals;
  • periodically assessing the means available to achieve diversity and ensuring that those means allow the exercise of academic judgment, and preserve the quality and character of the SA+P;
  • overseeing the entire faculty appointment and promotion process and ensuring its integrity;
  • presenting cases to Academic Council, for those appointments and promotions that require Academic Council approval;
  • communicating decisions of Academic Council, following Executive Committee approval, to the department heads;
  • at the conclusion of a review the dean may provide feedback to a candidate summarizing the salient aspects of her/his case and any significant recommendations made by the review bodies.

Process Stages

Search

Appointments require a search in which a candidate is identified in accordance with the SA+P affirmative action policies, see Appendix J: SA+P Affirmative Action Policies. Search committees are appointed to conduct searches and recommend candidates for hire; see Searches.

Review

Appointments, promotions, and tenure require a formal review; that is, an evaluation of the candidate’s qualifications against the standards for the new position. For an appointment, the search committee itself conducts the review as part of its selection process. For all other appointment actions, a separate review committee is appointed; see Reviews.

Searches

The purpose of the search is to identify a diverse pool of candidates for an open position within a department or program, and from that group to select a single candidate for appointment.

The SA+P considers the composition of its entire faculty, as well as the faculty within a particular department or program, when filling a faculty position. In seeking to assemble a faculty that, as a whole, realizes MIT’s mission, the SA+P exercises its best academic judgment in evaluating each candidate’s attributes, including diversity attributes, for a match to the needs of the SA+P and the department or program.

When exceptional circumstances or needs (including but not limited to diversity needs) of a department, program, the SA+P, or MIT warrant it, the dean and provost may approve a waiver of search for an open position; see Appendix J: SA+P Affirmative Action Policies, Dean’s Approval and Waivers. Search waivers apply to individuals who can make special or unique contributions that support the educational mission of the SA+P and the Institute. All faculty hired by MIT are subject to the same standards of intellectual, research, and teaching excellence.

When warranted by exceptional circumstances or needs of a department or program, the SA+P, or MIT, and when there is no appropriate open position, an outstanding woman or minority candidate (or a candidate who brings other particularly special contributions) may be appointed without a search to a particular faculty position created especially for her or him. The existence of these circumstances or needs may change over time. This requires the approval of the dean and provost.

Launching a Search

In order to launch a search, the dean must approve the need to fill an open position.

A search committee is appointed by the department head. The committee’s members may be departmental faculty, faculty from other MIT departments, and sometimes senior academic instructional or senior research staff. The search committee is responsible for finding and recommending a candidate to fill the open position.

The search committee defines the position description (in consultation with the department head), advertises the position, and evaluates the pool of candidates to select a single nominee.

It is the committee’s responsibility to see that its efforts comply with MIT and the SA+P affirmative action policies and related serious search policies aimed at increasing faculty diversity. See Appendix J: SA+P Affirmative Action Policies.

In particular, the SA+P policy requires that search committees submit a Search Plan, an Interim Search Report, and a Final Search Report.

Search Plan (submitted at the beginning of the search). The Search Plan describes the committee’s plan to recruit candidates for the position and special outreach efforts to recruit women and minorities. The Faculty Diversity Committee, the department head, and then the dean must review and approve the search plan prior to the official advertisement of the position.

Interim Search Report (submitted prior to bringing candidates in for an interview). The Interim Search Report is prepared when the committee has developed a short-list of candidates and prior to interviewing the candidates. The Faculty Diversity Committee, the department head, and then the dean, respectively, must review and approve the Interim Search Report prior to interviewing the candidates.

Final Search Report (submitted at the conclusion of the search). The Final Search Report is prepared after the top candidate is selected. This report summarizes the results of the committee’s recruitment efforts. The department head, the Faculty Diversity Committee, and then the dean, must review and approve the Final Search Report.

Appointment Case for the Candidate

After the search is completed and a candidate is selected, the committee’s work enters the formal review stage. In this stage, the search committee assumes responsibilities comparable to those of a review committee. In particular, the search committee must prepare the case for its candidate and guide the case through the Review Stage below.

Before the committee begins preparation of the case, however, the department head must notify the candidate of her/his selection, and the candidate must affirm her/his interest in the appointment.

Typically, at this point, much of the case material has already been gathered. The major work remaining is for the candidate to convert their CV to MIT’s electronic Professional Record format, and for the committee to collect any additional referee letters that are needed, and to prepare their letter to the department head.

Reviews

Review Committee

Review committees are appointed by the department head as follows: for appointment cases, the review committee is normally the same as the search committee; for tenure and promotion cases, the committee consists of a minimum of three faculty members at least at the rank of the proposed promotion. The review committee evaluates the candidate’s qualifications and makes a formal recommendation for appointment or promotion to the department head.

Review Cycles

Appointment cases. Can be reviewed at any time of the year. The schedule for consideration for particular appointment cases should be established by the departments in consultation with the dean.

Promotion and tenure cases. Are reviewed on a seasonal cycle. Promotion cases are reviewed in the fall, and tenure cases in the spring. Approved promotion or tenure cases are effective beginning on the first day of the subsequent academic year (July 1).

Promotion cases. At the beginning of each academic year, the dean requests from department heads the names of faculty members who are being considered for promotion and notifies department heads a term in advance of the date of the School Council meeting at which the cases will be discussed.

The promotion review cycle consists of reviews by:

  • Department faculty and department head (mid-September to early November)
  • Academic Subgroup of School Council (mid-September to mid-November)
  • Academic Appointments Subgroup of the Academic Council (December to mid-January)
  • Executive Committee of the Corporation (February)

Tenure cases. During the month of September, the dean requests from department heads the names of faculty members who are being considered for tenure and notifies the department heads early in November of the School Council dates at which the cases will be presented.

The tenure review cycle consists of reviews by:

  • Department faculty and department head (February to early March)
  • Academic Subgroup of School Council (mid-February to early March)
  • Academic Appointments Subgroup of Academic Council (mid-March to mid-April)
  • Executive Committee of the Corporation (May or early June)

Review Stage

In the review stage, the recommendation of the review committee is considered first by the department head and departmental faculty, typically tenured faculty at or above the rank being considered for the candidate. If the recommendation is endorsed at the departmental level, it is then presented to other governance groups in turn, which include voting members of School Council and, depending on the type of action, Academic Council and the Executive Committee of the Corporation; see Appendix B: Faculty Appointment and Promotion Flowchart.

The steps in a typical review process are outlined below. The timeframes that will allow for adequate preparation of a case are indicated as well.

The documentation needed for appointments, promotions, and tenure is essentially the same. Specifics of case format and content are described in detail in the appendices.

ABOUT SCHEDULES

Cases must be prepared and presented in a timely manner. Letters of evaluation must be solicited well in advance of scheduled reviews.

Compression of the schedule is unfair both to the candidate and to the different reviewing bodies.

Review Steps (Time periods indicated below are estimated targets.)

1. Appointment of Review Committee by Department Head
Promotion: May to June
Tenure: August to September

2. Solicitation of Reviewer Letters
allow at least four to six weeks
The review committee should solicit letters from reviewers who are the most significant scholars and practitioners in the candidate’s field. To ensure an objective review, reviewers should not be contacted prior to the official letter request. The reviewers are selected by the search or review committees (roughly fifty percent by the candidate and fifty percent by the committee, selections remaining confidential), in consultation with the department head with final approval from the dean. Letters for promotion and tenure cases are signed by the department head. Letters for appointment cases are signed by the chair of the search committee. Careful selection of letter writers is essential. See Appendix D: Case Content and Format, Part 9, sample letters to reviewers for specifics about the purpose and content of reviewer letters. See Appendix H: Letter Chart for the number and type of reviewer letters required for appointments and promotions at different faculty ranks.
Teaching evaluations. The review committee should solicit letters from students for all internal promotion and tenure cases. For external appointment cases, the review committee needs to obtain the best evidence it can about teaching effectiveness, for example, through reviewer letters.
Sample letters. See Appendix G: Sample Letters to Reviewers/Information Regarding Confidentiality. Include the entire statement on confidentiality as part of the letter.
Materials supplied to referees. Reviewers are normally given a short time to review material and return their evaluations, so the amount of materials sent out for review should be given careful consideration. The material provided to the reviewers should include the candidate’s CV in MIT format (known as the electronic Professional Record (ePR)), professional statement, and a selective—rather than an exhaustive—set of her/his most relevant work.

3. Committee prepares the case
allow one month
The committee prepares the case to be submitted to the department head. The key parts of the case, at this stage, are the reviewer letters and the committee’s letter of recommendation. The committee letter becomes a pivotal part of the case and should summarize and interpret the candidate’s research, teaching, and service qualifications as well as the content of the reviewer letters. Quotes from reviewer letters should bolster the committee’s appraisal, but not substitute for it. Comments such as “the case is a no-brainer,” with or without corresponding evidence, should be avoided. For advice on preparing cases see Appendix D: Case Preparation which includes a description of the essential parts of the case as well as a subsection on Preparing Successful Promotion and Tenure Cases. Under revision 2021.

4. Case presented to department head and department faculty
Promotion: mid-September to early November
Tenure: February

The department head calls a meeting of the appropriate departmental faculty—faculty of the same or higher rank as the candidate’s proposed appointment or promotion—to discuss the case. A department’s practice for determining faculty approval of a case may be either by vote or by consensus. Junior faculty may be included in the discussion of appointment cases for faculty at the same or lower rank, but may be excused from the final voting or consensus stage of a meeting. Only faculty present at a review meeting can vote or participate in consensus on a case.

5. Case edits
The department faculty may request revisions to the letter of recommendation prepared by the committee that will strengthen or clarify the case. The department head then decides whether to carry the case forward to School Council. If the department head decides to proceed, then the review committee makes any requested revisions to their letter, and the department head prepares her/his letter of recommendation to the dean. The department head letter becomes part of the case. See Appendix D: Case Content and Format, Part 3, Letter of Recommendation from Department Head to Dean.

6. Case presented to the voting members of School Council by
department head
Promotion: mid-September to late-November
Tenure: mid-February to beginning March

The voting members of School Council reviews all promotion and appointment cases forwarded by each department. It recommends approvals or denials of cases by vote to the dean. All cases must be submitted to the School Council promotion and tenure website (http://pandt.mit.edu/) one week prior to the scheduled meeting of School Council.

Cases that need subsequent approval by Academic Council must be submitted in the format described in Appendix D: Case Preparation since the short time between the School Council meeting and the Academic Council meeting does not allow for extensive format changes. A sampling of the candidate’s publications and/or portfolio material should also be made available for review by School Council. Any changes recommended by School Council should reflect content changes that will strengthen or clarify the case.

7. Preparing the case for review by the Academic Subgroup of
Academic Council
If the voting members of School Council approves a case that requires subsequent approval by Academic Council, the following steps are necessary:

• Any changes in the case suggested by the voting members of School Council should be made;
• Student letters included in the case are now removed. The Teaching Evaluation Summary Statement prepared whenever the candidate is an internal candidate remains along with the Teaching Evaluation Summary Chart. For external candidates the Teaching Evaluation Summary is omitted but evidence of the candidate’s teaching ability should be discussed in the Letter of Recommendation from the Department Review Committee. The summary statement should briefly describe the methodology used by the committee; in particular, the number of student letters that were solicited and obtained, the sampling strategy that was used in selecting students to write, the return rate, the coverage of teaching activities that the sample provided, and so on. It should also discuss course evaluations and any other evidence of teaching effectiveness if not discussed in the review committee’s letter. A copy of the letter of solicitation should also be included;
• The dean may ask for the portfolio, slides, videos or other relevant samples of work to be added to the case as supporting materials;
• The case must be formatted and distributed as specified in Appendix D: Case Preparation;
• Cases that move forward to Academic Council must be posted approximately 3-4 weeks in advance of the Academic Council’s scheduled review date. The actual date is determined by the Faculty Governance Administrator at the beginning of each semester. If an out of sequence date is obtained, the case is to be posted one week prior to the presentation date at Academic Council.

8. Academic Subgroup of Academic Council review (including
feedback)
Promotion: early-mid January
Tenure: mid-March to late-April
The case is presented formally by the dean to the Academic Appointment Subgroup of Academic Council. The case must be posted on the appropriate website for all members of this subgroup by the date assigned by the Faculty Governance Administrator—typically three to four weeks prior to the scheduled meeting. Following the review of all the Institute’s promotion and tenure cases by the Academic Appointments Subgroup, the dean will communicate to the department heads the results of the review. The dean or department heads may informally notify candidates of the results. However, cases are not final until approved by the Executive Committee of the Corporation and may not be announced publicly until that time.

9. Executive Committee of the Corporation review
Promotion: February
Tenure: May or June

All cases approved by Academic Council must then be formally endorsed by the Executive Committee of the Corporation.