Trustees hear report on faculty promotion and tenure process, shared governance

September 17, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The processes the University has in place for faculty promotion and tenure decisions, as well as shared governance, were the subject of a report by Blannie E. Bowen, vice provost for Academic Affairs, to the Board of Trustees Committee on Academic Affairs today (Sept. 17).

“Faculty are at the core of our students’ educational experience, as well as being a driving force behind groundbreaking research and outreach that have an impact in and outside the classroom,” Bowen said. “The multi-tiered review process in place for making decisions about tenure and promotion ensures fairness, allows the departments and colleges to recognize both new and tenured faculty for their achievements in an equitable way and lets Penn State see that its mission in higher education is being served.”

As of fall 2014, the University faculty had 6,304 full-time members, including 1,327 professors, 1,260 associate professors, 1,284 assistant professors, 775 instructors and another 1,658 faculty, which includes librarians. In addition, there are approximately 2,800 part-time faculty members.

The University’s policy on promotion and tenure (, addresses the processes and timelines for reviews, as well as special circumstances such as an early tenure review.

The process for making decisions about tenure and promotion includes three stages of review by committees from: the departments, which are most familiar with candidates’ disciplines, guidelines and expectations; the colleges, which can evaluate the candidates to make sure their work is in keeping with the college’s standards; and the University-level, which ensures excellence across Penn State’s campuses and colleges. The department-level reviews include looking at each faculty member’s contributions to teaching, research and service.

In 2014-15, there were 88 sixth-year tenure reviews, of which 79 resulted in tenure. Overall, between 1990 and 2007, 58 percent of Penn State faculty earned tenure after seven years, which is in keeping with the University’s peers in the Association of American Universities. (link: Bowen noted that 58 percent receiving tenure does not mean the remaining 42 percent were denied. In many cases, faculty may be pursuing other goals and leaving the tenure track.

Bowen also discussed Penn State’s shared governance, which allows the Faculty Senate to serve an advisory role when it comes to human resources-related policies that have an impact on faculty, such as those on promotion and tenure, granting emeritus status and sabbaticals.

“This consultative role is one of the ways the faculty and administration at Penn State enjoy a collegial relationship,” Bowen said. “Taken together, we believe the review processes we have in place, including the representative committees at the department, college and University level provide an effective way for ensuring the promotion and recognition of excellence among our faculty.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 17, 2015