The Right Track: Tenure Process, Prof. Titles Explained

By Emma Way
Elm Staff Writer

Receiving tenure at Washington College takes immense commitment and hard work from the prospective tenure-track professor. Their qualifications must exceed average with exceptional teaching experience and the drive to constantly contribute to their academic fields of interest.

Provost and Dean Emily Chamlee-Wright said, “Faculty are expected to contribute to the life of the College through service on committees, supporting student life beyond the formal academic program, and other activities that are vital to strong Washington College community” in order to be eligible for tenure.

The Advisory Committee on Tenure and Promotion evaluates faculty members every year. These reviews allow faculty to gain valuable feedback through letters from co-workers and one-on-one conferences. This reviewing process gives third year professors the opportunity to apply for tenure.

“As part of the third year and tenure reviews, the Tenure and Promotion Committee reviews teaching-related materials, such as syllabi and course assignments,” said Chamlee-Wright.

The Committee takes everything from letters from former students and references from tenured colleagues into consideration when deciding which faculty members to grant tenure. President Mitchell Reiss, who serves on the Committee, speaks of how the committee takes every aspect of involvement into consideration, especially a professor’s teaching abilities and commitment to service.

“Different institutions evaluate the faculty according to different criteria. Some put more emphasis on publishing; usually those are the research universities. Some put more emphasis on teaching; those are the liberal arts colleges, like us. There’s also an emphasis on service, serving on academic committees for example,” said Reiss.

The expectations for receiving tenure have been occasionally hard to put a finger on, but according to Chamlee-Wright, “The Tenure and Promotion Committee has been working on developing materials that will make the review process and expectations for tenure clearer.”
Presently these developments are under evaluation by the Faculty Council.

At WC, trust is made very important through documents like the Honor Code. This trust is carried over to the tenured professors. Although professors, once tenured, receive greater levels of freedom and job security, the College trusts them to continue to teach at high standards and progress as scholars.

“Mutual accountability among the faculty is a core principle of co-governance,” said Chamlee-Wright.

Shared high expectations of all faculty members and tenured professors is a key factor in ensuring that all professors work to their full potential in order to make every student’s educational experience the most rewarding possible.

Another way WC regulates tenured professors is by using an additional rigorous application process for professors to go from assistant to associate. Dr. Sean Meehan, an associate professor of English, speaks of the tenure process as something that is very gratifying, akin to publishing a book.

“The gratification in both cases is that respected colleagues in my field of work communicated their respect and admiration for the substantial work I had done to get to that point,” he said.

With such a rigorous process of gaining tenure and then the level of Associate Professor, it is clear how hard professors, like Meehan, have worked to get to that point.

“I was additionally gratified [with the tenure process] since students have a voice in the review process,” said Meehan.

Becoming a tenure professor is not for everyone. “Faculty come in two flavors: tenure track and non-tenure track. There’s a third category, which is adjunct professors,” said President Mitchell Reiss.

In order to be granted tenure a professor must have the initiative to work hard toward the goal. The tenure process at WC, although strenuous and demanding, is ultimately an immensely gratifying process. Professors value the school’s reviewing procedures in order to improve their teaching. Here, professors strive to create the most positive academic experience possible and always work toward building the best learning atmosphere.

Professors who are granted tenure and eventually the title of associate professor positively represent WC. They earn the trust of the institution and students by creating functional and educational courses. This constant encouragement and trust in turn creates the flourishing education system that is WC.

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