The University’s continued excellence depends on the quality of our faculty and that, in turn, depends on the thoroughness of searches and the rigor of processes of evaluation undertaken by departments and schools. We in the Provost’s Office are continually considering the criteria and processes for faculty appointments and promotions in light of the many and various cases we review each year. These guidelines apply to appointments to the University Faculties, that is, individuals who are or will be appointed under University Statute 11.1, which includes tenure-track faculty members.

Although we have no wish to establish an inflexible checklist of required items for every case, thorough documentation is essential. The better a case is made, the better it will do its job and the more expeditiously we can deal with it.
When cases are initiated in departments and/or sections, we encourage you to share these guidelines with department chairs and section chiefs. When a case arrives in the Provost’s Office, we read it in light of the general principles articulated below, drawn from the Shils Report. We read each case with care, and we evaluate the case’s argument and evidence in support of the action it recommends.
An appointment case constitutes a request to the Provost for authority to make (or renew) an offer of employment. Offers of employment can only be made after review and approval by the Provost. No offers should be tendered to prospective faculty before the Provost’s approval is received. Candidates who will be proposed for appointment should be informed that an offer can only be tendered after it has first been approved by the Provost, and they should not be given to believe that this is a mere formality.

1 General principles

Every appointment, reappointment, and promotion must be solidly grounded in actual accomplishment which, when coupled with evidence of future promise, gives rise to a strong likelihood that the candidate will bring continued and increasing distinction to the University over the entire course of the candidate’s academic career here.
That means that we hire as assistant professors only those for whom achieving tenure is judged to be eminently achievable.1 We re-appoint assistant professors to a second term only when there is a clearly discernible path linking what they have already accomplished to a body of work that by the end of the term will be recognized as fundamental and significant scholarship holding promise for sustained contributions of increasing distinction over at least the next ten years. We promote to associate professor with indefinite tenure only for such a body of work, coupled with evidence that scholarly contributions will continue, that there is an identifiable path leading to promotion to full professor, and that promotion within a reasonable period of time is likely.

2 Components of a case

2.1 Items to be obtained from the candidate
  • Current curriculum vitae. In order to document “fit” as defined above, candidates for reappointment or promotion should be urged to include a version of their CV that documents service to the University’s intellectual community.
  • Research and teaching statements. (These are particularly useful for junior appointments.)
  • Where the research is collaborative and the publications co-authored, an explanation of the respective roles of the various participants and of the specific contributions of the candidate is important.
  • The teaching statement should include a summary of teaching activities and an explication of teaching philosophy and goals.
  • A selection of writings (or other appropriate work). In addition to published work, this might include material in press, under review, or in preparation, if particularly relevant to the analysis of the case.
2.2 Letters from external referees
Letters are expected for new appointments without tenure, promotions to the rank of associate professor or professor, and lateral appointments. The Provost does not require letters from external referees to support promotion of an instructor to the rank of assistant professor, or for the reappointment of an assistant professor to a second term. If you choose to solicit them, we advise that you keep their number to a minimum, since the pool of qualified referees is limited. Letters in a tenure case that quote extensively from the referee’s earlier letter in a re-appointment case can seem to present a judgment formed at an earlier stage in the candidate’s career.
When there is a letter case submitted, we require:
  1. A list of all external scholars invited to submit evaluations of the candidate.
    1. This list should note who selected the external referees, why the particular referees were chosen and, if a referee declines, the reasons given for such refusal.
    2. In general, we recommend that mentors of the candidate not be solicited for recommendations beyond that of initial appointment. If such letters are included, the list should identify the candidate’s dissertation mentor and/or postdoctoral supervisor and explain why they were solicited.
    3. Co-authors may be solicited, particularly when they can help to clarify the particular contributions of a candidate to collaborative research.
    4. If the candidate requested named referees or requested that named referees not be solicited, include a copy of the correspondence or contemporary notes of the discussion, along with a description of the unit’s policies for dealing with such
    5. requests.
  2. A sample copy of the letter sent to external referees soliciting an evaluation of the candidate.
    1. The letter of solicitation should be clear about the proposed rank.
    2. There is no required language for inclusion in letters requesting references, but we do expect that specific questions be asked of referees. Some examples:
      • What is the candidate’s standing in the field(s) in which s/he works?
      • What particular contributions has the candidate made to the field(s) in which s/he works?
      • What are the most important publications in the candidate’s bibliography, and which ones constitute essential reading for others who work in the field?
      • Who, in the opinion of the referee, are the scholars doing the most important work in the field, and how, specifically, does the candidate compare with them?
      • In the cases of recent PhD’s, where letters are likely to come from dissertation supervisors or postdoctoral mentors, what is the candidate’s potential, and how does s/he compare with other students/postdocs the referee has advised?
  3. An indication of what materials were provided to referees.
2.3 Letters of support from internal referees
Letters from colleagues at the University are valuable when they are analytical, and provide evidence for the ways in which the candidate has made palpable contributions to the work of others. For new appointments, we would like to know about the prospects for such contributions.
2.4 Documentation for faculty deliberations
Reports. Every Faculty case should include a report of the internal ad-hoc or search committee on the candidate, if there is such a report.
Chair’s and Dean’s letters. Every Faculty case should include a memorandum from the department Chair or from the Dean of the School (reporting, among other things, on the faculty discussion and vote on the case).2 The letter should include a research précis written for the non-specialist that explains the major research contributions and their importance to the field. If the case is from a Division, letters are also required from the Dean of the Division, Dean of the College, and Master of the relevant Collegiate Division. These letters need not repeat information found elsewhere in the file. In particular, we ask that they not quote extensively from the letters of referees, all of which we will read. It is the Chair’s or Dean’s and Master’s own independent and candid judgment of the strengths and weaknesses of the case that is valuable to the Provost’s Office. These letters should be written while keeping in mind the criteria in the Shils Report. Appointments without tenure are offered to candidates who show promise for achieving tenure; tenure is awarded to candidates whose accomplishments demonstrate that the likelihood is high that even greater accomplishments will follow and warrant promotion to full professor in the foreseeable future. Every member of the Faculty of the University should have achieved or be on a path to achieve distinction in a field. A well-made case is one that presents evidence and arguments that the candidate is on that path. However, the nature and quantity of evidence available will change over time, as a career develops, and so these letters must be adapted to the career-stage of the candidate.
“Fit” and contributions to the University. The letters also should speak to the candidate’s “fit,” broadly understood—not simply in terms of filling gaps in the unit, but in terms of the intellectual life of the University as whole. Questions to be addressed (with specific examples) regarding candidates include:
For current faculty—
  • How have they enhanced the intellectual life of the University? (This topic has in the past been comprised within “service.”)
  • In what ways does their presence “multiply” the contributions of others?
  • Do they foster (or facilitate) otherwise unlikely collaborations?
  • Have they instigated new things?
  • Why is the broader University enhanced by their presence?
For new hires—
  • What are the prospects for the above?
  • Is there evidence to suggest it is likely, e.g., already seeing this at on-campus interviews?

3 Cases for all new appointments

All proposals for new Faculty appointments, at any rank, must contain (a) a draft proposed offer letter to the candidate and (b) information about the full set of resources that the proposed appointment will entail, if not already included in the offer letter. This includes all resources, including (but not limited to) salary and benefits, housing commitments, laboratory or other space commitments, administrative or other allowances, teaching reductions, guaranteed paid leaves, guaranteed summer salary, build-out, staff and students, research funds, travel funds, and start-up expenses.
3.1 Documentation of the search
For all new appointments, we require documentation of the search process. This documentation should describe how the candidate being proposed was selected, including comparative assessments of applicants. Refer to the “Academic Searching and Screening Policy.”

4 Cases for new appointments without tenure

The provisions in this section apply to new appointments at the rank of instructor (including Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholars) or assistant professor.
4.1 Letters from the Chair or Dean
We would like to know how you evaluate the prospects for the candidate in view of the candidate’s experience to date, and what reasonably foreseeable issues could arise that could diminish expected progress toward tenure during the appointment term. How does the department/School propose to assist the candidate to recognize these issues early in the term and deal with them effectively? Are there issues specific to the candidate that should be taken into account in effecting the department’s mentoring program?
These questions and their answers are particularly important for initial appointments as second-term assistant professor, as the remaining tenure clock is much compressed, aspects of the candidate’s trajectory may have been fashioned for a tenure system with different expectations from ours, and making the transition from one institution to another introduces additional distraction.
For Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholars, the Chair’s and Dean’s letters should identify the markers of progress that can reasonably be expected by the time for promotion to assistant professor.
Consideration of candidates who have trained at the University
When the candidate being proposed has completed either doctoral or postdoctoral training at the University of Chicago, the Chair’s and Dean’s letters must explicitly address the issues raised in the Shils Report concerning “inbreeding.” An account of the steps taken to compare critically the credentials of external candidates of the high quality to those of the selected candidate is essential. In addition, the Chair’s and Dean’s letters should discuss any evidence that the selected candidate exhibits scholarly or scientific independence from UChicago mentors, and the basis for the judgment—not just the judgment itself—that “the internal candidate is very clearly superior in estimated potentiality . . . to any of the external candidates” and that the candidate “is deemed likely to become an outstanding figure” in the candidate’s subject area.
4.2 Letters from outside referees
At the earliest stages of a career, although outside letters are of limited value, we expect them in all cases. These letters will typically be from advisors or mentors at the candidate’s graduate or postdoctoral institution. Three to four letters will usually suffice.
4.3 Evidence of teaching effectiveness
Evidence of effective teaching cannot reasonably be expected in all cases for early-career appointments. Chairs/Deans should request evaluations from the candidate’s institution, if at all possible. When there is evidence, it should be included and analyzed.
If students have participated in the selection of a new appointment, departments may wish to invite them to contribute letters stating their impressions.
When the candidate will be coming to us from a non-US system, the “Letter to the Provost” and Draft offer letter should set out what the department or school will do before the new assistant professor begins to teach, so that he or she can get off to a good start.
4.4 Draft offer letter
For instructors and assistant professors, the draft offer letter must set forth the career development plan in the unit. Career development resources must be committed as part of every offer to an assistant professor.

5 Cases for promotion from instructor to assistant professor

The provisions in this section apply to promotion from the rank of instructor (including Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholars) to assistant professor.
5.1 Letters from the Chair or Dean
How has the candidate moved beyond the original dissertation research? Would the candidate’s scholarship to date place him or her at the top rank of candidates were a new appointment at assistant professor being considered? What is in the research pipeline? Is there evidence that the candidate’s initial promise is being realized?
Each unit must describe the activities undertaken by its senior faculty to carry out the unit’s commitment to advise the candidate about career development.3 If issues have arisen concerning mentoring or scholarly development, the case should describe the mid-course corrections that will be undertaken during the first term as assistant professor.
5.2 Letters from referees
Letters from outside referees are not required, and are unlikely to be helpful, in view of the short time from appointment to consideration for promotion. Letters from colleagues at the University who can speak to specific aspects of the candidate’s scholarship, teaching, or contributions to the intellectual environment at the University, may be helpful (but are not required).
5.3 Evidence of teaching effectiveness
Although a candidate's teaching may have been limited during the term as instructor (especially for Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholars), we wish to understand both the extent and quality of the candidate’s teaching. The case should include a list of the courses that the candidate has taught since coming to the University. If teaching evaluations are available (such as formal student feedback, faculty observation, student letters), they should be submitted.
5.4 Draft “Letter to the candidate”
We have provided templates for a letter that gives the candidate realistic and unambiguous feedback about where the candidate is on the path to tenure, including what has been accomplished and what a successful case will have to look like.
We require that this letter describe the past and future activities undertaken by the unit’s senior faculty to carry out the unit’s commitment to advise the candidate about career development.

6 Cases for reappointment as assistant professor

The provisions in this section apply to re-appointment of assistant professors to a second term.
6.1 Letters from the Chair or Dean
How has the candidate moved beyond the original dissertation research? What significant new scholarly contributions has the candidate made since the last appointment review? What is in the pipeline? Critically, since promotion to associate professor will depend heavily on the extent to which the candidate’s scholarship is changing their field in the judgment of experts, will enough work have been published for experts to gauge the candidate’s impact on the field?
Each unit also should describe the activities undertaken by its senior faculty to carry out the unit’s commitment to advise the candidate about career development.4
  • When a reappointment case is not strong we will continue to ask for an intervention plan.
  • This plan should now include reference to modifying or intensifying the existing career development resources when it is reasonable to believe that there may be a path to tenure for the candidate.
6.2 Letters from referees
Letters from external referees are optional for reappointment of assistant professors to a second term. If the appointive unit judges that external letters would be helpful to them in making their assessment, they are encouraged to solicit them. If letters are obtained, they should be included in the case sent to the Dean and Provost, and the departmental deliberations should address their content. Letters from colleagues at the University, whether or not in the same unit as the candidate, may also be submitted when they can help to clarify aspects of the case.
Cases for reappointment without external letters are not viewed as deficient. Units might also be mindful of the necessity at the next stage of the possibility of asking the same reviewers for letters.
6.3 Evidence of teaching effectiveness
We wish to understand both the extent and the quality of the candidate’s teaching. Useful information includes:
  • A complete list of the courses taught in the previous three years. For clinical faculty the list would instead focus on major clinical training responsibilities.
  • Internal letters from graduate (or sometimes undergraduate) students, discussing the candidate as a teacher/mentor. If students have participated in the selection of a new appointment, departments may wish to invite them to contribute letters stating their impressions.
  • Copies, or complete summaries, of all the candidate’s undergraduate and graduate teaching evaluations in the last three years, accompanied by an explanation for those courses for which we have no such evaluations. We recognize that types of evidence about teaching varies across the University.
6.4 Draft “letter to the candidate”
We have provided templates for a letter that gives the candidate realistic and unambiguous feedback about where the candidate is on the path to tenure, including what has been accomplished and what a successful case will have to look like.
We require that this letter describe the past and future activities undertaken by the unit’s senior faculty to carry out the unit’s commitment to advise the candidate about career development. When a reappointment case is not strong we will continue to ask for an intervention plan. This plan should now include reference to modifying or intensifying the existing career development resources and explain why it is reasonable to believe that there may be a path to tenure for the candidate, and the draft letter to the candidate should contain a description of these additional steps.

7 Cases for appointment or promotion to associate professor with tenure

The provisions in this section pertain to promotion to the rank of associate professor with tenure, as well as new appointments at that rank.
7.1 Letters from the Chair or Dean
What is the trajectory of the candidate’s research program, what is the likelihood of promotion to professor within 5-10 years, and on what will the promotion likely be based? In accord with the criteria of the Shils Report, the letter should describe and evaluate the candidate’s research, teaching, and contributions to the intellectual community both within the University and at large. We recognize that a faculty committee may have written an extensive report to the tenured member of the department or school; however, the dean’s analysis is critical. In particular, if the department does not provide it, the Provost must rely on the dean to provide an analysis that does not presuppose a specialist’s knowledge of the field and an explanation of why the senior faculty deem the candidate’s research to be fundamental and significant.
7.2 Letters from external referees
A practice recommended by the Shils Committee that the Provost endorses is to request that external assessors indicate whether they would support the appointment of the candidate at their own institutions to the same rank for which the candidate is being considered at the University of Chicago. The Provost recognizes that tenure criteria and practices differ across institutions, and we take those differences into account in interpreting referees’ letters. Should the context for a referee’s assessment not be apparent, the Chair or Dean is welcome to clarify the context in the section of their letters analyzing the letter case.
The purpose of external letters is to gauge the assessment of the field concerning the “originality, rigor, and fundamental significance” of the candidate’s work and the extent to which the top scholars in the candidate’s discipline judge that the candidate “is or will become a leading figure” in the field. Although letter writers may support the proposed appointment, the referees do not have a vote and we are not interested in their endorsement of the candidate; we are concerned exclusively with their critical assessment of the scholarship. The Chair’s and Dean’s letters should seriously engage any issues raised by the external reviewers in their analysis of the letter case.
7.3 Evidence of teaching effectiveness
We wish to understand both the extent and the quality of the candidate’s teaching. In addition to the items listed in section 6.3 above, we wish to have a list of all undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral trainees. Please ensure that the candidate has provided this information on the CV submitted with the dossier.

8 Cases proposing promotion to associate professor for a term

The provisions of this section apply to those rare cases in which an assistant professor is being proposed for promotion to associate professor for a specified term, i.e., without indefinite tenure, in units of the University where such appointments are not the norm.5 The Statutes of the University recognize that such promotions are exceptions to our usual practice. Consequently, the case made for such a proposal must clearly define the circumstances that make the case exceptional—the circumstances particular to the case at hand that are unlikely to recur and that warrant the exceptional action.
In addition to the considerations described in Section 7, above, the Chair’s and Dean’s letters should delineate the reasons why tenure is not considered appropriate at this time, the specific elements of the tenure case that are absent, a description of any special circumstances that account for their absence, and the evidence that supports the unit’s judgment that the missing elements will be present before the end of the term and that they will be of sufficient quality and importance to fully justify an award of tenure at the end of the term.
The proposed term as untenured associate professor should be sufficient to ensure that the elements needed to support the award of tenure will be present, for the unit to adjudicate the resulting dossier, and if warranted, to submit a recommendation for tenure to the Provost. The candidate will be considered an up-or-out case at the end of the term. A proposal for tenure must be submitted no later than the ordinary December 15 schedule (or equivalent) in the associate professor term, although units may wish to initiate the action earlier, either because the tenure case is fully developed or to permit more advantageous entry into the job market should a negative decision be reached.
The draft letter to the candidate is particularly important in such cases, making clear what the unit expects to see from the candidate in the new appointment term and how the unit will help to ensure that those expectations are met, while making it equally clear that meeting those expectations alone will not necessarily result in a favorable tenure decision. Instead, that decision will be based on the faculty’s judgment, aided by external assessments, of the originality, rigor, and fundamental importance of the complete body of the candidate’s work, including those aspects added during the untenured associate professor term.

9 Cases proposing appointment or promotion to professor

The provisions of this section apply to new appointments or promotions at the rank of professor. The same considerations that apply to appointments as tenured associate professors (Section 7) apply to professorial appointments, except that the latter appointments are based on actual accomplishment to date rather than promise of such, together with the likelihood that scholarly accomplishment of the highest order will continue. This section outlines additional considerations.
An appointment of professor is appropriate for those whose work has been influential and who are widely recognized as leading figures in their fields. This entails a record of continued scholarly contributions since promotion to associate professor, as well as evidence that the candidate will continue to lead their field for the foreseeable future.
The advice from the Shils Committee concerning promotion is salient: “Promotion to the rank of professor from associate professorship should not be automatic either on the basis of seniority or after the lapse of a specified period of time. Promotion to professorship within the University should be made on the basis of the same procedures as appointments to full professorship from outside the University.”
9.1 Letters from the Chair or Dean
As in all cases, we wish to see documentation of the unit’s deliberation. We expect deliberations at a minimum to address the following questions:
  • What has happened since promotion to tenured associate professor that justifies the promotion?
  • What are the indicators that the candidate has achieved distinction in the field?
  • What is the evidence that points to continued sustained impact in the field going forward?
These questions should be addressed for lateral appointments as well for internal promotions. They are particularly important to discuss when the appointee is at the rank of associate professor at his or her current institution.
9.2 Letters from outside referees at the rank of professor
Letters should be solicited from those who are at peer institutions and are recognized as being among the most distinguished people in the field.
9.3 Evidence of teaching and mentoring both students and junior faculty
We wish to know about the candidate’s contributions both to training students and postdocs, and to mentoring junior faculty.

10 Special situations

10.1 Early promotion to tenure or to full professor
We recognize that the pressure to promote early can be strong, owing to circumstances such as unusually prestigious recognition that the candidate may have received, outside offers, etc. It is important to note that a proposal to award tenure to a candidate will be considered only once; an unsuccessful early case will result in the candidate leaving the institution at the end of their current appointment term; no further case for promotion can be entertained. Although we certainly stand willing to consider exceptional cases, our strong presumption is generally against early action, without unambiguous evidence and justification. All such recommendations should be preceded by consultation with the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs.
10.2 Periods of reduced effort
If an untenured candidate for reappointment or promotion has had a “stop-the-clock,” please discuss whether and how you have taken that into account.
10.3 Candidates with entrepreneurial activity
The Shils Report is silent on how or whether a faculty member’s entrepreneurial activities and their fruits, such as patentable inventions or software applications, might inform the Shils criteria of distinction in research, teaching and training, contributions to the intellectual community, and service. While synergy between entrepreneurial activity and the Shils criteria is possible, it is not automatic. Nonetheless, entrepreneurial activity that advances, enables, or accelerates research and dissemination of that research is consonant with the Shils criteria. Inventions, patents, and commercialization that are central to a promotion candidate’s most significant work are considered positively in the review process to the extent that the results of those activities contribute to the distinction and importance of the faculty member’s body of work. It is incumbent on the Chair and Dean to make clear in their letters how such activities contribute to the candidate’s case.
10.4 Appointment offers to faculty members at other institutions
The University observes the Association of American Universities (AAU) policy, which stipulates that offers for fall appointments to individuals currently on the faculty at other institutions must be made by 1 May so that they may resign from their present institutions by 15 May. To meet this deadline, proposals for such appointments should be received in the Provost’s Office by 7 April of each year.

11 Timing of the case

Cases are reviewed carefully in the Provost’s Office and this vetting takes time. Normally, a review can be completed within about two weeks. If faster action is necessary, please let Steve Gabel (2-0790) know well in advance; please also flag the case as requiring immediate review.
The Provost’s Office does not ordinarily begin the review of the case until all required materials have been received. For appointments in the Divisions, those materials typically include the review and recommendation of the Dean of the College and the corresponding Collegiate Master. During some times of year, especially between November 1 and December 15, over Winter break, and during the Summer Quarter, caseloads and vacations may cause the review time to extend beyond two weeks.

12 Revision History

  • 8 August 2016.
    • Initial version.
  • 13 October 2016.
    • Minor corrections and clarifications.
  • 9 November 2016.
    • Correct typographical errors.
  • 24 January 2017.
    • The nontechnical research précis should be part of the Department and/or Dean’s letter.
    • The earlier version had this as material to be obtained from the candidate.
  • 18 April 2018.
    • Clarified that junior appointments explicitly understood to be terminal are permitted, in which case, the likelihood of ultimately achieving tenure here is not an appointment criterion.
    • Clarified that external letters are not required for promotion from Instructor to Assistant Professor.
    • Removed the requirement that detailed budget information be supplied with the case.
    • Content re-ordered to reflect typical chronological steps taken to prepare a case.
    • Guidance related to Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholars has been added.
    • Separate sections added for materials needed that are applicable to specific situations.
    • Added section to address “inbreeding” in junior hires.
    • Added information concerning the role of entrepreneurial activity in appointment decisions.
    • Made capitalization consistent throughout.
  • 27 April 2018.
    • Clarified that cases for reappointment without external letters are not deficient.
  • 2 May 2018.
    • Clarified that faculty voting method should also be reported.
  • 2 February 2019.
    • Typos corrected
  • 22 February 2019.
    • Added “laboratory or other space commitments” to section 3. 
  • 23 October 2019
    • Updated reference in section 3.1 to refer to "Academic Searching and Screening Policy."

1. The Shils Report does note that “In some departments is should be possible as a matter of general practice to offer junior appointments with the explicit understanding that the appointment is strictly a terminal appointment and that most or all of those so appointed will leave the University at the end of that term.” Even though such appointments are not expected to eventuate in tenure at the University of Chicago, the appointment cases will be held to the same standard of scholarship, and must incorporate a mentoring plan with the candidate’s ultimate scholarly trajectory in view.

2.We require that the vote be reported numerically as for, opposed, abstaining, and total number of members of the unit’s faculty who are eligible to vote. That includes members who are on leave, and those not present. The method of the vote (secret ballot at the meeting or post-meeting, email, show of hands, etc.) should also be reported.

3.We have provided information describing a number of mentoring best practices; no unit is required to adopt a particular plan, but every unit is expected to have a plan that suits its needs and culture.

4. We have provided information describing a number of mentoring best practices; no unit is required to adopt a particular plan, but every unit is expected to have a plan that suits its needs and culture.

5. Some units of the University such as the Booth School of Business, the School of Law, and the Department of Economics, have developed tenure-clock and promotion practices that fall within the Statutes but that deviate from the familiar two terms as assistant professor followed by an up-or-out decision. Those policies, which are applied uniformly to all appointees in those units, have been reviewed and approved by the Provost.