Tenure review is an evaluation process conducted to determine whether or not an academic should be granted tenure. Tenure is an employment status that limits the circumstances under which someone can be dismissed. Once a faculty member is offered tenure, it is very difficult to remove that faculty member from a teaching position. There are a number of reasons why colleges and universities use a tenure system. One of the most important is the desire to protect academic freedom by ensuring that faculty members cannot be dismissed for holding controversial or unpopular opinions.
When someone is hired to join the faculty of a college or university, the new hire may be put in a tenure track position, meaning that he or she can become eligible for tenure. The faculty member moves through a series of steps with periodic promotions based on performance and eventually a tenure review is conducted. The timing of such reviews varies depending on policies at the institution.
In a tenure review, a number of facets of performance are considered. Evaluations from students and other faculty are weighed along with the faculty member's publishing credits and other accomplishments. Reports are accepted from the department that employs the faculty member. The college may also consider issues such as the faculty member's reputation and area of expertise. The process is designed to be thorough and balanced so that a complete picture of the tenure prospect is created.
A tenure review committee gathers all of this information in a report, discusses the report, and votes. A professor who is denied tenure may have an opportunity to be reviewed again at a later date. Denial suggests that the committee felt that the professor was lacking in some area. This deficiency must be addressed before an application for tenure will be successful. If the tenure application is approved, the professor will be offered a tenured position. Some colleges and universities use a process known as post-tenure review to continue assessing faculty members who have achieved tenured positions.
Teaching tenure provides professors with considerable job security. In some regions, the practice of tenure has been heavily criticized. Critics believe that tenure removes incentives for excellence, because professors can be confident that they will not be fired for failing to publish, not meeting student needs, or poor teaching. Alternatives to tenure include options such as long term contracts that provide people with job security, but not guaranteed permanent employment.