The Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted Thursday evening to shorten by one year the University’s unusually long tenure clock, which some have blamed for the attrition of talented junior faculty at Yale.

The revised tenure system, known as FASTAP, would see professors undergo tenure reviews by their seventh year at the latest and receive tenure in their eighth year. The current system features a nine-year timeline. The revision would also restructure the different levels of promotions and decrease the number of reviews a faculty member must go through before receiving tenure.

The recommendation will be passed on to the Executive Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which consists of several top administrators. If the committee accepts the recommendation, it will go to the Education Policy Committee of the Yale Corporation for final approval.

“There was a broad sense on the part of the faculty that the differences between Yale and our peer institutions in our tenure system -— including the length of our tenure clock and our unusual system of reviews — was leaving us at a disadvantage in recruiting and retaining top early-career faculty,” FAS Dean Tamar Gendler said.

This recommendation is the first time the FASTAP system has been reviewed and revised since it was implemented in 2007. A faculty committee, led by Gendler, has spent the past 20 months soliciting input from faculty and studying the tenure models of peer universities. Of the faculty members who voted in the Thursday meeting, 85 voted in favor of the recommendations, eight were opposed and five abstained.

All the other Ivy League schools either have seven- or eight-year tenure clocks. In the past, some faculty members have expressed concern that Yale’s unusually long tenure track has allowed peer institutions to poach talented junior faculty members, especially women and underrepresented minorities, by offering them attractive tenure offers when they have not yet attained job security at Yale.

Despite the shortened tenure clock, Divisional Director for the Humanities Amy Hungerford, who presented the report at the faculty meeting, said the bar for tenure remains “incredibly high.”

“If we hire the very best people, support them to a high degree and let them achieve their potential, we hope that our untenured faculty will meet that high standard of excellence,” Hungerford said.

The report also recommends a series of changes that will in some ways simplify the tenure and promotion process. In the current system, assistant professors generally have to undergo an internal review in their third year in order to be reappointed, a review for promotion to associate professor on term in their five or sixth year and a review for tenure no later than their eighth year. In the latter two reviews, the faculty member must solicit six and seven external letters from experts outside of Yale, respectively.

Under the new system, faculty members would see a relatively straightforward timeline: They would be reviewed for reappointment as assistant professor in the fourth year with “some form of external evaluation” of their work, and undergo a full review in their seventh year at the latest for tenure.

Faculty members would also be eligible for three terms of leave before tenure, compared to four in the current system, to correspond with the shortening of the tenure clock.

Gendler also highlighted a rewording of the hiring and tenure standards, which now demand that tenured faculty publish work that “significantly extends the horizons of their disciplines” — language that was not present in the original standards.

“I think it is a significant change because it articulates publicly our commitment to a broad standard of excellence and encourages faculty to engage in pathbreaking inquiry,” Gendler said.

  • carl

    In American English, a singular collective noun usually takes a singular verb. Under this rule, if the word “vote” in this headline was intended as a verb, then the headline should have read, “Faculty voteS to shorten tenure clock.”
    English speakers of English, by contrast, sometimes use plural verbs for singular collective nouns. This leads to such constructions as “government are.” Such constructions might be correct in London, but they are incorrect over here.
    Put it this way: The headline department [is/are?] falling down on the job.

  • ShadrachSmith

    Tenure is a tender topic 🙂

  • carl

    “Significantly extends the horizons of their disciplines.” I’m not sure I understand what this means. Especially in the humanities.

    For instance, does a new translation of a thousand-year-old text “significantly extend” any “horizon”?

    And does this new requirement artificially encourage junior faculty to do interdisciplinary work, at the cost of neglecting a disciplinary core? (Or whatever we are to call the opposite of a disciplinary “horizon.” I don’t think “disciplinary vantage point” does the trick–but that would be the term consistent with the “horizon” metaphor.)

    Let us not forget TS Eliot’s image of returning to where we started, and knowing the place for the first time.