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OVERVIEW OF PROMOTION PROCEDURES

MIT Policies and Procedures outlines the standard of excellence established for its faculty as follows:

The ideal attributes of any departmental faculty, taken as a group, are scholarly achievement, creativity, collegiality, professional competence and leadership, ability and desire to teach, and willingness to cooperate with other departments in promoting the work and welfare of the Institute as a whole…

Research and teaching are the primary functions of the Institute and are nourished by efficient and imaginative administration. Service to the community and the Nation is an additional obligation. Excellence in these four activities-- research, teaching, public service and administration--are essential to MIT’s success.

When the performance of a faculty member is appraised, consideration will be given to high achievement in these areas, and the value of the faculty member's total contribution will be assessed, although for early career faculty members research and education are weighted more heavily than service and administration.

Most of our newly hired faculty members are appointed without tenure.  A non-tenured faculty member is initially appointed for a three-year period.  During this period, he/she will meet with the Department Head or other administrators annually and with his/her mentor as needed.  As a result, he/she should have an understanding of the Department’s evaluation of his/her performance, including areas that may need improvement.  If a faculty member does not feel he/she has this understanding he/she should feel free to make an appointment to meet with the Department Head for clarification and advice. At the end of the three-year period, the Department Head will consider making an additional three-year appointment.  It is typically during this second three-year appointment (normally after the fourth academic year) that an Assistant Professor will be considered for promotion to Associate Professor without tenure.

The review process accompanying this promotion to Associate Professor without tenure is quite rigorous and is designed to provide a clear view of the progress an Assistant Professor has made and his/her ultimate prospects for tenure.  Candidates for this promotion are judged based on excellence in research and teaching as well as service to the Department, the Institute and the broader scientific community, as outlined in MIT’s Policies and Procedures.  With respect to research, he/she must have a significant set of accomplishments, have shown promise for outstanding research in the future, and have established himself/herself as one of the leaders of his/her generation in his/her sub-field.  The primary evidence of this excellence in research comes from the assessments of external and internal referees, who are experts in the candidate’s general field. Letters are also solicited from senior colleagues to assess the candidate’s contributions to education and service to MIT and the community.

Assistant Professors should be asked to submit the following information as part of the promotion review process:

  • A list of recommended outside referees and any referees to be avoided. 
  • Hard copies of an up-to-date curriculum vitae(CV). The CV should follow the format in the MIT CV template [word or pdf] and include the following items in addition to the standard biographical information, honors and awards, a publication list, and a list of invited talks:
    • Teaching Experience
    • Undergraduate students supervised in research
    • Ph.D. students supervised and information about careers for those who have graduated
    • Postdoctoral Associates and Fellows Supervised and where they are now employed.
    • Educational Commons*
    • Research Contracts and Grants
  • A one- or two-page statement of current and future research interests.
  • At least 2 but not more than 4 reprints or preprints (Optional by Department, please check with your Headquarters if you are unsure about the need for this item.)

All of these materials are sent to the referees.

The departmental committee charged with assessing the case for promotion, after deliberation, makes its recommendation to the Department. If the Department Head determines that the case is sufficiently strong, the case is submitted to the promotions subcommittee of Science Council for review.  The promotions subcommittee consists of the heads of the six departments, the Associate Dean of Science and the Dean of Science. If the Dean determines, based on this review, that the case is sufficiently strong, the case is submitted to the Institute’s Academic Council for review and a final decision by the President of MIT.  The Department Head notifies the candidate of the outcome of the process as early as possible and provides the candidate with any advice based on the referee letters and the discussions at the Department, School and Institute levels.

The Institute’s Policies and Procedures states the following with regard to tenure:

The Institute regards tenure as important to ensuring academic freedom in teaching, research, and extramural activity. A department and School make a career commitment when the award of tenure is recommended. The Institute as a whole, acting through the Academic Council and the Corporation, joins in this commitment when tenure is awarded.

Persons awarded tenure must be judged by distinguished members of their discipline to be of first rank among scholars and to show promise of continued contribution to scholarship. Tenured members of the Faculty must also demonstrate outstanding teaching and university service; however, teaching and service are not a sufficient basis for awarding tenure.

A single standard for tenure applies across the Institute, for all Schools and disciplines and for all modes of inquiry. Although the single standard requires that all candidates be of exceptional quality as confirmed by distinguished members of their disciplines, it may be appropriate, based on the culture of the discipline or the modes of inquiry, to look at different factors as evidence of significant scholarly achievement. <http://web.mit.edu/policies/3.2.html>

The Institute has two requirements regarding age and years of service relevant to tenure.  In order to remain on the faculty, assistant professors with eight years of service and under age 35 must receive a promotion to associate professor.  Associate professors with a total of eight or more years of service must receive tenure in order to continue after age 35.  Therefore, the process for promotion to Associate Professor with tenure is typically completed before the end of the candidate’s seventh year at the Institute; if the promotion is not successful, the candidate can remain on the Faculty for one more year.

The process for review is the same as that for the promotion to Associate Professor without tenure, except that a larger number of external referee letters are required.  Candidates will be asked to submit an updated CV with the components discussed above, an up-to-date research plan, recent publications, and input on referee selection. The assessment of the candidate’s suitability for tenure is based primarily on the external and internal referees’ letters.  After deliberation at the Department level, cases that are judged by the Department Head to be sufficiently strong are distributed to the promotions subcommittee of Science Council for review. Cases approved by the Dean are then sent on to the Institute’s Academic Council for review and approval by the President.  The case is then submitted to the Institute’s Executive Committee for final review and approval.  The Department Head notifies the candidate of the outcome of the process as early as possible.

The promotion to Full Professor usually occurs three to five years after promotion to tenure.  This promotion is meant to recognize significant contributions in research, education, and/or service to MIT and to the broader scientific community. The process for this promotion is that same as those discussed above, except that a smaller number of referee letters are required. If the Department Head believes the case is sufficiently strong, he/she presents the case to the promotions subcommittee of Science Council.  Cases approved by the Dean are sent on to the Institute’s Academic Council for review and approval by the President.  The Department Head notifies the candidate of the outcome of the process as early as possible.

Title changes and salary increases for all faculty promotions become effective on the first day of the fiscal year, 1 July following the approval of the promotion.

* The Educational Commons section of the CV should including information on the following:

  • Faculty involvement in reading freshman admissions folders
  • Faculty involvement in orientation (freshman picnic, FPOP)
  • Faculty involvement in teaching GIRs
  • Faculty involvement in freshman advising/mentoring and freshman seminars
  • Faculty involvement in committees (CUP, CoD etc)
  • Faculty involvement in commencement
  • Housemasters, House Fellows
  • UROP supervision and IAP activities
  • Special programs teaching/leadership (e.g., ESG, IAP events)