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Harvard Offers Many Tenure-Track Faculty One-Year Appointment Extensions Due to COVID-19

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, tenure-track faculty will have the option to extend their current appointments and postpone their promotion reviews up to a year.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, tenure-track faculty will have the option to extend their current appointments and postpone their promotion reviews up to a year. By Aiyana G. White
By James S. Bikales and Kevin R. Chen, Crimson Staff Writers

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay wrote in an email to FAS tenure-track faculty Thursday that Harvard will offer many of them the option to extend their current appointments and postpone their promotion reviews by up to a year in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Tenure-track faculty whose promotion reviews are scheduled for the fall of 2020 or later may opt to extend their contract and postpone their promotion review by one year.

Extensions granted to tenure-track faculty whose promotion reviews were scheduled for the 2019-2020 academic year differ by position.

Specifically, associate professors whose reviews for promotion to tenured professors were scheduled for this spring may choose to extend their contract and postpone their promotion review by one semester. Assistant professors whose reviews for promotion to associate professor were scheduled for this academic year may not extend their review, but may extend their appointments as associate professors by one year if promoted.

“We are offering these options because we recognize that the coronavirus has significantly disrupted academic and personal life, including the transition to remote teaching, the ramping-down of research laboratories, the closure of K-12 schools in Massachusetts, changes in childcare arrangements, and restrictions on travel,” Gay wrote in her email to faculty. “I know that these circumstances have an impact on your time and productivity in doing research, building your teaching portfolio, developing your roles as advisors, mentors, and Harvard citizens, and otherwise advancing your professional careers.”

The FAS tenure track usually spans eight years. In a typical case, FAS hires a tenure-track faculty member as an assistant professor and reviews the faculty member for promotion during the fourth year of their appointment. If they win promotion to the rank of associate professor, FAS will appoint the faculty member for an additional four years and review the faculty member for promotion to tenured professor during their seventh year in Cambridge.

The coronavirus-prompted extensions to tenure clocks come during a year of scrutiny toward Harvard’s tenure processes more broadly. Gay is currently preparing to review the FAS tenure promotion process beginning in the fall of 2020. She announced her plan to do so in a December email to faculty — just a few days after more than 100 faculty members called for such a review.

Asked about the review, Gay said in a March 9 interview she hopes to compare the length of Harvard’s tenure process to that of its peer institutions, among other metrics.

—Staff writer James S. Bikales can be reached at james.bikales@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamepdx.

— Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at kevin.chen@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

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