3.3 Review of Decision Not to Promote or Award Tenure

This policy was last updated December 18, 2023. See the update history page for more information.

If a faculty member has concerns that the process regarding their promotion or tenure decision was not fair or adequate, including a final decision by a department, School, or College not to initiate or advance a case for promotion or tenure, the faculty member should first try to resolve these concerns at the department or School or College level. If such concerns are not resolved at that level, then the faculty member may submit a request to the Provost that the process that led to the decision be formally reviewed. Efforts to resolve the dispute informally should continue even after the request to the Provost for a formal review has been made.

The purpose of a formal review is limited to determining whether the process in making the promotion or tenure decision was adequate and fair. The formal review should not reevaluate the merits of a promotion or tenure candidate’s case.

The basis for deciding whether the process was adequate and fair shall be limited to determining whether there were significant procedural errors that substantially affected the outcome, and in addition in a tenure case, whether the standard used for deciding tenure significantly differed from the Institute’s standard for tenure described in MIT’s Policies and Procedures and, if so, whether applying the different standard substantially affected the decision made.

An individual (the "review requestor" or "candidate") must submit a written request for a formal review to the Provost within 60 days after being notified in writing of the final decision not to promote or award tenure. If a request is filed after the 60-day time period, the Provost may deny the review request as untimely. The filing of such a request does not extend any notice of the appointment termination period. The review requestor must identify any and all grounds for the request for a review because there is one single review of the process that led to a decision.

The Provost will decide if a review will be undertaken after making a preliminary review of the request to determine whether the request provides one or more sufficient grounds for review. In making that decision, the Provost may consult with whomever the Provost decides is appropriate. The Provost’s decision on whether to proceed with a formal review is a final decision and will be provided in writing to the requestor.

If the Provost determines that a formal review is warranted, the Provost will consult as appropriate with the Chair of the Faculty and appoint an ad hoc faculty committee of three senior faculty (naming one as chair) and notify the review requestor of their appointment. If the review requestor believes that any of the ad hoc committee members could not participate as an objective fact finder, the requestor should write to the Provost in a timely fashion explaining their reasons, and the Provost, in their discretion, will decide if there is a need for an alternate committee appointment.

The ad hoc committee will review whether the process was adequate and fair, using the preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) as the standard of review. It is not the role of the ad hoc committee to reevaluate the judgment of the merits of the candidate’s promotion or tenure case.

In order to determine whether the promotion or tenure process was adequate and fair, the Provost will provide a written charge to the ad hoc committee that normally will ask the ad hoc committee to find facts in order to answer the following type of questions, if applicable:

  1. In reviewing a tenure decision, was the standard applied in that decision one that differed significantly from the single standard for tenure set out in Section 3.2, and if so, did such deviation substantially affect the outcome;
  2. Did the process in consideration of a promotion or tenure case deviate in any significant way from the standard processes provided for such promotion or tenure cases that substantially affected the outcome;
  3. Was the process for consideration of the promotion or tenure case significantly influenced by one or more factors unrelated to the evaluation of the promotion or tenure candidate, which may indicate an inappropriate bias in the decision-making process, and if so, did that influence substantially affect the outcome; and
  4. Any other questions the Provost identifies that relate to a review of the fairness and adequacy of the process that led to the decision not to promote or not to advance or award tenure.

The ad hoc committee has complete discretion as to the review process it undertakes. Upon completion of its fact finding, the ad hoc committee shall report in writing to the Provost its findings and the reasons for those findings. These findings should be directly responsive to the questions in the Provost’s charge so the Provost can determine whether the process was adequate and fair.

The Provost will review the ad hoc committee report and make a final decision. In making that decision, the Provost will consult with the President and additionally, may consult with whomever the Provost decides is appropriate. If the Provost finds the process was not fair or adequate, the Provost should establish an internal mechanism to reconsider the decision. The Provost will inform the review requestor of the decision in person and in writing. The Provost’s decision is final and there is no further or other review of a promotion or tenure decision.

The following shall serve as guidelines for the timing of the review process:

  • within ten (10) working days from the receipt of the request for a formal review, acknowledgement of the request for review should be made by the Provost;
  • within twenty (20) working days from the receipt of the request, the Provost should inform the requestor of the Provost's decision on whether a formal review is warranted; and if so, appoint an ad hoc committee and inform the review requestor of the appointment and the procedures to be used in the case;
  • the ad hoc committee should seek to complete its review and issue a written report to the Provost within seventy-five (75) working days of receiving the charge from the Provost;
  • the Provost should communicate their decision to the review requestor in writing within ten (10) working days from the time the Provost received the report.

Informing the review requestor in writing, the Provost may extend or otherwise modify these guidelines at the request of the ad hoc committee or for other appropriate reasons.

This entire review process, including the identity of the members of the ad hoc committee, should be kept confidential by all participants, including the review requestor. Any information obtained in the review process similarly should be kept confidential. However, information obtained in the review process may be disclosed to individuals who have been consulted by the Provost or the ad hoc committee as part of the review process, as long as each is informed of their obligation to maintain its confidentiality and agrees in writing to keep the information confidential. In addition, the ad hoc committee may disclose information to those whom they interview or from whom they otherwise obtain facts during the review to the extent the ad hoc committee believes such disclosure is necessary to a complete and thorough review. In such cases, the ad hoc committee will instruct the recipient of information of the need to maintain confidentiality of the information. The ad hoc committee will not disclose confidential recommendation letters or provide information from a confidential evaluation letter submitted in connection with a promotion or tenure case, if such information discloses the identity of the person or reasonably would be expected to lead to the identity of the evaluator.

The review requestor and any individual from whom the ad hoc committee seeks information for the review (the “participant”) may select an advisor who can accompany the individual to any discussion, or appearance before the ad hoc committee. The advisor must be a member of the MIT faculty but may not be a family member or an attorney, although parties may consult with a family member or an attorney during the course of the review. The role of the faculty advisor is to provide support, guidance and advice; the advisor, therefore, may not directly participate in the review, or communicate with or otherwise address the ad hoc committee or the Provost regarding the review. The review requestor or other individual participating in the ad hoc committee review may not disclose any confidential information regarding the review to anyone except their faculty advisor, family member, or attorney, who must be instructed to keep such information confidential.

The ad hoc committee will provide a final written report to the Provost. In addition, the committee will provide to the Provost a summary of its factual findings with no confidential information. When the Provost sends written notification of their decision to the review requestor, the Provost may also provide the review requestor with the summary of factual findings if the review requestor agrees in writing not to disclose the summary or any information contained in the summary, except to an advisor, attorney, or family member but only on the condition that those individuals will agree in writing not to disclose any information obtained.

The materials gathered during the course of the review, the ad hoc committee’s report and the decision of the Provost will be kept in the Provost’s office for at least seven years.

Participation in this voluntary review process does not suspend or postpone any deadline established by law or regulation for initiating any external legal process.