Part 1 – UCAPT and the Dossier Review Process

Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure Process

1.1 Overview of Process

Appointment, promotion, and tenure processes involve multiple levels of review. An example of a path for a tenure case in a departmentalized school is: (1) review and vote on a recommendation by the tenured faculty in the candidate’s department (after a report from a department faculty reviewing committee), (2) review and recommendation by the dean (after a report from a school level faculty reviewing committee), and (3) final decision by the Provost (advised by a recommendation from a UCAPT panel). Schools without departments employ a school-level faculty committee for the first recommendation. While details of the internal process may differ from one school to another, they all must be consistent with Faculty Handbook 4-H(2). Involvement of reviewers at multiple levels helps ensure that a dossier is thoroughly reviewed and that decisions are based on careful consideration of all the evidence.

If a candidate receives a favorable vote by a majority of the faculty eligible to vote at the stage of the first recommendation (some academic units require in addition a supermajority of those voting) or receives a favorable recommendation by the dean at the second stage, the case is forwarded to the university level faculty committee for an ultimate recommendation to the Provost.

If a candidate is not recommended by both the faculty at the first stage and the dean at the second stage, then promotion or tenure is denied; the case is not forwarded to the university level faculty committee and the denial is final.

The authority to grant tenure, as well as to promote to or appoint associate professors and professors with tenure or on the tenure track, is vested by the University Bylaws in the President, who has delegated responsibility to the Provost.  The USC trustees do not have a role in this academic decision.

1.1.1 Recusal

For cases involving candidates in their own department (or one where they have voting rights), faculty members who serve on a school-level or university-level review committee participate and vote at the department level. They do not participate or vote at the school or university level. The dean, Provost, and President do not vote within their departments on appointment, promotion, and tenure cases.

Faculty who have co-authored publications or collaborated on grants with a candidate may not serve on a promotion committee that would provide an evaluation of the candidate’s research because that would entail a review of the faculty member’s own work.  If the collaborative work comprises a material part of the candidate’s record, the collaborating faculty member will not attend the faculty discussion in order to avoid influencing the discussion of the work by other faculty. (If the materiality of the collaborative work is in question, the dean will ask the Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs to decide whether the collaborating faculty member should be exempt from this paragraph.) The collaborating faculty member may provide input into the deliberations by a memo included in the dossier, including explanation of the candidate’s contribution to the joint work.  Because external reviewers may not be candid in evaluating the candidate’s work if their comments will be read by the collaborating faculty member, the collaborating faculty member may not read the external letters and any portions of other documents that discuss the external assessments of the collaborative work. The collaborating faculty may vote in writing, after reviewing the other portions of the dossier.


UCAPT members are designated by the Provost after consultation with the Academic Senate leadership, on the basis of a record of distinguished scholarly or creative achievement and experience in evaluating dossiers, with consideration for the intellectual, disciplinary, and demographic diversity of the committee. UCAPT generally consists of at least six panels of five to eight faculty members in related disciplinary areas. UCAPT members are a rotating group of outstanding scholars, educators, and creative artists, diverse by field, intellectual approach, ethnicity, and gender. UCAPT membership has included colleagues whose achievements have been recognized by the Nobel Prize, University Professorships, Distinguished Professorships, National Academy memberships, and other marks of distinction.  UCAPT also uses ad hoc members as needed to evaluate dossiers properly. At the end of each academic year, the university makes public the names of UCAPT members from the past two years.

UCAPT advises the Provost and President. For each dossier, written evaluations by individual UCAPT panel members, and notes on the panel’s deliberation and recommendations, are reviewed by the Provost and are available to the President. (See the appendix for a sample evaluation sheet.) The Provost gives careful consideration to all tenure and promotion cases and to the recommendations of the UCAPT panel. The final decision is made only by the Provost on behalf of the President.

UCAPT seeks to ensure that there is consistency in standards across units, that candidates’ performance meets the standards of peer institutions, and that the quality of a school’s faculty progresses over time.

In addition to reviewing tenure dossiers, promotions for tenured faculty, and appointments at the associate professor or professor level, UCAPT also reviews candidates for Clinical Scholar and similar designations.

When UCAPT panel members raise questions about the completeness of a dossier at a panel meeting or in advance, the Provost’s Office will contact the dean to provide an opportunity to submit supplemental material.

1.3 Deadlines for Dossiers

In order to allow UCAPT and the Provost sufficient time to carefully consider each case, dossiers must be received by the Provost’s Office no later than the following dates:

  • October 15 – Promotion dossiers not involving tenure
  • February 1 – Tenure dossiers
  • March 15 – Senior lateral appointment dossiers (associate or full professor)

Dossiers not received by these deadlines risk substantial delay at UCAPT. The dean should take steps to see that departments and school committees observe a schedule such that the complete dossier is submitted in a timely manner.

If there is a need for an early decision, the dean should let the Provost’s Office know as much in advance as possible. The department or school should not prolong consideration and then request immediate UCAPT action. In exceptional situations, where expedited UCAPT consideration is necessitated by circumstances such as a competing offer, the dean must explain personally to the Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs the reason for the urgency, why the dossier could not be submitted earlier, why the Provost should make an exception to the usual processes, and the date by which a decision is requested.

As an extremely late dossier submission to UCAPT risks being interpreted negatively, it is important that dossiers submitted with significant delay contain a clear explanation of the origins of the delay. A promotion dossier not involving tenure submitted long after the October 15 deadline may be returned for resubmission the following year.

It is not permissible for a department or school to purposefully submit a tenure dossier after the Tenure Decision Date.

If charges of misconduct arise while the tenure process is underway, such charges will not be investigated by UCAPT, but will be considered under the usual processes, such as, but not limited to, those outlined in chapter 6 of the Faculty Handbook or the policy on scientific misconduct. The Provost may delay the tenure decision if needed to resolve the charges, and will decide whether to extend any terminal year appointment if the tenure decision is negative.

1.4 Confidentiality

Departments and schools must take all necessary steps to maintain confidentiality, including during the physical preparation of the dossier and dossier storage. Broad electronic distribution of the dossier must be avoided; instead, password-protected web sites can be used. All paper copies of the dossier should be shredded after use, while being sure to maintain in the electronic files the official copy of the record. Internal and external evaluations in the dossier are treated as confidential to the full extent the law permits. Only the voting faculty, the dean’s office, and the provost’s office, may read the dossier. This includes, for example, reviewer letters, reports prepared by committee members, and other ratings, reports, and records obtained in connection with the process of appointment or promotion to a higher rank or to tenured or continuing appointment status. The candidate’s CV and publications are publicly available documents. 

All USC faculty members or administrative staff participating in the dossier preparation process at any stage must respect its confidentiality and not reveal votes, the names or views of reviewers, the contents or tenor of discussions, and the contents of the dossier to anyone. Intentional or continuing breaches of confidentiality will be considered serious misconduct and may be the basis of disciplinary actions.

1.5 Policy and Communication

1.5.1 Adherence to Policy

All those participating in the review should take care to follow the policies stated in the Faculty Handbook and this Manual. The Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs may approve requests to extend deadlines, change the language of template letters, limit the number of expected letters for candidates of great distinction or authorize use of emails in appropriate cases, or abridge the process when considering an RTPC promotion or appointment of someone previously tenured at USC. The Provost, and only the Provost, may authorize other exceptions or waivers to this Manual or other policies, and before doing so in material matters will consult with the chair of UCAPT.

1.5.2 Changes in Editions of UCAPT Documents

The candidate may write to the dean before the start of the mid-probationary period review process, or before the start of preparation of the tenure dossier, requesting that the review be conducted under the UCAPT Manual guidelines in force when the individual was first appointed. The candidate should specify the difference between the current and former guidelines. The chair’s memo should mention which edition of the UCAPT Manual pertains to the case if it is not the current one and the relevant difference. New editions of the UCAPT Manual are issued by the Provost after advice of a committee of UCAPT.

1.5.3 Predictions and Advice

Neither predictions, evaluations, nor advice from any USC official except the Provost is definitive. Even if colleagues give unalloyed praise in annual reviews, mid-probationary reviews, or mentoring, candidates for tenure and promotion should nevertheless be sure to seek constructive criticism, and to remember that external reviewers and UCAPT will eventually evaluate dossiers by national standards, and that the final decision is made by the Provost.

Similarly, neither advice about nor interpretations of University policy or this Manual by any USC official except the Provost is definitive.

1.5.4 Communicating Decisions

The Provost informs the dean of the decision. The dean or the dean’s representative should promptly inform the candidate in a confidential manner, followed by a memo. In case of a negative decision, the summary reasons stated in the Provost’s memo can be conveyed to the candidate.

Whether candidates have been successful or unsuccessful, the dean or dean’s representative should pass on constructive advice, gathered from the school’s review of the dossier, to improve the candidate’s later work. While preserving the confidentiality of external reviewers and comments, this advice can summarize perceptive criticisms. Knowledge of these judgments might help an individual produce better scholarship, research, or collaborative work in the future.

In addition, UCAPT may provide constructive advice and feedback about either a successful or an unsuccessful candidate’s dossier to the dean. In this case, the dean should convey UCAPT’s advice to either the candidate or the department chair. If the advice from the dean or UCAPT is conveyed in writing, the memo should be approved by the Provost’s Office prior to sending.

1.5.5 Providing Fuller Explanation of a Negative Decision

Upon request, candidates who received a negative decision will be provided in writing a fuller explanation of the reasons for the negative decision. This explanation should be prepared by the dean together with the Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs so as to reflect the analysis at both UCAPT and earlier levels.  It should be provided to the candidate by the dean or dean’s representative in a face-to-face meeting.  The confidential advice to the Provost from the department chair and dean and the names and individual views of reviewers will not be disclosed.

1.6 Reconsideration of a Tenure Dossier

When tenure has been denied by the Provost (on behalf of the President), or was denied because both the faculty and dean were negative at the first and second stages of decision, that is a final action. In rare circumstances, however, where extraordinary and unexpected new evidence emerges in the months following a tenure decision, reconsideration of the decision may be requested. A reconsideration is not a re-adjudication of the judgment on the original evidence, but rather provides a process by which important new evidence can be considered.

The new evidence must be unexpected because tenure decisions are made taking into account normal expectations of a candidate’s career evolution. For example, if a candidate has a paper under advanced review at a journal with favorable signals from the editor, the likelihood of eventual publication of that paper is taken into account at the time of the tenure decision, so its subsequent publication is not unexpected and therefore not grounds for reconsideration.

Either the individual or dean may request reconsideration. If a candidate wishes to be reconsidered, he or she must submit a letter to the Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs by September 15 of the terminal year, declaring this intention and the evidence to be used as grounds for a reconsideration. The Vice Provost will then meet with the candidate to discuss the original dossier, the new evidence, and the timeline for submitting new materials to his or her dean.

Requests for reconsideration based on new evidence will always be considered first by the dean, who will include in the supplement of the dossier a recommendation as to whether the dean believes extraordinary circumstances exist and tenure should be granted.  The Provost will consider requests whether or not there is an affirmative recommendation by the dean. The updated dossier may be submitted as soon as it is ready and must be submitted by the dean to the Provost’s Office by February 1 of the terminal year (unless advance permission is obtained for a later submission).

A supplement to the original dossier will be prepared under direction of the dean that adds the new evidence, documenting the basis of the reconsideration. The supplement should indicate that the new evidence is unexpected, in the sense of not having been considered as part of the tenure decision. The new evidence may be either new information about the candidate’s accomplishments or new accomplishments since the original tenure decision. The dean or the Provost may also request recommendations from external reviewers who were negative during the initial consideration, or from committees, reviewers, or others beyond what is provided in these guidelines (such as soliciting additional external reviewers on the full array of scholarship). The individual may submit a concise additional statement. All such material will be included in the supplement, which will be attached to the original dossier.

If a positive recommendation was made initially by the department or department chair, the school committee, or individual external reviewers, there is no need to seek their views again on a request for reconsideration. If there is new evidence, any of those participants who made a negative recommendation during the initial consideration should be given the opportunity to consider the new material and make an updated recommendation as appropriate. If personnel have changed, it is the current incumbents who review the request for reconsideration.

There are two other situations in which reconsideration may be requested: (1) the Provost gave permission during initial consideration to resubmit the dossier by the original Tenure Decision Date or by a revised Tenure Decision Date, as determined by the Provost (in such cases, the normal tenure standard applies rather than the extraordinary circumstances standard); or (2) there is a claim of procedural defects (see below, section 1.7).

Upon resubmission to the Provost, the Provost may make a decision with or without additional UCAPT consideration. Unless the Provost decides that tenure should be granted, the original negative decision remains undisturbed and no second terminal year appointment is allowed.

If the candidate believes that his or her rights have been violated, he or she has a right to a grievance hearing, as detailed in Faculty Handbook, chapter 7. A grievance against the decision to deny tenure must be filed through the Academic Senate within nine months of that original decision; requesting reconsideration does not extend that deadline.

1.7 Interference and Procedural Irregularities

On occasion at various universities, groups of alumni, political figures, or internal or external faculty have attempted to use lobbying campaigns or petitions to affect a decision. It is unprofessional for faculty to participate in such campaigns or to involve students in a personnel decision. Such influences have no part in the personnel process and are excluded from the dossier. Volunteered letters or petitions suffer from a selection bias and often are based on mistakes about the facts of the dossier, the University’s process, or the candidate’s work. Both the confidentiality of the process and the prohibition against lobbying seek to provide protections against interference.

If the candidate believes there have been procedural irregularities, he or she should promptly write to the Provost.  It is the Provost’s responsibility to decide what remedy, if any, is appropriate for procedural defects.  For example, the Provost may decide that procedural irregularities at earlier stages were fully remedied by the independent evaluation and recommendation provided by UCAPT, or that procedural irregularities did not have a material effect on the final decision given the weight of the evidence.

1.8 Equal Opportunity

UCAPT’s recommendations are made individually on a merit basis. Protections against discrimination apply with full force to the appointment, promotion, and tenure process, and the criteria for decisions are consistent across candidates with different personal characteristics, such as race, gender, disability, age, national origin, and other characteristics protected by law.

Over the ten-year period from academic year 2006-2007 through academic year 2015-2016, 81% of the 300 tenure-track faculty who completed the UCAPT process were granted tenure. There were no statistically significant differences based on gender or ethnicity. The proportion of women receiving tenure was not different from that of men, and those who self-identified as an under-represented minority (Black, Latino, or Indigenous American) or as an Asian American did not have different tenure rates from those who identified as non-Hispanic white.

All UCAPT panels are diverse by gender and ethnicity.

1.9 Research, Teaching, Practitioner and Clinical Faculty

Individuals without tenure-track appointments are not eligible for consideration for tenure through the promotion process or by transfer.  They may apply for appointment to an open position, tenured or tenure-track, on an equal basis in competition with the national pool of candidates.