On March 25, the University of Maine announced that 34 of its faculty members had been promoted. Of the faculty recognized, nine were elevated to the position of professor, often distinguished as “full professor,” 21 were promoted to associate professor, the level at which tenure is awarded, and four were promoted to extension professor, a position within the University’s Cooperative Extension program.
The modern concept of academic tenure was created in 1915 by the American Association of University Professors. In 1940, the AAUP enacted a more precise system which is almost identical to the one in use today. Intended to provide its recipients with financial and intellectual safety, tenure allows a professor more freedom in both teaching and researching, and is usually accompanied by a significant raise in pay.
Being awarded tenure is, except under rare circumstances, a guarantee of permanent employment. There is no standard way of conferring tenure in American higher education, but many institutions practice similar methods.
UMaine’s tenure and promotion systems have much in common with those of the nation’s other public land grant universities.
Faculty members interested in being promoted must apply by Sept. 15, after which they are subjected to a process of strict reviewal. The first step in this sequence involves the compilation of a dossier or packet detailing each applicant’s history of teaching, research and community service.
Jim McClyme, University of Maine System’s faculty union president and an associate professor of physics and graduate coordinator at UMaine, discussed the order of evaluation.
“The documents the faculty member puts together, with review letters and review from the peers, make up a packet which moves throughout the process,” McClymer said. “At UMaine, after the peers, the packet goes to chairs, then dean, provost, president then [board of trustees].”
McClymer said that generally faculty in the “tenure system” apply for it in their sixth year.
“Typically, tenure and promotion to associate professor go hand in hand,” McClymer said. “Failure to earn tenure results in need to find new employment.”
“I’m frankly very glad to have attained the rank of full professor at a flagship state university,” Pankaj Agrrawal, one of the nine faculty members promoted to full professor, said. “The toil behind it is almost endless and takes decades, not just years. My Maine students have had an invisible hand in this; they’ve been a constant source of inspiration and energy in my tenure here at UMaine.”
Although the public announcements are made in late March, Agrrawal mentioned that a candidate will know before then whether their application has been approved.
“Applying for tenure [and] full professorship is a very structured and formal process,” Agrrawal explained. “Material gathering starts about 6 months before the application in early October. The peer committee, dean and provost decisions are over the [November to January] period, and that’s where the rubber hits the road. No guarantees.”
Being promoted to full professor, the highest rank in academia, is by many metrics an enormous achievement. Agrrawal explained that the differences in expectations between an associate professor and full professor mostly concern “leadership, visibility and research.”
“Some teaching dispensation is given to [full professors] so they can produce higher quality research,” Agrrawal said. “I think there is a slight pay bump too on promotion. Additionally, the annual activity file of a [full professor] is typically reviewed by other [full professors] only.”
Agrrawal, whose research has been referenced in both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, stated that in his further endeavors, “quality will reign over quantity,” and that he will be allowed “greater discretion in choice of projects.”
Patricia Poirier, an associate professor in UMaine’s Nursing Department, was also recently promoted to full professor.
“Few faculty in the school of nursing apply for promotion to professor,” Poirier said. “In part, this is due to the heavy teaching load. I feel my successful application will encourage other faculty to do so in the future.”
Poirier said that this promotion probably won’t alter her ability to conduct research given the unique context of her department.
“Faculty in the school of nursing carry a heavy teaching load, which does impact research time,” Poirier said. “Recently, we have brought on new faculty with a percentage of research rather than 100% teaching, so for faculty going forward research time should be more available.”
In a UMaine press release, President Joan Ferrini-Mundy congratulated the recently promoted faculty.
“We are extremely proud of our world-class faculty who make a difference in the UMaine student experience, and in our state and beyond with their teaching, research and community engagement,” Ferrini-Mundy said. “The 34 being recognized this year with tenure and/or promotion exemplify the excellence and strength of this university, and we appreciate the inspiration they provide.”
More information on UMaine’s recent promotions and promotion process may be obtained by visiting the following website at: https://umaine.edu/hr/promotion-and-tenure.