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FAQs on COVID-19 Tenure Clock Extensions

In March of 2020, in response to the unprecedented disruption to higher education caused by the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, Northwestern University provided an automatic one-year extension to the probationary period (the “tenure clock”) of any current tenure-track faculty whose tenure review had not yet begun. Additionally, any faculty who were currently within their initial contract, and had not yet undergone the customary third-year review, had their review delayed by one year as well. Faculty retain the option to opt out of this extension and request to be reviewed for tenure according to their tenure clock as it existed prior to this extension, or earlier if they so choose. 

This one-time, automatic extension does not count toward the maximum of two tenure clock extensions allowed by the Office of the Provost’s Policy on Extending the Probationary Period for Tenure-Track Faculty. This extension is in addition to any extensions a faculty member may have already received, and does not preclude faculty from receiving future tenure clock extensions for other customary reasons, such as childbirth. Faculty members may request additional extensions to their tenure clock for reasons related to COVID-19 in the future should it be necessary and warranted. Any such requests should be made through the University’s standard processes for tenure clock extensions.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I know if I qualified for, and received, this extension?

Any faculty who were currently in their probationary period during Academic Year 2019-20, and whose tenure review had not yet begun, were eligible for and received this extension. Eligible faculty received communication from the Office of the Provost outlining the terms of their extended tenure clock. If you have any questions about your eligibility, contact the Office of the Provost at facultyrecords@northwestern.edu, or speak to your school’s Dean’s Office.

Is there anything further I need to do to receive this extension?

No action is needed on the part of faculty to receive this extension; it was granted automatically for all qualifying faculty.

I want to come up for tenure review early. How do I do that?

Any faculty who received this automatic extension and wish to be reviewed for tenure early (that is, prior to the originally scheduled tenure review year) must follow any established procedures in their school for requesting tenure review, and should also inform the Office of the Provost at facultyrecords@northwestern.edu, their school dean’s office, and their department chairperson by May 15 prior to the Academic Year in which they wish to be reviewed for tenure (or, in the Feinberg School of Medicine, according to Feinberg’s policies for early tenure consideration).  They must also follow any deadlines for submission of tenure materials established within their school.

I would like to still go through my third-year review at its originally-scheduled time, rather than having it delayed by one year. Is this allowable?

Yes, with approval from your dean.  Faculty who undergo their 3rd-year review at its originally-scheduled time will still receive the one-year extension to their tenure clock.

I was already undergoing tenure review during Academic Year 2019-20, when the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 struck. Am I eligible for this tenure clock extension?

No.

I started at Northwestern after AY2019-20. Am I eligible for this automatic tenure clock extension?

No, this automatic extension is only granted to faculty who were already within their probationary period at Northwestern as of Academic Year 2019-20. However, any faculty member may request a tenure clock extension according to the Office of the Provost’s Policy on Extending the Probationary Period for Tenure-Track Faculty for allowable reasons, including delays to one’s research caused by factors outside of one’s control such as COVID-19.

I received this extension. Is any additional productivity expected from me, now that I will have one additional year on the faculty before I am reviewed for tenure?

No. In keeping with Northwestern’s Policy on Extending the Probationary Period for Tenure-Track Faculty, no additional productivity shall be expected from faculty who receive any tenure clock extension; for example, if a tenure decision would customarily take place in the 6th year, and it is extended to the 7th year, the standard of productivity would remain 6 years. Conversely, faculty will not enjoy a stronger claim to tenure by virtue of continued membership on the faculty beyond the customary period.

Can I still request other tenure clock extensions in the future, related to COVID-19?

Yes, the Office of the Provost remains open to considering requests for additional tenure clock extensions due to research delays caused by COVID-19. Any such requests should be made through the University’s standard processes for tenure clock extensions.

Can I still request other tenure clock extensions in the future, for reasons unrelated to COVID-19?

Yes, the automatic extension provided due to COVID-19 does not count against the maximum two allowable tenure clock extensions that a faculty member may receive during their probationary period at Northwestern. Additional clock extension requests may be made for allowable reasons, and any such requests should be made through the University’s standard processes for tenure clock extensions.