Carnegie Mellon University School of Computer Science

SCS Tenure and Research Track Appointment Policy


The most important decisions made by the Administration and the Faculty of the University are those involving the status of faculty members. Recruitment, reappointment, promotion, tenure, and salary decisions all shape the type of faculty we build on campus, and the faculty will determine how well Carnegie-Mellon fulfills its goals. The policies and procedures described below for reappointment, promotion and tenure decisions will, it is hoped, help in arriving at decisions that are objective, timely, clearly understood and effectively related to the long-term needs of the University and individual faculty members. Equally, they may help members of the faculty to plan their own personal and professional development.

The rules and procedures described in this document apply (except for some specific differences that are explicitly indicated) to regular teaching faculty and to eligible research faculty whose position and task resemble those of the regular faculty. The two kinds of faculty are distinguished where necessary by the adjectives "teaching" and "research" respectively, notwithstanding the fact that research is a major occupation of teaching faculty and that many research faculty teach. In fact, the two kinds of faculty share the responsibility for designing, carrying out and managing research (including service as principal investigator), publication of scholarly papers in established journals and conference proceedings, and supervision of graduate students. Faculty of both kinds are expected to gain recognition for their scientific work and to participate actively in the continued effort to improve the School and the University.

The main differences between the two kinds of faculty are that the existence of a research faculty position depends on the availability of external funds (and therefore does not carry indefinite tenure) and that teaching regular courses of the existing curriculum is required of the teaching faculty, but not of the research faculty. Instead of teaching regular courses, research faculty are expected to play a major role in the preparation, organization and management of research projects.

It is current practice to distinguish three ranks for both kinds of faculty. The correspondences between the titles currently in use are


Assistant Professor


Assistant Research Professor


Associate Professor


Associate Research Professor


   (Full) Professor


Research Professor



These are the ranks that are considered in this document. Excluded are all other ranks, titles and positions such as part-time faculty, systems scientists, research associates and other special faculty, visiting scientists and technical or administrative staff. The rules applied by the University are described in the Faculty Handbook.


The criteria for reappointment, promotion and tenure can only be stated in general terms. That this must be so is a reflection of the subjective nature of the decision-making process and of the changing character of the University. Yet it is important that the senior faculty, the administrative officers and the promotion and tenure committee be as objective as possible in their evaluation of the contributions of individual faculty members.

The following criteria are intended to provide a basis for decisions and to ensure that such decisions be as fair as possible:

1. General Considerations: Recommendations for reappointment, promotion and tenure will be based on an estimate of the value of the candidate's activities to the academic excellence of the University.
In general, such recommendations will be made if:
  • he or she has contributed to the excellence of the School and the University by teaching and by research
  • the Candidate's retention will enhance the quality of the School and the University and contribute to the achievement of its academic goals
  • it is confidently expected that the criteria for further promotion will be met.
It is recognized that there may be circumstances in which retention of a qualified candidate would not be consistent with the financial resources of the School and the University. Such cases should be considered with extreme care.
As stated above, there are two basic areas in which a faculty member's level of performance is to be evaluated: teaching and research. Thorough consideration should be given to a candidate's achievements in both of these areas when he or she is considered for reappointment, promotion or tenure. It is understood, however, that individuals may follow varied paths in pursuing their careers. In a limited number of cases, contributions in the field of education or other scholarly or professional activities may be more compelling interests than extensive research and may therefore be substituted.
However, it is expected that, with infrequent exception, a successful candidate for reappointment, promotion or tenure at any level will be excellent, considering his or her stage of development, both in teaching and in research. It is expected that each successive evaluation for a higher rank will be based upon new evidence of solid growth beyond the point at which the previous rank was obtained. Also, the excellence required for promotion to professor is to be at a higher level than that required for the tenure appointment.

2. The Evaluation of Teaching: Teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels is an important part of the University's work. The School of Computer Science has a responsibility to the students and to the University to see that there is serious, detailed discussion about the teaching done by every faculty member. For teaching faculty, the teaching assignment includes regular courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, seminars of special interest and instruction of individual graduate students involved in research projects or in thesis work. For research faculty, teaching regular courses is not required, but organizing and presenting seminars on special topics and advising individual graduate students are an integral part of the research faculty position. The guidelines below must be interpreted keeping the differences between teaching and research faculty in mind.
The evaluation of excellence in teaching might include factors such as the following:
  • the respect of students, based on their experience that the instructor is knowledgeable, well-prepared, innovative, demanding and yet considerate in classroom work, that he or she inspires individual students, is accessible and helpful to students outside of the classroom, and has taught them in such a way that there is lasting impact
  • the respect of colleagues, both senior and junior, for teaching ability
  • demonstrated personal growth in keeping abreast of scholarship in the faculty member's field
  • evidence of a mature working relationship between research students and the faculty member and evidence of the continued growth of the students.

When considering student opinion, a serious effort should be made to obtain response from mature students, reflecting some retrospection.

3. The Evaluation of Research: The School of Computer Science expects that its faculty members will make independent contributions to research and scholarly work in their fields. There should be concrete evidence of the ability to initiate and carry through to completion research whose worth is recognized by others in the field. In this respect, the requirements are the same for teaching and research faculty.
The evaluation of research might include factors such as the following:
  • tangible products of research as shown by the quality of the publications record
  • the respect of faculty and students for the candidate's research ability
  • evidence of sustained and disciplined effort as an individual or member of a group on current research that is well thought out, feasible, and likely to be of significance
  • external financial support of research programs.
With regard to research and other professional activities, it is important that a faculty member be known professionally outside of the University.

4. Leadership in Education: Carnegie Mellon University has traditionally played a major role in the study of the educational process at all levels. Thus it is expected that a limited number of its faculty members, particularly some members of the teaching faculty, will concentrate a large part of their effort outside of the classroom in the Institution and in the academic community at large for such activity to play the major role in the decisions described in this document. This kind of leadership in education is as important to the Institution as research.
Excellence in education might be measured by factors such as the following:
  • contributions to common courses, to curriculum development and deeper insights into the teaching and learning process, and to the University's total concern with quality education
  • the preparation of sound, challenging and imaginative teaching materials such as syllabi, course materials, tests, textbooks and technical aids
  • publications on innovations in teaching, participation in professional associations with an educational purpose, external purpose, external seminars, lectures, and conferences on education
  • broad recognition as an educator.
5. The Organization of Research: The School of Computer Science has developed an environment in which a large part of the research is conducted in well-organized research projects. It is of great interest to the University and to the School that some faculty members, particularly some members of the research faculty, assume major responsibility for the planning and management of research projects. Innovative leadership is needed that enables the School to pursue Carnegie-Mellon University's basic goals in science and education while facing inevitable changes in the character of external funding sources.
Contributions to research planning and management might be evaluated by the following factors:
  • having a clearly stated long-range goal in research
  • the ability to organize the work that may lead to that goal
  • the skill to supervise the people carrying out the work
  • the role played in the preparation and administration of a research plan
  • finding the necessary interest both inside and outside of the University and finding the external funding for a research plan.
6. Other Areas of Professional Development: The foundation of all decisions on reappointment, promotion and tenure is the value to the University and the School of the services of the individual. In addition to the three areas described above (teaching, research and contributions to education), there can be other activities that contribute to an individual's professional development and consequently to the stature and excellence of the Institution.
For example, high-level industrial consulting can contribute to professional development. Full-time employment in industry either before or during an academic career can also provide a necessary broadening of experience. Other activities which may contribute include refereeing articles for scientific journals, service on editorial boards, service on governmental advisory committees, and the like.
While activities such as these may not directly result in tangible accomplishments in the areas of teaching, research or contributions to education, their overall contributions to professional growth should be taken into consideration when cases for promotion, tenure or reappointment are considered. It is essential that all of a faculty member's professional activities be considered when decisions are made.

7. The Evaluation of Other Contributions to Carnegie Mellon University: Carnegie-Mellon University's objectives must be, like those of all universities, primarily intellectual. However, the development in students and faculty of social responsibility and leadership are also valid objectives for the University. The School also recognizes the importance of contributions to the scholarly environment, the student's welfare, the community reputation, and the administrative effectiveness of the University. While these should not be overriding considerations in deciding on faculty status, they need to be taken into account if a fair evaluation of any faculty member is to be made.

8. Tenure and Promotion: The granting of tenure is to be considered as separate and distinct from promotion to associate professor or professor. The Appointment and Tenure Policy of Carnegie-Mellon University relating to length of service before consideration for a tenure appointment states, in part:
"The tenure decision deadline is defined to be that 30 June at which the sum of the number of years of previous service and the adjusted number of years of current service reaches nine."
With due regard for the University's implied commitment to the individual, as well as the necessity of committing a sizeable amount of endowment for each tenure appointment, it is still quite possible for an individual to meet the requirements for tenure before the end of the time limit quoted above. It is desirable that tenure be considered as soon as the criteria are satisfied. Thus the tenure appointment need not necessarily be accompanied by promotion to any given rank.
When a faculty member is granted tenure at a rank other than professor, further promotion should be considered as soon as the requirements for the next higher rank are met.

No time limit is specified or implied for promotions once tenure has been granted; however, tenure must not be granted to any faculty member unless it is confidently expected that he or she eventually will qualify for promotion to the rank of professor.


The faculty bears the responsibility for evaluating the record, the performance, and the potential future contributions of candidates for reappointment promotion and for making recommendations based upon these evaluations. The Dean and the Provost have the responsibility for supervising promotion and tenure committees to ensure that they are diligent in disclosing all the strong and weak points of the candidates' records, and that the committee recommendations are both judicious and in conformity with the above criteria. The head of each unit is responsible for preparing the documentation, including external recommendations.

SCS Faculty Reappointment and Promotion cases are prepared and reviewed annually in a three-stage process:

  1. Each SCS unit decides (usually in the Spring), in a manner coordinated by the Dean's office, which cases will be prepared.
  2. These cases are voted on by a unit-level committee (usually in the Fall) by a date at least two weeks before the SCS Review Committee meeting, and forwarded to the SCS Dean for processing at the next level
  3. All SCS cases are evaluated by the SCS Review Committee at a meeting at least two weeks before the University Promotion Review meeting and forwarded to the Provost and Review Committee.

Documentation for each case is presented to the following committees:

Unit Level Committee: At the unit level each case is evaluated by the unit in which the appointment lies. The structure of the unit level committees is organized separately in the different units. Each unit will adopt its own procedures for carrying out the evaluations and deciding upon recommendations, and provide a copy of the procedures to the Dean. The Dean's office may coordinate the preparation and review of cases which involve two or more units. The composition of the unit-level committees conforms to rules established in the University Reappointment and Tenure Policy.

SCS Review Committee: The SCS Review Committee is composed of the voting faculty members of the SCS Council appointed by the Dean, and four additional ad hoc representatives of eligible (tenured Associate or full Professor or reappointed Associate Research Professor or Research Professor)SCS faculty appointed by the SCS Faculty chair. This committee examines all cases forwarded by the unit level committees.

In all cases involving reappointment at the level of assistant professor or above, or the awarding of indefinite tenure, the following procedure will be used to arrive at a recommendation to be sent to the Provost and the University-level Promotion and Tenure Committees.

  1. By May of each year, the unit heads will inform the Dean of the names of those faculty members for whom reappointment, promotion or tenure decisions will be made during the next year, indicating which are mandatory and which are early decisions. The appropriate timing for such decisions arestipulated in the Faculty Handbook.
  2. The unit head, in consultation with the unit-level Preview Committee, will appoint a chair for each case, and a reading committee for all promotion cases, to consult with the candidate regarding the preparation of documentation supporting the candidate's case for reappointment, promotion or tenure. This documentation should be in the form outlined in the attached checklist. Items in the outline may be prepared wholly or in part by the candidate. It is particularly important that the candidate be given an opportunity to suggest names of persons to write to request letters of recommendation, though additional names may be added by the unit without informing the candidate.
  3. The documentation for each case will be distributed to the unit-level committees at least one week prior to voting. The committee members should be free to request whatever additional information they may deem necessary, from whatever sources seem appropriate. For example, the committee should have direct access to individual faculty members. Prior to the first meeting, each committee member should review, thoroughly, the Procedures and Criteria as outlined in this document.
  4. The chair will introduce the case to the unit level committee by giving a summary of the case.
  5. After the unit level meeting the unit head (or unit-level committee chair, if not the same person) will prepare a written summary of the discussion of each case and of the resulting recommendation, including the final vote and the faculty members in attendance, being as specific as possible in stating reasons for their recommendation. The recommendations are to be based on the criteria stated elsewhere in this document, with emphasis on evaluation of the candidates' qualifications. It is not the role of the unit level committee, via its promotions decisions, to make new policy or planning decisions for the School or the University. This summary statement will be forwarded to the Dean by the unit head (or unit-level chair) who will also inform the candidate as soon as possible as to the recommendation to be submitted.
  6. The recommendation of the committee will be appended to the documentation for each candidate. The process of forwarding the case from the unit level committee to the SCS Review Committee to the Provost, will proceed even if the decision is negative, unless the candidate specifically requests of the Dean in writing that the process be terminated.
  7. Reviewed faculty members will be informed of the recommendation of the SCS Review Committee and the University by the Dean. If the final recommendation is negative, then, at the request of the individual, the Provost will inform him or her in writing as to the reasons for the unfavorable decision. These reasons should be so written as to make no unjustified suggestion of incompetence in teaching or research. If the reasons are due to financial restrictions upon the School or University or to a redirection of goals, the individual shall be informed of this in writing and the administration shall assist the individual, in every reasonable way, to acquire a new position. In such a case, if subsequently the financial restrictions become less severe or if there is a favorable change in the School's goals, or the faculty member's qualifications in relation to them, he or she may request a review of the decision. Such a request may only be made during the candidate's current term of appointment.

As a supplement to the above procedure, it is the obligation of the unit heads to review, annually, the performance of each faculty member (below the rank of Professor and Research Professor) and to keep that person informed about the evaluation of his or her performance in relation to goals and resources of the units. When the review indicates that the probability that an individual will eventually obtain tenure is substantially lower than it was at the time of the last review, the appropriate unit head will convey this fact, with the reasons, to the individual.

All persons involved in these procedures are expected to act with a full sense of responsibility to the University and to the individuals concerned in the handling of confidential material and in the preparation of recommendations.

It is the obligation of all the Administrative Officers to make personnel decisions at the earliest possible date consistent with the individual's opportunity to demonstrate his or her level of competence as a teacher and a scholar.

Top of Page