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Study of Reappointment, Promotion, and Tenure Policies of the Member Universities of the Big Ten Academic Alliance (formerly the Committee on Institutional Cooperation)

UOE Contact:

Diane Doberneck

Assistant Director, National Collaborative for the Study of University Engagement
Adjunct Faculty, Bailey Scholars Program

National Collaborative for the Study of University Engagement

Despite significant efforts to raise the visibility of outreach and engagement on college campuses, faculty members continue to cite restrictive policies as a significant barrier to their participation in community engagement. Some higher education institutions have worked to address the institutional alignment challenge by impaneling faculty and administrator committees to revise their reappointment, promotion, and tenure (RPT) polices to better accommodate scholarly outreach and engagement. Little, however, is known about the nature and extent of outreach and engagement in these RPT policies:  What has been changed? Do the revised policies reflect the scholarship of engagement? How much progress has been made? In other words, are we there yet?

This qualitative study analyzed promotion and tenure policies from 15 Committee on Institutional Cooperation institutions. Thematic and content analysis focused on documents, including policies, instructions, forms, and templates, and followed a two-stage coding process guided by both extant theory and emergent discovery. The study revealed unexpectedly wide variations in language used to describe faculty work; types of examples included in the documents; the role of outreach and engagement in the promotion and tenure process; and criteria for assessing quality and excellence. No policy stood out as an exemplar, though many incorporated exemplary elements. Implications for policy and practice and directions for future research are included in the conclusion.