Skip to main content

Chapter 2: General Principles, Rules, and Procedures for Appointment, Reappointment, and Termination

This chapter summarizes the general principles, rules, and procedures for appointment to faculty positions at Vanderbilt. The full range of positions defined is provided in Chapter 1, Academic Titles at Vanderbilt. Positions may carry academic tenure (“tenure appointments”) or may exist only for a specified period of time (“term appointments” or “non-tenure appointments”). Term appointments may be on the tenure track, i.e., they offer the possibility of tenure, or not on the tenure track, in which case they do not offer the possibility of tenure. Subject to the approval of the Provost (who will consult with the Dean of the School of Medicine with respect to matters related to the School of Medicine), each school publishes additional policies and procedures relating to appointment, reappointment, promotion, and tenure. These additional policies and procedures are available from the Deans of the schools.

A: Equal Opportunity

Vanderbilt is an Equal Opportunity Employer; therefore, all employment and hiring practices, including those for filling faculty positions, must be in accordance with relevant federal and state statutes and regulations and in accordance with the Affirmative Action Plan of Vanderbilt University (see Part III, Chapter 2, Section E of the Faculty Manual). Deans of the schools and the Equal Employment Opportunity Office have detailed information regarding these requirements.

B: Authorization of Academic Positions

Before a formal search to fill a faculty position may begin, authorization in writing must be obtained from the Provost and the Dean of the relevant school, except in the Clinical Departments of the School of Medicine where department chairs have standing authorization subject to the availability of funds and space. A position is not assumed to be authorized in a given department simply because a faculty member from that department has left the University. Authorizations for faculty positions are terminated (1) when vacated by retirement, resignation, or other reason; and (2) when not filled within the year in which they are budgeted. Positions may be carried over to a new budget year on specific authorization. All position authorizations, including renewals, must be determined in light of school-wide and University-wide priorities. Faculty appointments in the University are made to a school and, where appropriate, to a department.

C: Written Terms of Appointment

The terms and conditions of every appointment to the faculty, including extensions, modifications, and notices incumbent upon either party, are stated in writing, with a copy furnished to both parties. To the fullest extent practicable, all understandings with respect to terms of appointment, including specification of the appropriate kinds of research, scholarship, or creative expression, should be stated in the letter of appointment. The letter of appointment clearly states the term of an appointment and whether it is subject to renewal.

D: Procedures for Initial Term Appointments

In schools organized by departments, all appointments are formally initiated by the department chair in consultation with the Dean, with other members of the department, and with other department chairs in the case of joint or interdepartmental appointments. In the School of Medicine, all faculty appointments in the Clinical Departments are initiated formally by the department chair with the approval of the Dean (or Dean’s designee). In the Basic Science Departments of the School of Medicine, faculty appointments are initiated formally by the department chair with the approval of the Provost or Provost’s designee, in consultation with the Dean or Dean’s designee. Notification of faculty appointments for all School of Medicine departments will be joint and cosigned by the Provost and Dean of the School of Medicine or their designees. In schools organized in divisions or programs of study, appointments are formally initiated by the Dean in consultation with tenured and other appropriate faculty. The Dean of the Graduate School is consulted if the prospective faculty member will be expected to offer graduate courses.

The recommendation for a new appointment should include information and documentation specified by the Provost (or Provost’s designee) or in the case of an appointment in a School of Medicine Clinical Department, the Dean of the School of Medicine (or Dean’s designee).

After a proposed term appointment is approved by the Dean, the complete file is sent to the Provost for consideration. In the case of appointments in the School of Medicine Clinical Departments, approval is by the Dean of the School of Medicine (or Dean’s designee), in consultation with the Provost. The Provost notifies the Dean of the final action, and the Dean informs the department chair, where applicable, and executes the appointment, after which time announcement of term appointments can be made. Initial appointments to tenure-track positions require the approval of the Chancellor (or the Chancellor’s designee).

Term appointments are for fixed terms of one year (as is typically the case for Instructors), three years (as is typically the case for Assistant Professors), or other periods not to exceed five years.

E: Standards and Procedures for the Renewal of Term Appointments

Certain faculty members holding term appointments are eligible for reappointment or renewal. Up to the time of a decision on tenure, all faculty holding tenure-track appointments are eligible for reappointment. The procedures for renewing a term appointment generally follow those for initial term appointments. Normally, the successful candidate for reappointment will have received a positive recommendation from their/her/his department or school, as applicable. A positive recommendation of the candidate’s Dean is required, as is approval of the Provost, except for faculty reappointments in the School of Medicine Clinical Departments where only the Dean’s approval is necessary. The colleges and schools may adopt more detailed procedures for reappointment with the approval of the Provost or the Dean of the School of Medicine in the case of the School of Medicine Clinical Departments.

Tenure-track faculty members should be recommended for reappointment only if their performance provides a reasonable basis on which to project continued progress that could ultimately enable them to qualify for tenure. The evidence needed becomes more weighty with continued time in rank. Some degree of evidence is needed at each renewal period.

Faculty members holding renewable one-year appointments will normally receive written notices of renewal or nonrenewal by March 1, or, in the case of faculty members not on academic-year appointments, at least four months prior to the expiration of the appointment term. For faculty members who have appointments exceeding one year, written notices of renewal or nonrenewal normally will be made thirteen months prior to the expiration of the appointment term, e.g., by June 1 of the penultimate year of an appointment coinciding with the academic year. In certain circumstances, as when an appointment is dependent on the receipt of outside funds, written notification may be delayed until October 15, when a statement of contingencies must be provided, with the expectation of a final decision by December 15 of the final year. Such delayed notification using similar time intervals may also be used for faculty members with appointments that do not coincide with the academic year.

F: Procedures for New Appointments with Tenure

When a new appointment is made at Vanderbilt that carries with it the concurrent award of tenure, the procedures to be followed are as described in Chapter 3, Section F, “Standards and Procedures for the Award of Tenure from Outside the University.”

G: Full-status Partial-load Appointments

Tenure-track appointments may be made for partial-load faculty members, with those members being eligible for promotion through all ranks. Persons with such appointments are designated as having full status with partial load, and the letter of appointment must so state.

These appointments are ordinarily directed toward faculty members who look only to the University for their compensated activity, but whose family commitments or health prevents a full faculty load. They are distinguished from non-tenure-track “part-time” appointments such as lecturer, and from those professorial ranks bearing the prefixes adjunct, clinical, visiting, research, or adjoint, in which the individual ordinarily earns additional compensation apart from University salary. Full-status partial-load appointments must be consistent with the financial and programmatic needs of the individual schools. Partial-load faculty appointments may be reviewed from time to time to determine whether activities of such faculty members outside the University continue to warrant a partial-load appointment.

Professional qualifications expected for partial-load positions are the same as for full-time positions. Appointments and promotions are made in accordance with Chapters 2 and 3, and partial-load faculty members are subject to the provisions of the Faculty Manual.

Partial-load faculty members shall commit an agreed percentage of their time to the University, but not less than 50 percent. The letter of appointment specifies the percentage. Partial-load faculty appointments do not imply future full-load appointments; changes from partial to full load (or the reverse) must be approved by the appropriate Dean and the Provost, except for appointments in the School of Medicine Clinical Departments where only the approval of the Dean of the School of Medicine is required.

Procedures and criteria for promotion are the same for partial-load as for full-load positions, except that the allowable period for promotion to tenure may be extended to three years beyond the period provided in Chapter 3. Approval by the Dean and by the Provost is required, except for appointments in the School of Medicine Clinical Departments, where only the approval of the Dean of the School of Medicine is required.

Full-status partial-load faculty members are eligible for fringe benefits available to full-load members, except that some benefits will be reduced to correspond to the fraction of the load carried by the faculty member. Such benefits for faculty in the School of Medicine Clinical Departments and School of Nursing faculty employed by VUMC are provided by Vanderbilt University Medical Center. For example, contributions to the retirement plan, the established percentages of contribution are based on a faculty member’s base salary. Social Security, group life insurance (employer provided and optional), and disability insurance also are based on salary. Health care coverage may continue as for any other active full-time faculty member or the faculty member may waive the coverage. Full coverage for travel accident insurance, the full discount for athletic tickets, and the tuition benefit are allowed regardless of the percentage of load.

H: Joint Appointments

When a faculty member receives a joint appointment in two departments in the same school of the University, the letter of appointment designates the primary department for administrative purposes. The chair of the primary department will receive the cooperation of chairs of other departments in the assignment of workload and other matters affecting the joint nature of the appointment.

When a faculty member receives a joint appointment in two different schools of the University, the letter of appointment designates the primary department or division for administrative purposes, and the chair of that department-or the Dean, in schools without departments-will carry the same responsibility as though all parts of the appointment were in the same school. The cost of employee benefits will generally be prorated between the schools in proportion to each school’s share of the faculty member’s salary, although this practice is not common for joint appointments to the schools of Medicine and Nursing.

Cooperative arrangements and joint programs between departments, between schools, or between Vanderbilt and another institution do not necessarily require joint appointments.

When a joint appointment is made between Vanderbilt and another institution, the letter of appointment must specify which institution is to become the primary base of the appointment. This base institution will handle all payroll procedures and employee benefits, billing the joint institution as appropriate with the salary division. The employee benefits to be received under such a joint appointment will normally be those of the base institution. An individual with a joint appointment may hold different academic ranks within the schools at Vanderbilt or at different institutions. In all cases of joint appointments, the letter of appointment must specify any arrangements for tenure or term appointments.

I: Part-time Appointments

The procedure for making part-time term appointments is the same as for any other term appointment. Unless otherwise specified, part-time faculty are subject to the same responsibilities (Part III below), disciplinary procedures (Part IV below), and renewal and termination procedures (Part II, Chapters 2 and 3) as full-time faculty in the same ranks, and they have recourse to the faculty grievance procedures (Part II, Chapter 3, and Part IV below). Part-time members of the faculties not having full status with partial load are non-voting members of the Faculty Assembly (Part I, Chapter 2 below).

J: Research Professorial Appointments

Research professorial appointments are made for fixed terms, the length of which may depend on the duration of research grants or contracts held by the University. Terms may be renewed without limitation, but no length of service can be expected to lead to automatic tenure. The titles of the research professorships are not to be considered shelters in which tenure decisions on regular faculty can be avoided. Any department may, however, at any time recommend that a person holding a research professorship be appointed to a rank on the normal tenure track of Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor.

Notice of nonrenewal of the appointment will normally be given to the Research Professor at least six months before the end of the appointment. If renewal depends upon obtaining contract or grant funds still in doubt at that time, the notice may be that the University intends not to renew the appointment unless the funds are obtained.

A Research Professor wishing to terminate their/her/his appointment before the end of the fixed term must give six months’ notice. Waiver of notice periods may be negotiated by express consent of both parties.

K: Retirement

1. Age of Retirement

There is no mandatory retirement. Issues regarding retirement planning should be addressed to the department chair or Dean.

The Deans of the individual schools with the approval of the Provost may make provision for retirement incentive arrangements for tenured faculty members, including provision for deferred compensation and the continuation of specified fringe benefits. For faculty in the School of Medicine Clinical Departments, the Dean of the School of Medicine will obtain the concurrence of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Board for any such provisions.

2. Emeritus and Emerita Status for Faculty

The Dean in consultation with the department chair will recommend to the Provost or Provost’s designee those retiring members of the faculty (including those in School of Medicine Basic Science Departments) to be awarded Emeritus or Emerita status. For faculty appointed in the School of Medicine Clinical Departments, the recommendation of the Dean of the School of Medicine suffices. The recommendation will be accompanied by a biographical statement of some 200 to 300 words citing the faculty member’s contributions to the University and the academic world in teaching, scholarship, and service.

The Provost, or in the case of faculty in the School of Medicine Clinical Departments the Dean of the School of Medicine, may recommend the award of Emeritus or Emerita status to the Chancellor, who may recommend action to the Board of Trust. Emeritus or Emerita actions generally will be made at the spring meeting of the Board. The action of the Board of Trust is transmitted by the Provost to the Dean, who notifies the department chair and the faculty member. No public announcement may be made until after Board of Trust action. Public recognition of Emeritus or Emerita status is made at Commencement at the end of the academic year.

On occasion, a school may contract with an Emeritus or Emerita Professor to teach as a lecturer a specific course or perform other specific and limited duties.

3. Emeritus or Emerita Status for Administrators

In rare cases, Emeritus or Emerita status will be awarded to an administrative officer of Vanderbilt University who does not hold faculty rank. The procedure for consideration of such status will, insofar as possible, parallel that for tenured faculty, except that consideration for the award of Emeritus or Emerita status must start with the recommendation of the Provost to the Chancellor.

L: Resignation

A faculty member may terminate an appointment effective at the end of an academic year, provided that they/she/he gives notice in writing as early as possible, preferably before March 1. Faculty members not on academic-year appointments should give notice in writing at least four months prior to the date on which they wish their appointment to terminate. Faculty members resigning tenure appointments are expected to give at least six months’ notice. Waivers of notice periods may be negotiated by express consent of both parties.

M: Termination

Faculty members may be terminated for cause subject to the procedures described in “Disciplinary Actions,” Part IV, Chapter 1.