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Promotion and Tenure Guidelines Jack J. Valenti School of Communication Promotion and Tenure Guidelines


Departmental guidelines and policies are subject to policies promulgated at the college and university levels. In the case of promotion and tenure, guidelines provided by the Office of the Provost form the basis of all promotion and tenure decisions. While a college or department may choose to implement more rigorous standards than those detailed in the university-level promotion and tenure guidelines, a college or department may not implement policies that result implicitly or explicitly in the application of less rigorous standards than detailed in the university-level promotion and tenure guidelines. It is the obligation of the chair of the department to make all new tenured or tenure-track faculty members aware in writing of not only the university-level promotion guidelines but also any college or departmental level policies or procedures that may impact their tenure and/or promotion.   

These guidelines for professional evaluation of tenured and tenure-track members of the University of Houston's Valenti School of Communication are prepared as a general document without reference to particular individuals or configurations of accomplishment. They do not prescribe a uniform roster of accomplishments that must be achieved by all candidates for tenure or promotion.  Rather, they suggest ways of evaluating accomplishments in research, teaching, and service by allowing flexibility in assigning relative weights to these three activities.

The Valenti School of Communication applies the highest standards in scrutinizing tenure and promotion of faculty. These guidelines are intended not only to convey those standards but also to assert the autonomy of the school’s judgment in their application. The school’s policy is to facilitate different academic talents and interests; therefore, these guidelines should be viewed as a reference point encouraging the faculty to further the knowledge of the discipline through quality research, teaching, and service.


Under the university procedures, tenure and promotion to the rank of Associate Professor occur together as one, inseparable process, except in cases where one is initially hired as an untenured Associate or Full professor. Also under university procedures, all Assistant Professors must be reviewed for tenure and promotion no later than during the Fall of their 6th year on the tenure track. A tenure-track faculty member will be on probationary status the first three years of employment at the University. A review will be performed in the Spring semester of a faculty member’s third-year in which all tenured faculty and the director will evaluate the accomplishments of the candidate from her/his appointment date up to the time of the review. The director will convey in writing (and in a face-to-face meeting, if necessary) the evaluation of the committee to the faculty member. If accomplishments by the faculty member are considered by the tenured faculty to be significantly delayed, the director will counsel the faculty member on appropriate next steps. The School and the University reserve the right to dismiss the faculty member after a third-year review if it is deemed the faculty member does not have a strong case for tenure and promotion to associate professor at six years of the faculty member’s career at the University.

Assistant Professors who arrive at the University of Houston with tenure track experience elsewhere may negotiate the remaining number of years before mandatory review at the time they are hired.

Assistant Professors may also negotiate with the director and college dean time off the tenure track as part of a leave of absence that occurs during the first five years on the tenure track.

Associate Professors and Professors with tenure elsewhere will go through the same tenure and promotion process at the time they are hired.

When the faculty member reaches his/her sixth year, s/he will submit an application for tenure and promotion to the school, college, and university. The process begins near the end of spring of the candidate’s fifth year, and the tenure and promotion application travels to the various levels of evaluation (including external reviewers) until approximately the summer of the candidate’s sixth year. The candidate is then either granted tenure and promotion or dismissed from the university.

The six year designation is the maximum time limit; occasionally, on the basis of an exceptional record of professional accomplishment, an Assistant Professor may be reviewed for the tenure and promotion before that time, if the candidate so desires after consultation with the director. In such a case, the candidate has the right to stop the process at any point before her/his materials are forwarded to the college without prejudicing the future, mandatory (6th year) review. Faculty who begin employment as untenured Associate or Full Professors, in accordance with university policy, will be reviewed for tenure in the Fall of their third year of service. They should negotiate the specific criteria upon which tenure will be awarded at the time they are hired.

Late in the spring of the year preceding the review process, the candidate will submit to the director four to eight names of communication scholars outside the University of Houston who share the candidate’s specialty and who are “arms length” in their relationship to the candidate. The director is under no obligation to use the names recommended. The director will also solicit suggested names from other members of the school. During the summer, the director will locate between four and six arms length, outside scholars who agree to serve in a review capacity. The director should provide clear criteria on tenure and promotion guidelines to prospective external reviewers. The candidate will select several papers/book chapters that best represent her/his work which, together with a curriculum vitae, comprise the materials upon which the outside reviewers will evaluate the candidate’s work. All letters from outside reviewers will become part of the file used within the school to evaluate the candidate and will be sent forward to the college.

In accordance with the University guidelines (usually in September of the year in which the candidate is reviewed), the candidate will put together a file comprised of at least the following (the candidate may supplement this in whatever way she/he wishes):

  1. An up-to-date curriculum vitae.
  2. A personal statement summarizing her/his professional accomplishments to date and discussing the direction of her/his efforts in the next few years.
  3. Copies of all publications, grant proposals, works under outside review, reports to funding agencies, research monographs, and artistic/creative works and productions.
  4. A list of departmental, college and university service, and of community service (May appear on the C.V.).
  5. A list of all courses taught at UH, graduate students supervised (thesis and Comps), and thesis and Comps committee service (May appear on the C.V.).
  6. Most recent 5-year teaching evaluations, both numerical and comments, and latest course syllabi.

In addition, the candidate’s Third Year Review letter will be made available to the Tenure and Promotion Committee and the director. This file of materials constitutes the basis of review by the Tenure and Promotion Committee which consists of all tenured members of the faculty in the school, and will be forwarded to the college for its review process.

The Tenure and Promotion Committee and the director review the candidate’s materials independently. At the close of the committee's discussion, a formal confidential vote is taken as to whether or not the candidate should be tenured and/or promoted separately. The committee drafts a recommendation letter to the director. The director then informs the candidate, in writing, of the outcome and whether or not the director will be recommending to the college that the candidate be promoted and tenured.

The candidate may request, and will automatically receive a hearing by the tenure and promotion committee, if the candidate wishes to appeal the outcome of the departmental process. To receive such a hearing, the candidate must request it, in writing, within one week of receipt of the director's letter. If such a hearing is held, a re-vote will be conducted. At the close of the process, the director will compose the formal letter of assessment including the director's recommended action, to be submitted to the college along with the rest of the candidate’s materials, including the letter(s) from the Tenure and Promotion Committee. The director's letter will include only the final vote counts of the Tenure and Promotion Committee.

To best navigate this process, it is strongly recommended that tenure-track faculty members seek one or more mentors. One mentor should be a tenured faculty member in the Valenti School. Mentors in other units of the university as well as outside the university may be helpful as well. The mentorship can be as formal as the mentor-mentee would like, and no decisions will be made by the tenure and promotion committee based on the status of the mentor-mentee relationship. It is the faculty member’s responsibility to seek and obtain advice outside of the parameters set by this or other tenure and promotion documents.

Candidates are assessed in three areas: research, teaching, and service. They are expected to demonstrate professional competence and commitment in all three areas, although service is a less important component than research and teaching.


In evaluating the research competence of candidates, the school holds the principle of peer review to be paramount. Candidates should demonstrate that a meaningful part of their published research has successfully undergone the peer review process at journals and presses regarded in the discipline as being of high quality.

The commitment to research is demonstrated by a record of publications that constitutes progress toward fulfillment of a planned program of research. That program should be described in a candidate’s third-year review statement. Candidates should demonstrate evidence of intellectual independence and the ability to sustain a coherent program of research. Candidates are advised that coauthored work with senior, well-established faculty will receive less weight than co-authorship with time-in-grade peers. Similarly, while co-authorship with graduate students is encouraged, candidates should evaluate the extent to which they co-author with current graduate students; faculty members should not rely on students too heavily to be able to be productive in research.

While minimal quantitative standards vary, candidates for tenure must show work beyond that completed as a graduate student. It is expected that candidates will mine their dissertations for books and/or articles. But that process should be essentially complete by the third year review, and a post-dissertation research agenda with one or more new publishable projects should be in place.

Tenure and promotion to associate professor requires a body of peer-reviewed scholarly publications or productions that demonstrates a national reputation. Although the actual path to tenure can vary greatly in our discipline, the common thread in all cases must be a sustained, scholarly effort leading to publication in quality, refereed outlets. External reviewers are largely called upon to evaluate this “national reputation” criterion.

Different candidates will have different mixes of refereed journal articles, books, grants, book chapters, research reports, and monographs, etc. Generally, the school would consider a sole- or lead-authored book plus 5 articles or ten articles in which the candidate is the sole or leading author on at least six as a prima facie case for tenure and promotion. The quality of these articles is the essential standard.

The quality of the publications and/or productions will be gauged by assessing both the content of the published works and the caliber of the publication outlet, focusing in particular on its reputation, audience reach, relevance, and community impacts as well as the level of competitiveness in terms of having stories, feature articles, opinion editorials, and/or live, mediated, theatrical or digital productions accepted. It is up to the candidate to make an argument as to why works outside of the communication field should be considered as productive to the candidate’s research agenda as well as helpful in improving the reputation of the Valenti School as a research-based unit. Peer-bestowed recognition awards may also be used to evaluate the quality of such works. 

Publication of textbooks solely for student use, un-refereed journal articles, and the editing of books are not of major importance in assessing a candidates’ research productivity for purposes of tenure and promotion, although they will not count against a candidate. Papers presented at major professional meetings or ad hoc conferences in the communication field are positively viewed, although they carry less weight than peer-reviewed journal articles and books.

Research grants and contracts are not necessary for tenure and promotion, but are positively regarded if present. However, it is the scholarly and/or policy outcome of the research, not the grant or contract that expedites it, that is most important.


Teaching is an important component of all recommendations for tenure and promotion. Competent teaching is a necessary condition for tenure and promotion to associate professor. In accordance with University of Houston policy, standardized student evaluations are required in evaluating a candidate’s entire teaching record.

Excellence in teaching can be measured by such factors as satisfactory student evaluations with at least the college average for most courses taught, peer evaluations, letters from former students or from others who have knowledge of the candidate's teaching activities, creation of new courses, updating existing courses, supervision of honors and graduate theses, membership on graduate thesis committees, participation in graduate student exams, willingness to teach service courses, participation at educational conventions, workshops and/or clinics, and advising students.

Recognition should be given for the design and implementation of innovative courses using new technologies. More generally, the evaluation of teaching should acknowledge special innovative efforts to enhance the school’s instructional capacity.


Service relevant to promotion and tenure occurs in (a) the institutional setting of the school, college and university; (b) the activities of the profession; and (c) in public affairs of the community. Candidates are not expected to be heavily engaged in service activities during the first few years in a tenure-track position. Thereafter, they are expected to carry their share of school, college, and university activities.

It is expected that candidates will be active participants, continuously serving on a few committees in the school, college and/or university.

In addition, candidates should have provided some service either to the community or the profession. This may include serving as an officer in local, regional or national organizations, serving as an active member of an editorial board or a program committee. Community activities outside the university, involving a faculty member in a professional role are recognized as a service contribution. Service activities for which one’s scholarly expertise is not relevant do not count as service.


Recommendation for promotion to Professor will normally rest on the continuation and maturation of activities that merit the granting of tenure. The research record should reflect consistent and persistent progress in publications and scholarly recognition. Demonstration of capacity as an independent scholar, scholarly maturity, and recognition is imperative. Because the school considers both the quality and quantity of the candidate’s published research, there is no set number of publications that can guarantee promotion to Professor. Additions to the publication record of an Associate Professor should at least approximate the quantitative standards in this document for promotion from an Assistant Professor to Associate Professor before a candidate is considered for promotion to professor.

Although it is not necessary that the field of research expertise be the same as that for promotion from Assistant to Associate, it is more essential for promotion to Professor that the candidate establish national or, if appropriate, international recognition for contribution to a specific field of knowledge. Such recognition adds favorably to the growth and development of the school’s national and international reputation. More than in the case of junior scholars, citations, research grants, and outside evaluations are vital evidence of the significance of scholarship.

Teaching remains an important function for senior members of the school. Maintenance of the high quality required for the earlier promotion is of continuing great importance. Innovative contributions to the school are expected. Candidates may also distinguish themselves through sustained contributions to the scholarly enterprise of teaching. Contributions beyond the scope of the school are particularly noteworthy. Contributions to the graduate program should be an established part of the candidate’s professional agenda. The record should include providing a role model as a research scholar as well as mentoring of individual graduate students and to tenure-track assistant and newly tenure associate faculty members.

Service activities, as with scholarly publication, should reflect the advanced status of candidates for promotion to Professor. Consistent, active participation in school, college, university, and professional affairs is assumed; candidates’ contributions to advancing the school obvious. The criteria for promotion are oriented more to leadership roles in regional, national, or international associations. This should complement responsible ad hoc roles in conferences or less formal group activities.

While there is a set number of years in which candidates must apply for promotion from assistant to associate professor, there is no minimum or maximum number of years in which candidates must apply for promotion from associate to full. In the spirit of the guidelines set by the Provost, associate professors should continually be working toward promotion to full professor. Associate professors are also encouraged (but not required) to seek mentors who are at the rank of full professor.