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Tenure clock extensions for faculty impacted by the COVID-19 crisis

The following message was sent to UW-Madison department chairs, deans and associate deans by John Karl Scholz, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs and Kirsten Wolf, professor and chair, University Committee on March 24, 2021.

We know the pandemic has had a detrimental impact on the work life and personal situations of a significant number of our faculty (and others). Acknowledging these challenges, campus offered a one-year tenure clock extension for those who requested an additional year. We are writing to you today because we are hearing the suggestion from some campus community members that an additional year of COVID tenure clock extension should be offered to those who have already received one extension.

Tenure clock extensions, while very much justified and helpful in many circumstances, may have negative impacts. An extension of the tenure clock can potentially exclude faculty members from moving into positions of authority that require tenure, prevent faculty from applying for large research center grants that require the primary investigator to be tenured, put the faculty member out of sync with funding opportunities that have time restrictions on award (such as those that are limited to a certain number of years after PhD earned), and decrease their long-term earning potential, especially if have taken more than one extension.

Rather than providing another round of automatic COVID tenure clock extensions for untenured faculty, we ask that departments make use of our regular tenure clock extension mechanism, if faculty are experiencing the continuing effects of the COVID pandemic, regardless of whether the effects are due to personal or professional reasons. We ask that you and mentoring committees in your departments be vigilant for such circumstances that would appear to warrant approval of such requests and liberal with passing them up the chain for approval.

Instructions on how to apply for an extension

Questions regarding this new guidance should be directed to the Secretary of the Faculty, at sof@secfac.wisc.edu.