How to Write a Letter to the Dean for Tenure Consideration

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Tenure is a daunting process; a professor goes to graduate school for six years or more, is hired by a university, works for four to seven more years and then still has to make a case that she is worthy of staying at Big State University. Many factors are considered: her publication record, teaching history, service to the university and even how well she gets along with her colleagues. Fortunately, outside reviewers can make this process easier for the candidate, the dean and the tenure committee by writing recommendation letters that identify the candidate's strengths and weaknesses.

  • Obtain a page of your department's letterhead. You are writing as a representative of your university and department, so the letterhead is essential for your credibility.

  • Open by identifying the candidate and his department. State that the letter is a letter of recommendation for the candidate's tenure case.

  • Introduce yourself and explain how you know the candidate, and how long you have known her.

  • Discuss which criteria is the candidate's strongest asset: scholarship, teaching or service; elaborate on that area with specific examples. For example, in the area of scholarship, discuss publications that you feel are especially relevant to the field or had a great impact.

  • Discuss the other two areas as well; if you do not have information about an area of the candidate's work, such as his teaching, clearly say so.

  • Mention any weaknesses that you perceive the candidate has and give examples. Explain the severity of the weaknesses and whether they should affect the tenure process.

  • Close with an overall evaluation, and make a recommendation about the candidate's suitability for tenure. Supply your contact information for the dean in case she requires additional detail.

  • Use a formal closing, print the letter and sign it.

  • Mail the letter through your department's mail service. Notify the candidate that you submitted her letter.

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