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I am an assistant professor who went up for tenure, got a negative vote in my department and then a positive vote at the university level committee. I have asked a number of people who have been in academia for decades, and no one has seen my exact situation. I am unsure of what will be the eventual outcome. I am wondering if anyone has seen a situation like my own, and what ended up happening?

To put things in context, I have a solid number of pubs, some small grants, good to excellent teaching and outstanding service. I have had some difficult interactions with some of my colleagues, mostly because I called attention to racism and reported unethical behaviors in the past to leadership at the school.

Addendum - The school’s procedural policy seems to be that the decision now goes to the provost. There does not seem to be any explicit school policy on what would be the outcome. My understanding is that the previous votes are advisory to the provost. If it helps, all my external letters were good. 3 of the 6 explicitly stated I should get tenure.

This seems like an uncommon situation. Has anyone seen a situation like my own? What was the eventual outcome?

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    I am not sure why this is unclear. OP wants to know what would typically happen in this uncommon situation. (of course the answer is likely "this depends on your school policy", but that does not make the question unclear) – xLeitix Mar 13 at 9:13
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    The school’s procedural policy seems to be that the decision now goes to the provost. There does not seem to be any explicit school policy on what would be the outcome. My understanding is that the previous votes are advisory to the provost. If it helps, all my external letters were good. 3 of the 6 explicitly stated I should get tenure. – TenureTrackWoes Mar 13 at 11:07
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    Hmm, I don't want to generate false hope - in my experience (at least here in Europe) it would be exceedingly rare that the higher-ups decide against the expressed wish of the department where the candidate works. Also, 3 of 6 letter writers stating that you should get tenure is not really a point in your favor (typically all external letter writers would be strongly in support of getting tenure in successful cases). – xLeitix Mar 13 at 12:18
  • @xLeitix, sorry, but there is no "typical" here, nor would it apply if there were. This is a singleton case that depends on local conditions and personalities. The only "answers" that are valid come from the provost. – Buffy Mar 13 at 12:46
  • @Buffy That does not make the question unclear, though. – xLeitix Mar 13 at 13:07
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The tenure process usually has many steps, with decisions by the department's tenured faculty, the department head, the college's tenure advisory council, the college's dean, the provost, and the board of regents (or board of governors, or whatever other name they have at your school). At some schools, some of these steps may be omitted, at others there may be more steps.

A friend of mine, who happened to be a dean at the time, told me once that he's pretty sure that every combination of positive and negative votes has happened before. I know of at least one case where the department's faculty voted no and the department head recommended yes anyway.

In the end, you are right that the ultimate decision lies with either the provost or the board or regents. (Though I would suggest not taking this as legal advice -- the situation at your school may be legally different.) So you can take solace in the fact that the department's vote does not determine the outcome. Of course, the negative vote will likely be considered when the provost or the board make their decisions, and so it is still possible that you will not get tenure.

I do wish you luck in the process. Going through this is stressful, and will likely occupy a substantial fraction of your mental energies until it is resolved. After that, however, you ought to also consider what happens if you do get tenure but you have to face the colleagues in your department every day. Half of them did not think that you should get tenure. This is something that will follow you for many years to come. It will affect your standing in the department, and you will feel insecure opening your mouth every time you speak up at a committee meeting. Assuming you do get tenure, it would probably be useful to think in detail how you want to deal with this: Are there things that you think you might have done wrong in the past and for which you could atone in personal conversations with colleagues who may not have been in favor of your tenure? You might eventually find that you don't feel sufficiently welcome in the department to spend the remainder of your professional life there, even though you ended up getting tenure, and might want to look around for jobs elsewhere.

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