I am in the last year of my tenure clock and will be submitting my tenure package this Fall. However, I will not be able to teach on campus this Fall partly due to COVID-19 disruption (school closing means I will have to stay home with my children). If teaching on campus is required (not yet finalized), I would have no choice but to take an unpaid leave.

Will taking an unpaid leave hurt my tenure process?

I did some basic research. There are nothing specific in faculty handbook, nor can I find anything in the official tenure procedure book.

  • Another option might be using the provisions of the Coronavirus relief package for parents to specifically buy out your teaching instead of taking a full leave. I know some institutions are allowing this.
    – Dawn
    Jul 27, 2020 at 17:53
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    Would you be continuing to perform research during this unpaid leave?
    – nick012000
    Jul 28, 2020 at 4:30
  • 2
    The situation is unprecedented, so any answer based on how things normally work would be of dubious relevance. Jul 28, 2020 at 14:19
  • @Dawn, is there information on how to use Coronavirus relief package for parents? I couldn't find any information on this. Is there any precedence?
    – user39093
    Jul 28, 2020 at 22:12
  • Check with HR. I am part of a Facebook group for Tenure-track moms and some are using it this fall. Here is general info, although not for universities: google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/advisor/2020/05/14/…
    – Dawn
    Jul 29, 2020 at 13:49

3 Answers 3


Taking an unpaid leave of absence would often factor into tenure decisions. I would begin a discussion with you department head today. Express your concerns. COVID-19 is a very unique circumstance. Surely they could find a way for you to teach remotely if you start a discussion right now.

If I was a department chair, I would be finding ways to accommodate my faculty. But I would also want to have that discussion as soon as possible.

What you definitely do not want to do is wait until a month into the semester to inform your department that you are not going to be showing up. (We had a professor do this a few years ago and he was obviously fired).

  • 7
    Many (probably most) department chairs would work to accommodate their faculty's needs, including, if necessary, requesting special consideration from higher administrators. But to do that, they have to know about their faculty's needs. So I agree: Express your concerns. Jul 27, 2020 at 17:41

This would be a local rule and so no advice here is really valid. I assume people will be reasonable, assuming you are in a reasonable place. But It is better to talk to someone with authority at your institution and get a ruling - in writing. The department head, and/or dean, and or head of the tenure committee would all be good to talk to.

Don't make any assumptions. And don't believe it if a random internet person says don't worry be happy.

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    To the user who raised Low Quality Post flag, what's wrong with this answer? Would you please point it out?
    – Nobody
    Jul 28, 2020 at 2:45

Even if you found something in the handbook, then that was probably written before the COVID-19 crisis, so it would not mean much. I would hope that would not be held against you, and you have good arguments, but not everybody is equally reasonable. So the best guess can be made by you, as you know who make the decision.

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