Following this question it is natural to ask a basic question:

Assuming a tenure-track faculty member in the US or Canada was denied tenure after their case has been submitted to the University. Is this information public or confidential? Both in practice, and formally speaking.

Edit: to clarify my question: I am interested to know whether this information is formally confidential. I.e., panel members are not allowed to discuss it with colleagues, just as they are not allowed to discuss paper rejections with colleagues.

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    A positive tenure decision usually results in a formal and public vote to award tenure by the university regents or governing board. However, if the decision is negative, the matter is typically never presented to the board- rather, some committee or official at an earlier stage in the process simply doesn't reocmmend in favor of tenure. In such cases, there probably wouldn't be any public record of the decision. Sep 12, 2022 at 2:29
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    @BrianBorchers - sounds like an answer, please put it in the answer box.
    – cag51
    Sep 12, 2022 at 15:14

3 Answers 3


Generally speaking, personnel matters would be confidential, and that includes tenure denial.

However, if someone is familiar with a university, they would know that an assistant professor was hired on date X, 90% of assistant professors submit their tenure application by customary date Y, and a decision normally comes on date Z. If date Z passes and the assistant professor's tenure is not announced, then there is 90% certainty tenure was denied.

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    To add to this: at least at my university, board of regents meeting minutes are public, and they list successful tenure/promotion cases, but not (I don't believe) unsuccessful ones.
    – Kimball
    Sep 12, 2022 at 1:37
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    @Kimball The minutes are public, but almost certainly not the supporting documents if they pertain to personnel matters. Sep 12, 2022 at 2:27
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    @WolfgangBangerth Sure, I don't imagine the regents even look at tenure files. I was just trying to point out a way in which one can publicly check successful tenure/promotion cases (but not denials). I don't know how else you would tyr to find this info, except by checking individual faculty CVs (which are often not available, or not up-to-date, and even then there are a few cases where promotion from Asst to Assoc Prof doesn't coincide with tenure).
    – Kimball
    Sep 12, 2022 at 5:54
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    @Kimball Ah I see. Yes, the yes/no decision should be recorded there, unless that also counts as a personnel issue. Sep 12, 2022 at 14:58
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    Thanks. Yet a related question is it strictly confidential, i.e., are the committee/panel denying tenure allowed to speak about it to others?
    – Dilworth
    Sep 12, 2022 at 15:50

I’m not sure what you mean by “public”. The decision is technically confidential but basically nearly every person in the department will soon learn of the decision since someone is leaving. The Chair or Head will promptly know as there are now courses to be reassigned or removed from the timetable. If the person had a research group then the students have to be reassigned.

Now I don’t think the decision is announced by the institution no more than announcement are made when someone leaves (so in this sense it is not public), but such a decision rarely remains confidential for very long.

  • Yes, in the department people will know you are leaving. But they won't know the reason necessarily.
    – Dilworth
    Sep 12, 2022 at 15:49
  • @Dilworth this is the kind of information that never be kept secret: everyone but undergraduates will know pretty rapidly. Sep 12, 2022 at 19:17
  • My question is (also) is this information confidential? For instance when a paper is rejected it is confidential information! I am not supposed to talk about this rejection with peers. Is it legit to discuss tenure-denial with colleagues?
    – Dilworth
    Sep 12, 2022 at 21:05
  • It is no more or less legit than discussing rejection of a paper. Or no more or less legit than discussing why this one candidate was not hired, even if the decision is not public. This type of decision is not advertised but as there are obvious consequences discussions (not necessarily for nefarious reasons) are unavoidable. Sep 13, 2022 at 3:38

At my big state R1 university, the whole tenured faculty will be aware of a committee recommendation against tenure, and/or have actually voted on the issue.

In some cases, the untenured person is "counseled out", so the issue never comes to a vote. This part of the process is less sunlit, since "private consensus" that the person's tenure vote would fail (in the dept) is potentially very subjective/volatile.

(I have indeed seen more than one occasion in which a senior faculty person down-talked a person who'd been approved by the committee... effectively "black-balling" the person, since our dept insists on a substantial super-majority to approve tenure. That event was not made public, etc. On at least one occasion, a grievance was filed, and (I know because I testified...) the higher-ups' conclusion was that there was a "procedural problem", but no change in the conclusion. On another occasion, a senior faculty person apparently exercised inappropriate influence in the (otherwise rubber-stamping departments' recommendations) "Dean's committee"... the Dean recognized that something was fishy, and, by chance, I did personally go to talk to the Dean about the weird outcome, ... so in that case the craziness was avoided. But, to respond to the literal question, there was not even a private, much less public discussion of the process or the craziness.)

So: it's effectively private, but faculty have not signed NDAs...

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