Assume the tenure track faculty members has produced worthwhile and well published research, has shown potential to attract outside funding and has above average reviews for classroom instruction.

Is the mere fact that this person treats other faculty members (not students) with varying levels of hostility, is generally uncooperative and largely disliked by department faculty enough to deny tenure?

The positives are pretty strong and I would normally assume they would be sufficient but I am concerned that other department faculty could strongly disagree and some may even choose to seek employment elsewhere if he is granted tenure.


In practice, "collegiality" is often a consideration in tenure decisions, whether or not it is a factor identified in the university policy on tenure and promotion.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has come out with a statement against the use of collegiality as a an explicit factor in tenure decisions:


However, this report also makes it clear that a faculty member who is hostile to the other faculty in his/her department would typically not be doing an adequate job in service and teaching, because working with colleagues in these areas is a necessary part of the job.

Thus "We're not granting tenure to John because no one likes him" wouldn't be a good reason, while "We're not granting tenure to John because he doesn't work productively in departmental committees" would be a reason to deny tenure.

As a practical matter, if the tenured faculty in the department don't like you and don't want you to get tenure, they'll probably find an excuse to deny you tenure. Any tenure track faculty member would be well advised to get along with the other faculty in the department.

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    This sounds exactly right to me. You shouldn't evaluate your colleagues for tenure based on how much you like them....but tenure is giving someone a job for life. One has to think twice before signing up for a lifelong dysfunctional working relationship. Moreover, it is a bit distressing if the threat of tenure denial does not persuade an assistant professor to be somewhat reasonable to work with: maybe with the security of tenure they'll be even worse? – Pete L. Clark Jun 3 '16 at 2:35
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    @Pete I'm curious what metric/axioms you're using for your claim that one shouldn't base such decisions on someone's likeability. Is academia really all about individual merit at all costs, even if it means promoting an unsavory human being to a position of power? Even if the emotional well being of faculty is to be discounted, is the drain on a department's long term collaborative health not supposed to be considered? This seems... bizarre... really, especially considering how (at least in my field) the "best" departments are the ones where the professors actually work together collegially. – user4512 Jun 3 '16 at 7:17
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    Also, that AAUP missive is pretty poorly argued. It falls prey to the fallacy of citing singular counterexamples to disprove trends ("Gadflies...have all been known to play an invaluable and constructive role"); it hinges on unsubstantiated quantifiers ("very real potential", "relatively little"); and ultimately it both fears collegiality would alter decisions and yet insists that it is 100% correlated with other criteria, so an entirely uncollegiate person will automatically fail the other criteria (so why be worried then?)... – user4512 Jun 3 '16 at 7:26
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    @ChrisWhite you don't have to like someone to work with her/him. I guess that is the distinction Pete is making: likeability should not play a role as long as you can productively work in the same department. – Maarten Buis Jun 3 '16 at 7:28
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    @ChrisWhite: One reason to be cautious of using likeability in tenure decisions: subjective terms often function (consciously or not) as a way for people to sneak their own extra-professional preferences into the system. For example, for many decades, 'likeability' and 'collegiality' were used to deny women tenure, on the grounds that they didn't fit in with the department culture. – Tom Church Jun 3 '16 at 17:16

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