Boulder Campus Policy1

Issued:   July 2001 
Revised: July 2006
Revised: December 2008
Revised: September 2009
Revised: January 2018

This memo describes campus policy regarding the circumstances and conditions under which adjustments to the tenure-track probationary period (the “tenure clock”) can be made.  This description attempts to describe the administrative practices of the Boulder campus that have been in place for some time, and to highlight some recent changes to campus practice.  These changes are the result of discussions between the Provost and the Council of Deans in the fall of 1998. The changes were intended to clarify conditions which constitute grounds for adjusting the probationary period, who the campus authority is for making certain decisions related to the probationary period, and to provide equitable treatment of faculty across colleges and schools.  

Definition:  In this memo the term "Tenure Clock" refers to the seven year probationary period between when a new assistant professor begins his/her appointment and when the mandatory tenure decision is made.  In an assistant professor's professional career, this probationary period is counted in one year increments, beginning each fall semester.  Regent's Rules do not allow a probationary period longer than seven years see Article 5.B.4.D unless waived by the faculty member and approved by the dean and provost, hence any legitimate reason for extending the time prior to a tenure decision requires that one or more semesters of service not be counted against the probationary period; that is, the "clock must be stopped" for that period. 

Justifications for Stopping the Clock

Sick Leave can be grounds for stopping the tenure clock.  Deans may authorize sick leave according to University policies.  When sick leave is granted to a probationary faculty member, the faculty member MUST STATE IN WRITING whether or not s/he wishes for the leave to stop the tenure clock. The default position is that such leave will stop the clock whenever the leave is for a significant portion of a semester.  Faculty members who elect to take a qualifying leave and choose not to have their tenure clock stopped may change their mind within six months of returning from leave.  Faculty exercising this 
option must notify their dean in writing within the six month period.  Leaves of one semester in length stop the clock for one academic year, as tenure reviews commence only during the fall semester of each year.  A sick leave accompanied by a request to stop the clock may be approved by the dean, who will inform the faculty member in writing that the clock has or has not been stopped.  The Dean's Office also submits a copy of the approval of leave, accompanied by a written declaration of whether or not the clock is stopped, to the Office of Faculty Affairs, which maintains faculty personnel records.   

For an illness to qualify as a reason to stop the tenure clock, it must be accompanied by utilization of sick leave.  Utilization of earned sick leave is the standard by which the campus determines that the illness represents a significant disruption to job performance.  By continuing to draw full salary during an illness, faculty members accept compensation for services rendered and in doing so implicitly certify to the institution that they are fulfilling the teaching, research, and service obligations for which they are being paid.  While the University reserves the right to require a faculty member to utilize sick leave when in its judgement the faculty member cannot meet his or her obligations, in many cases the choice of utilizing earned sick leave is left to the decision of the faculty member at the time of their illness or their decision to render parental or family care.  The campus then uses utilization of sick leave as the criterion to distinguish serious illness situations for which the tenure clock should be stopped from less disruptive circumstances that do not justify extending the probationary period.   

Parental leave is also grounds for stopping the tenure clock. Upon notification to the campus Office of Faculty Affairs, a tenure-track faculty member who will be the primary caregiver for a child within 12 months of birth or adoption of the child will have their tenure clock stopped automatically for one year. The faculty member will also receive up to a maximum of one semester at full pay without using accrued sick leave. Please note the following features of this policy:

  • Application of tenure clock stoppages to the comprehensive review part of the tenure clock: Within the first six months of returning from parental leave, faculty who have not yet undergone comprehensive review may elect to revoke the clock stoppage they were granted for the leave.    
  • Faculty are not required to go on parental leave in order to receive a clock stoppage for the birth/adoption/foster care placement/guardianship of a child. Faculty can request a clock stoppage within the first six months of the birth of a child without requesting a leave. 

These are binding choices, that are irrevocable once put in place.

To initiate either of the above, a request must be made in writing by the faculty member to the Vice Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Affairs. The request must be signed by the faculty member, chair, and dean. The Director of Faculty Personnel must initial the request prior to it routing to the Vice Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Affairs.   

When two faculty are parents of the same child, they may take parental leave simultaneously.  

In compliance with University policy, there is no maximum number of parental leaves for tenure-track faculty. However, only up to two tenure clock stoppages may be taken.

For further information, please review the Administrative Policy Statement (APS) 5062 on parental leave.

Discretionary Reasons for Adjusting the Tenure Clock 

Leaves Without Pay: Faculty may request to take a leave without pay (LWOP) during their tenure probationary period.  Granting of LWOP is a discretionary decision of the Provost.  Reasons for LWOP may be related to full-time pursuit of scholarly or creative work opportunities at national labs, government, or private sector facilities.  Other reasons may be related to the need to attend to personal or family matters that either are not covered under sick and parental leave policies, or activities for which a faculty member does not wish to expend accrued sick leave benefits, and during which time the faculty member will not or be unable to pursue their scholarly or creative projects.  In general, LWOP that is granted for circumstances during which time scholarly or creative projects will not be pursued may be, at the discretion of the dean or Provost, the basis for stopping the tenure clock.  In almost all other cases, particularly cases where scholarship will be part of the leave activities, the LWOP will not be approved as a basis for stopping the tenure clock.  Requests for LWOP must be made to the chair or dean in writing, and must address the issue of scholarly work and the tenure clock. 

Delaying the Start of the Clock: When faculty are hired and begin service before the completion of requirements for their terminal degree, they are usually hired into an interim appointment as an instructor until the terminal degree is awarded.  In such cases, a delay in the start of the clock is automatic.  The Dean has authority to define the length of this interim period as part of the letter of offer.  The terms of the interim appointment and how it affects the clock must be detailed in the offer letter to the candidate.
Occasionally, the recently hired faculty will fail to complete all requirements although the interim period as defined in the original letter of offer has expired.  The dean has authority to extend the interim period and in doing so further delay the start of the clock.  Delays occur in one-semester increments, but because the total probationary period may be no longer than seven years, starting the tenure clock in the middle of the academic year (January) functionally defines a 6.5 year probationary period. Faculty Members who begin their appointment in January may request a waiver of their first semester of appointment towards the tenure clock.   This request to extend the interim period must be made in writing and forwarded to the chair, the dean, and to the AVC for Faculty Affairs for approval.  Normally, this request must be made within the first six months of the faculty member’s appointment.  Upon petition, the provost may waive the first semester of appointment at a later date if it is in the best interests of the individual and the campus.

Years of Credit Toward Tenure: At the time of initial appointment, the dean, with the approval of the Office of Faculty Affairs, has authority to credit 1, 2, or 3 years or credit towards a tenure decision to incoming faculty with previous faculty experience of a comparable nature. CU System policy does not allow more than 3 years credit to be granted. Granting years of credit towards tenure must be defined in the letter of offer. Pre-tenure faculty should be conservative in requesting or accepting credit towards tenure, as the decision to have credit toward tenure becomes a binding decision on the part of both the University and the faculty member. In extraordinary circumstances, a faculty member who has already begun an appointment may, with the approval of the chair and/or dean, petition the provost to grant years towards tenure at a later date.

Other Circumstances that Occasionally Stop the Clock  

Adjustments to the tenure clock not covered in the sections above require prior written approval by the Provost.  Past situations where individuals have sought a delay to their tenure review include:  

  • Leaves without Pay where scholarly or creative work is pursued during the leave,
  • Physical-plant problems that retard the ability of the faculty to perform their work (tardy lab renovations, leaky roofs, moves within campus),
  • Excessive Workload (Teaching, Service, Librarianship, Curation),
  • Partial Leaves or Temporarily Differentiated Workload associated with a medical or family 
  • emergency or situation not covered as part of Parental Leave policy. 

The Provost generally will not approve stopping the clock for Leaves Without Pay (LWOP) where the faculty member has the opportunity to pursue his or her scholarly work unless truly unusual circumstances exist.   

Physical plant problems and excessive workload situations beyond the control of the candidate will be considered by the Provost.  The normal compensation for such situations, however, is a lightening of other workload duties in a subsequent semester or period.  It is assumed that the chair, director and the dean will first make every effort to insulate probationary faculty from such circumstances.  When such circumstances occur despite best mentoring efforts, the chair, director or dean should take steps immediately to compensate the probationary faculty member by a favorable workload adjustment in the succeeding semester so that the seven year probationary period can be maintained.   

For financial, medical, or personal reasons, faculty members may sometimes elect to take a “partial leave”.  For example, a faculty member recovering from an illness or accident may be able to carry on teaching and service duties, but unable to conduct their research/creative work because of a temporary physical limitation that restricts travel or concentration.  On the standard Research (40%):Teaching (40%): Service (20%) workload formula, this hypothetical faculty member would be on 60% time (40% leave) and earn 60% of their salary.  The Provost will consider requests to adjust the probationary period for individuals on partial medical or family leave when they are submitted via the dean.  Partial leaves associated with parental leave represent a special circumstance, discussed above. 

Reasons for which the Clock is not Stopped 

The paragraphs above discuss most of the circumstances for which delays in tenure review are considered.  Below is a non-exclusive list of events or circumstances that are not considered valid reasons for stopping the clock: 

  • Failure to publish or perform.  
  • Failure to teach desired courses.  
  • Physical or mental illnesses or disabilities not associated with utilization of sick leave, LWOP, or 
  • differentiated workload adjustments.
  • Distracting family or personal obligations when not associated with utilization of sick leave, LWOP, or 
  • differentiated workload adjustments.
  • Financial hardship.
  • Other events, activities, or circumstances that disrupt the routine schedule of a faculty member. 

In all cases requiring Provost's approval, the dean is requested to submit a copy of the written request by the faculty member accompanied by a brief written recommendation from the dean.  Requests should be submitted through the Office of Faculty Affairs, UCB 49. 

1derived from and a replacement for a policy statement on leaves from Faculty Affairs to deans, chairs, and directors dated November 3, 1998