You are here: American University Provost Office of the Dean of Faculty Term Faculty Anthropology Term Faculty Promotion Guidelines

*This does not constitute an employment contract

American University
Department of Anthropology
Department Criteria for Term Faculty Reappointment and Promotion

Adopted by Council, March 26, 2019
(Approved by Provost July 2019)


American University and the Department of Anthropology seek to retain excellent and committed teachers who maintain currency in the field and are valued members of the Department. The Department follows the general standards, timetable, and procedures for appointments, reappointments, and promotion laid down in the University Faculty Manual and supplemented by instructions from the Dean of the College, the Dean of Faculty and the Committee on Faculty Actions. This document provides guidance (section III below) to supplement the College of Arts and Science’s “Omnibus Criteria for the Reappointment and Promotion of Term Faculty” of October 17, 2018 (section II below).  

The “Omnibus Criteria” (section II) and the supplemental guidelines (section III) offer guidelines for the Rank and Tenure Committee and department chair to evaluate term faculty for reappointment and promotion. Sections II and III also provide guidelines that will assist term faculty members in preparing their reappointment and promotion materials.

The Department acknowledges the substantial teaching burden facing term faculty and their lack of employment security. The Department acknowledges the significant time and effort involved in preparing a file for promotion, on top of one’s teaching, service, scholarly, and other commitments. In this light, the Department aims to ensure that the processes outlined below do not place an undue burden on term faculty members while providing the Department with adequate information with which to fairly assess a candidate’s application for promotion.

Although there is no guaranteed path to promotion, the Department encourages term faculty members to consult members of the Rank and Tenure Committee and the chair for advice on how to achieve a record of excellence that could lead to promotion in one of the following promotional sequences.

Departmental procedures on voting for term faculty reappointment and promotion can be found in the Department’s by-laws. The Department will adhere to the Faculty Manual’s stipulation that, “when voting on term faculty files for action, … the representation of term and tenure-line faculty on unit-level term-faculty review committees should, whenever possible, reflect the unit’s overall faculty composition” (section 11.d).


Term Faculty Reappointment Criteria

Term faculty colleagues fundamentally enrich American University’s teaching, service and (in many cases) research missions. The College is committed to providing term faculty with stable employment and a viable promotion path, limited only by enrollments and service needs in the faculty member’s home department(s) and by reasonable anticipated constraints in the university’s instructional budget. 

Term faculty in the professorial lecturer and term professor sequences are eligible for reappointment at American University if they:

  • Have attained—or, in the case of recent hires, are building toward—a record of teaching excellence and demonstrate that they remain current in their field;
  • Provide a meaningful level of service, appropriate to their rank, while demonstrating civility, collegiality and respect for different points of view.

The following sections outline the Faculty Manual’s expectations in areas of teaching and service.


For the purpose of all term faculty actions at American University, “teaching excellence” is defined by the Faculty Manual as enabling students

to acquire knowledge, develop critical thinking skills, and become active participants in the learning process…. Faculty may demonstrate teaching excellence through a variety of ways, including course design, development of new curricular initiatives, up-to-date course content, advising of students, student engagement and achievement outside the classroom, and adherence to evaluation procedures that accurately reflect student accomplishments. Teaching units or academic units may also view publication and presentation of teaching materials and methodologies as a contribution to teaching. (section 15.a)

To the Manual’s list of ways to demonstrate a commitment to teaching excellence, the College would add: the overall quality of syllabi and course materials; clear articulation of course goals; evidence of rigor in courses taught; the innovative use of classroom formats or technologies; development of new courses and curricula; development of online and hybrid courses; effective use of regularly scheduled office hours; supervision of independent study, internships, theses and dissertations (though not as the dissertation’s chair of record); initiatives to encourage student research and community service work; mentorship of students for prestigious awards; or other forms of engagement with students outside the classroom. In departments or programs that offer a wide range of course types—including large classes, seminars (both graduate and undergraduate), online courses, and independent studies—the ability to achieve teaching excellence across such a range will be considered a plus. So too, where applicable, will be the ability to teach courses in multiple subdisciplines.

Student evaluations of teaching are important, if imperfect and insufficient, indicators of teaching excellence. If evaluations indicate widespread dissatisfaction with a professor, there is apt to be a serious teaching problem. On the other hand, no professor is likely to be able to satisfy all students, and the professor with the highest teaching evaluations may not be the best teacher. The College values intellectually rigorous courses, even if they do not necessarily achieve popularity as measured by standardized SETs.

In order to give the evaluation of their teaching the perspective that only a peer assessment can provide, term faculty are strongly encouraged to invite their department to conduct peer classroom observations, resulting in written evaluations for the faculty member’s file.

Because faculty are better equipped to help students “acquire knowledge, develop critical thinking skills, and become active participants in the learning process” to the extent that they themselves “remain current in their field,” the Faculty Manual strongly encourages “scholarly or professional engagement that enhances teaching” (section 15.a). Currency in the field may be demonstrated by one or more of the following: up-to-date syllabi and course readings; professional development in teaching and instruction; new instructional modalities pertinent to the candidate’s discipline or field; scholarly research; high-level creative and professional work; grant development; and/or patent development.


In fulfillment of their duties, all term faculty in the professorial lecturer sequence are expected to demonstrate “a meaningful level of teaching unit, academic unit, or university service,” typically entailing, as a minimum, a significant commitment to student advising and mentorship (in the classroom, in office hours, and online) and participation in events and functions at the department, college, and university levels (Faculty Manual, section 10.a.iv). Candidates for senior professorial lecturer and Hurst senior professorial lecturer are subject to additional service expectations, as detailed below.

“As members of the learned profession responsible for educating the community,” all faculty members at American University are expected “to exhibit civility, collegiality, and respect for different points of view in the academic community” (Faculty Manual, section 15). Failing to model these core values is grounds for denying reappointment in the College.

One-Year and Multi-Year Reappointments

Customarily, term faculty in their first year of full-time service at American University will be considered for one-year reappointment in the course of the spring semester, following completion of their first full semester. Assuming that enrollments in the home department or program remain strong and that the faculty member fulfills a continuing teaching need, the College will endeavor to reappoint high-performing term colleagues in their second year and beyond in the course of the fall semester. 

As a general rule, the College only considers term faculty for a multi-year appointment when the faculty member will have taught at AU on a full-time basis for at least three years at the time of formal reappointment, and when the dean’s and provost’s offices deem long-term funding of the position to be secure. The duration of a faculty member’s first multiyear contract is typically two years, followed by a three-year contract, then a five-year contract (renewable). Term faculty with major service responsibilities—such as program director, director of undergraduate studies, or language coordinator—may receive special consideration in the evaluation for a multi-year contract.

Please note that, although many term colleagues at higher ranks in the professorial lecturer and term professor sequences hold multi-year contracts, the recommendation to confer a given rank and appointment to a multi-year contract are separate actions. 

In the case of promotions in the term professor sequence, all files for action should mirror those of tenure-line promotion, as detailed in file preparation guidelines from the Committee on Faculty Actions/Dean of Faculty and the College. In all other cases, departments should determine what materials they require of candidates for reappointment and promotion. Customarily, a file for reappointment will include an up-to-date CV; a candidate statement on achievements and professional development activities over the past year in the areas of teaching, service, and (where applicable) research; representative syllabi, evidence of student engagement beyond the classroom, the report of at least one peer observation of the candidate’s teaching; and full copies of all student evaluations (SETs).

Professorial Lecturer Sequence

Term faculty with teaching appointments in the professorial lecturer sequence, which includes the ranks of instructor, professorial lecturer, senior professorial lecturer, and Hurst senior professorial lecturer—will normally be evaluated for reappointment and promotion solely on the basis of their teaching and service. Term faculty on this sequence may elect to include a supplemental evaluation of their research, without the necessity of external letters, in their reappointment and promotion reviews. In all instances, such review will involve a holistic assessment of the faculty member’s many contributions in light of the needs of the department, program, and/or the College as a whole.

Rank Criteria

The following section details specific performance expectations for each of the four ranks in the professorial lecturer sequence. 


In the College of Arts and Sciences, the rank of instructor is reserved for those term faculty members who have not yet been granted their terminal degree, in which case the rank is normally a temporary one-semester or one-year appointment, or for temporary appointments of faculty in certain skill areas or professional fields where the terminal degree is not deemed necessary (section 13.a.i). Reappointments at the rank of instructor are typically subject to annual review. Instructors will be evaluated primarily on their teaching and secondarily on their service to their department or college, in accordance with the general principles outlined above. 

Candidates for reappointment in the rank of instructor should be successful teachers who have built well-thought-out courses that foster student learning and achievement and that reflect the current state of their academic field(s). Their course materials will state clear objectives that are informed by the goals of their department or program. Their professionalism will be displayed through their syllabi, assignments, evaluation of student work, advising or mentorship, and student evaluation of teaching assessments. Candidates for reappointment as instructor will also provide service to the department, college, and/or university, commensurate with the general expectations listed above. 

Professorial Lecturer

The Faculty Manual states that term faculty members are “customarily awarded the initial rank of professorial lecturer if they hold the terminal degree in the field, or have professional experience and achievement equivalent to a terminal degree” (section 13.a.ii). Candidates who were hired as instructors and do not hold the terminal degree in their field may apply for promotion to professorial lecturer, typically after a period of three years. 

Instructors applying for reappointment at the rank of professorial lecturer should be successful teachers who have built well-thought-out courses that foster student learning and achievement and that reflect the current state of their academic field(s). Their course materials will state clear objectives that are informed by the goals of their department or program. Their professionalism will be displayed through their syllabi, assignments, evaluation of student work, advising or mentorship, and student evaluation of teaching assessments. Candidates for professorial lecturer will also provide service to the department, college, and/or university, with the expectation that their service profile will both broaden and deepen over time. 

Senior Professorial Lecturer

After five years of service, professorial lecturers are customarily eligible for promotion to the rank of senior professorial lecturer. The Faculty Manual describes senior professorial lecturer appointees as demonstrating “excellence as a teacher and strong engagement with the university community” over and beyond the criteria for appointment as a professorial lecturer. Appointments at the senior professorial lecturer rank are also possible for candidates with “extensive professional experience but little direct teaching experience” (section 13.a.3).

Candidates for promotion to senior professorial lecturer should be expert teachers whose courses foster, in challenging and motivating ways, student learning and achievement. Their course materials will promote the goals of their department or program and demonstrate currency in their academic field(s). Their professionalism and expertise will be displayed through their course and curriculum development, syllabi, assignments, evaluation of student work, advising or mentorship, and student evaluation of teaching assessments.  They will provide significant service and contribute to professional development, which might include leadership activities such as faculty mentoring, assessment work, and research in their field, in addition to significant service to their department, college, and/or university.

Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer

The Faculty Manual describes appointees at this rank as having demonstrated “meritorious performance through sustained excellence in teaching and in service internally to the university and/or externally in their profession or field of scholarship” (section 13.a.iv). 

Senior professorial lecturers who are candidates for Hurst senior professorial lecturer should demonstrate a consistent record of marked teaching excellence. Their professionalism and expertise will be displayed through their course and curriculum development, syllabi, assignments, evaluation of student work, advising or mentorship, and student evaluation of teaching assessments.  Their application portfolios will show that they have regularly refined their teaching, adapted to new student populations, and attended to innovations in their field(s) of research. These candidates will also have demonstrated strong leadership in their department or program, have contributed to professional development initiatives in their department or program and in their field, and have engaged in notable service to their department, college, and/or university.

The Term Professor Sequence

The Faculty Manual states that new appointments at the term assistant professor rank will be made “only under extraordinary circumstances and with approval of the provost” (section 13.b.i). Faculty at this rank who meet the criteria for promotion to term associate professor normally may apply for promotion after six years of fulltime service.

The standards for promotion to the ranks of term associate professor and term professor in the area of scholarship are functionally similar to those for their tenure-line equivalents, as outlined in the home department’s tenure and promotion guidelines. There are, however, several notable differences. Term assistant professors are not required to apply for promotion to term associate at the end of six years of service and, unlike their tenure-line peers, may be reappointed in the absence of such a promotion. Although always welcome, the securing of major grant funding is less critical for promotion in the term professor sequence than it is in its tenure-line analogue. For more on the university’s expectations of term associate and full professors, see the Faculty Manual, sections 13.b.ii and 13.b.iii.

Insofar as possible, the College will endeavor to grant term Associate Professors multi-year contracts, but that determination remains a function of teaching need, as outlined above. 

Faculty who wish to move from the term professor sequence to an equivalent rank in the professorial lecturer sequence to take advantage of the salary increases built into the latter may do so with a memo to, and approval of, their department chair, the College dean, and the dean of faculty. Moving from term assistant professor to senior professorial lecturer is a promotion and requires a corresponding faculty action. Movement from the professorial lecturer sequence to term associate or above requires a full review with external letters. Faculty contemplating such an action should explore its viability with their department chair and the College dean.

The Research Professor Sequence

Faculty in the research professor promotion sequence are appointed and reappointed principally on the strength of their research, scholarship or creative activity. Typically fully funded by external grants to AU PIs or by grants that they themselves bring to AU, research faculty hold renewable time-limited appointments, which may be full- or part-time. All recommendations for appointments and reappointments in the research professor sequence must be reviewed by the sponsoring department’s Rank and Tenure Committee, its chair, the College dean, and the provost. 

There is no formal external review process for changes in research professor rank. At the time of reappointment, the department may recommend reappointment at one rank higher than that of the previous appointment, based on the candidate’s history of external funding, contributions to scientific knowledge and/or practice, and nationally or globally recognized achievements. Although the role of research faculty is typically quite different from that of their tenure-line peers—they often engage in applied research, frequently work on another’s project(s), and rarely provide substantial service or teaching—successful candidates for reappointment at a higher rank will have presented a record of scholarly achievement roughly comparable to that of tenure-line colleagues at the equivalent rank. Final approval of appointment at the new rank rests with the provost.

In-Residence Appointments

In-residence appointments in the College of Arts and Sciences are typically granted to individuals who have achieved distinction in a career outside American University. As the Faculty Manual stipulates, “the in-residence designation constitutes a title rather than a rank, and should be reserved for individuals who bring notable experience and accomplishments to their teaching or other primary responsibilities” (section 16.e). 

All in-residence faculty hold formal ranks within the professorial lecturer or (more rarely) term professor promotion sequences. As such, they are reviewed in the same manner as colleagues in their formal sequences and are eligible for the standard salary increases associated with promotions in those sequences.

Postdoctoral Appointments

Postdoctoral fellow appointments are made on an annual basis and are normally renewable, so long as funding is available, for no more than five years. In the case of postdoctoral fellows funded on grants, the grant PI(s) will serve as the fellow’s research mentor and will formally recommend reappointment to the department chair, dean and provost.

The College’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Academic Diversity are capped at two years. Annual reappointment in this program follows a positive recommendation of the home department chair to the College’s dean, who makes the formal reappointment recommendation to the provost. 

Postdoctoral fellows will be assessed primarily on the basis of their research productivity during the term of appointment, although assessment of teaching is expected in the case of fellows whose letters of appointment specify teaching duties. In all cases, postdoctoral fellows need only submit an up-to-date CV, a brief summary of their annual accomplishments in the areas of research and (if applicable) teaching, and appropriate teaching documentation such as syllabi, a peer observation report, and SET results (if applicable). 


Criteria for Evaluating Teaching: Professorial Lecturer and Term Professor Reappointment and Promotion Sequences

Evidence of high-quality teaching and currency in the field will be sought in a variety of ways. Evaluations of faculty teaching will be based on various aspects of the candidate’s record, including standardized student evaluations, narrative comments from student evaluations, peer observation of teaching, syllabi and other teaching materials, or forms of teaching and lecturing outside the classroom (e.g., guest lectures, conference panels, teach-ins, and other special events), among other evidence of teaching quality.

Standardized student evaluations of teaching provide one, and only one, indicator, and an imperfect one at that. They will not be the only means to assess teaching quality. Research appears to show that the results of such evaluations are systematically biased 1) against, at least, women, faculty of color, and older and heavier faculty, and 2) in favor of men and those perceived to be White, younger, and/or lighter weight. The Department will consult the most recent academic literature assessing such bias and assess whether bias (positive or negative) may have impacted student evaluations in the case of each term faculty member. If there is reason to believe that bias may have impacted evaluations, the Department will assess student evaluations accordingly. If a term faculty member believes bias may have impacted their evaluations, the Department encourages term faculty to bring this to attention of the Department’s Rank and Tenure Committee and chair.

The quantitative results of student evaluations will be looked at in their entirety and will not focus on a select few questions. Department reviewers will consider the number of respondents, the size and level of a class, whether the course is required, variation in scores among classes, and the number of times the candidate has previously taught a course. Because the difficulty and topic or content of a course may negatively impact student evaluations, the Department will also consider these factors in analyzing quantitative scores. Consistently high teaching evaluations, as well as improvements in teaching evaluations over time, will be especially valued.

If evaluations indicate deep and widespread dissatisfaction with a course and with the instructor, there is likely to be a serious teaching problem that must be addressed. On the other hand, no instructor is likely to be able to satisfy all students, and the instructor with the highest teaching evaluations may not be the best teacher. Similarly, teaching a new course for the first time often requires revision and adjustments to the course before achieving an outcome at the desired level of success. The Department values intellectually rigorous and politically challenging courses, even if they do not achieve popularity as measured by student evaluations of teaching effectiveness.

Narrative comments by students on teaching evaluations from a course may be submitted as evidence of a term faculty member’s teaching effectiveness provided that all the narratives from that course are provided.

Course syllabi, assignments, examinations, and other class materials can serve as evidence of a well-organized, rigorous, and professional approach to teaching. They shall be reviewed for evidence of currency in the field by the Department chair and Rank and Tenure Committee as part of the faculty member’s file for action. “Currency” in the discipline of anthropology does not mean eliminating publications from earlier decades. It implies knowledge and application or transmission of current findings and approaches in the field.

Peer classroom observations are highly encouraged. They may be requested by the term faculty member or recommended by the Department chair. In the latter case, the chair and Rank and Tenure Committee should choose an observer in consultation with the term faculty member. Such a visit should generate a written evaluation for the faculty member’s file, and the faculty member should have the opportunity to respond to it.

Special lectures and talks given to broad audiences of faculty, students, and others outside one’s assigned courses might be another source of evidence of skills inherent in good teaching. These might include guest lectures, conference panels, teach-ins, and other special events. 

With the above standards of quality and evidence in mind, the faculty member seeking promotion shall exhibit a continued commitment to excellent teaching in a variety of courses in the faculty member’s area of expertise, while also meeting departmental needs.

Criteria for Evaluating Service: Professorial Lecturer and Term Professor Reappointment and Promotion Sequences

Service to the Department and the wider university community is assumed to be an intrinsic part of a faculty member’s basic obligations. Service, however, will receive less weight than teaching (and scholarship, for the term professor promotion sequence) in reappointment and promotion decisions. The Department expects that term faculty’s first priority will be teaching.

The Faculty Manual states, “Engagement at American University is an essential component of faculty responsibility. Term faculty members must demonstrate engagement in the university community, including a meaningful level of teaching unit, academic unit, or university service, as well as participation in major campus-wide events, such as commencement.”[1] Service outside the university, to the discipline of anthropology and its several sub-disciplines, the scholarly profession and the broader community, is also valued. The Department also recognizes the importance and time-consuming nature of administrative duties involved in directing specialized academic programs and initiatives. The Department will credit such service in considering promotion.

Except as explicitly agreed upon, term faculty at the ranks of instructor, professorial lecturer, and term assistant professor are generally not required to pursue engagement with students outside of their classes (e.g., serving on comprehensive exam and dissertation committees, supervision of independent studies, advising, and other forms of mentoring). However, term faculty pursuing such engagement can elect to have this documented work considered part of their departmental service.

Term faculty seeking promotion to the highest term faculty ranks of Professor and Hurst professorial lecturer are expected to have participated in significant service activities at the college or university level or to have carried a particularly substantial load of service within the Department.

In general, a record of service may include the following types of work. In evaluating all forms of service, the Department will consider the time burden involved for the term faculty member.

Service to the Department: The Department welcomes the participation of term faculty in all Department events, activities, and shared governance, including all faculty and Department meetings. Other major forms of Department service may include membership on Department committees, administrative appointments, mentoring and advising, and participation in Department conferences and special events.

Service to the School and the University: This may include election to, or service on, school- or university-level deliberative bodies or committees. This may also include other service that benefits the faculty or the student body as a whole, such as serving as faculty adviser for alternative break trips or clubs and participation in CAS’s Robyn Mathias Research Conference, teaching conferences, and similar school and university events.

Service to the Community: AU is “deeply committed to service to a wider community,” as the Faculty Manual states, although it notes that “service beyond the university cannot substitute for a service contribution to the university but may count toward faculty members’ fulfilling their workload obligation.”[2] The Department likewise highly values, but does not require, voluntary service and engagement with the community outside the University, including anthropological work that engages with the public. Such work may include public service, public lectures, expert testimony before government committees or courts of law, participation in public fora, media appearances, and similar activities.

Service to the Profession: This may include significant work related to professional committees, professional organizations, conference committees, editorial duties, and peer review activities for journals, presses, and granting bodies. As with service to the community, service to the profession cannot replace service to the Department and university.

Criteria for Evaluating Scholarship: Term Professor Promotion Sequence Only

The Department seeks to promote individuals committed to ongoing scholarship. Term faculty in either promotion sequence may apply for promotion to the ranks of Associate Professor and Professor. Promotion within the professorial lecturer sequences does not require an assessment of scholarship, but promotion within the term professor sequence does. The scholarship requirements for promotion to Associate Professor and Professor are the same as those for tenure-line faculty. The application process is generally the same as for tenure-line faculty, including the development of a File for Action and the Department’s solicitation of letters from external reviewers, with opportunities for the term faculty member to respond, if they so desire, at every stage of the review.

Cases for promotion in the term professor sequence require evidence of the solid productivity, quality, originality, scholarly reputation, visibility and impact of the faculty member’s research. In evaluating the candidate’s research record, attention will be given to the quality and quantity of published research, although quality and impact will be the most important criteria in the evaluation of a publication record. Length of time in rank, at AU or in the profession, will not be a factor in assessing scholarship.

As indicated in the Faculty Manual, scholarship completed since degree completion, including at prior institutions, can be included in the evaluation of the quantity and quality of a candidate’s research.[3] As with evaluating other research, the value and significance of this work will be determined in light of the candidate’s independent contributions, its placement, its impact, and its relevance to the candidate’s research agenda.

Term faculty and the Rank and Tenure Committee and chair should agree as early as possible on the path to promotion (generally as part of the annual mentoring review process). This agreement should include the term faculty member’s scholarly goals and which scholarly works will form the core of their evaluation for promotion to Associate Professor.

Promotion to Professor: To be promoted to Professor, faculty members must demonstrate a continuing record of outstanding scholarship. This typically includes a second deeply-researched, high-quality scholarly book that goes beyond the subject of the dissertation and has substantial impact. Alternatively, a candidate may have produced work that represents, in scope, significance, impact, and scholarly rigor, an achievement comparable to a second monograph, such as several high-quality articles in refereed, scholarly journals important to the candidate’s field; a major exhibit, film, audio production, or other work of public anthropology; or another set of publications, such as multiple edited works or other productions that involve substantial contributions by the faculty member. Term faculty at the Associate Professor rank and the Rank and Tenure Committee and chair should agree as early as possible on the path to promotion (generally as part of the annual mentoring review process). This agreement should include the term faculty member’s scholarly goals and which scholarly works will form the core of their evaluation for promotion to Professor.

The faculty member should also present evidence of other activity appropriate to a senior scholar. This may include but is not limited to refereed articles, chapters, translation, papers presented, grants, contracts, consulting experience, or the like, or equivalents in the field of public anthropology. Length of time in rank, at AU, or in the profession will not be a factor in assessing productivity. The same standards of assessment of scholarship described for the promotion to Associate Professor will be used in the evaluation of scholarship for promotion to Professor.

[1] American University, “Faculty Manual,” January 2018, 50.
[2] American University, 37.
[3] American University, 37.