You are here: American University Provost Office of the Dean of Faculty Term Faculty College of Arts & Sciences Term Faculty Guidelines

*This does not constitute an employment contract

Omnibus Criteria for the Reappointment and Promotion of Term Faculty

(Approved by Provost July 2019)

The American University Faculty Manual calls for all departments or schools (a.k.a. “teaching units” and “academic units” respectively) to develop guidelines establishing the overall contributions expected of all faculty candidates for reappointment and promotion, in accordance with the “General Criteria for Evaluation of Faculty” outlined in section 15 of the Manual

The purpose of this document is to establish college-wide reappointment and promotion criteria for term faculty, including those in the professorial lecturer sequence, the term professor sequence, the research professor sequence, and in in-residence and postdoctoral appointments. College departments wishing to establish field-specific criteria—either in a separate document or in an appendix to this one—are strongly encouraged to do so, with the proviso that all such guidelines (these included) must be reviewed and approved by the dean, Committee on Faculty Actions, dean of faculty, and provost.   

Please note that departmental procedures on voting for term faculty reappointment and promotion can be found in the relevant department’s by-laws. Departments and programs with large cohorts of term faculty may elect to establish a separate term reappointment and promotion committee. All other departments should 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)

Although often conflated with questions of reappointment and promotion, the merit review process is fundamentally distinct. Further information on this process can be found in departmental by-laws, as well as in the College’s “Faculty Merit System Guidelines.” 

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).