Adapting in Times of Crisis: Navigating Tenure Clock Stoppage

by Lauren Scungio

clock and succulent on wood tableThe coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has drastically altered the day-to-day operations of higher education institutions across the nation and globally. As quickly as the world is changing, leaders must adapt their institutions’ policies and practices to suit these unprecedented times. In an effort to draw upon the power of collective problem-solving, we have compiled an incomplete yet growing collection of policies that academic and faculty affairs administrators across the nation are adopting. In the first of what we hope will be a series of articles, we address navitaging tenure clock stoppage. 

None of these policies should be considered as “best practices” with the endorsement of COACHE, but rather suggestions that your institution might be able to draw upon. This list may be updated periodically as new information emerges. If you would like to contribute a resource please email us at


Navigating Tenure Clock Stoppage

Many institutions are already addressing the disruption that the coronavirus pandemic is creating in faculty members’ progress toward scholarly and professional achievement. In an informal analysis of policies adopted by 12 institutions, several solutions have emerged. The solutions are ranked here in the relative frequency with which they have been adopted thus far:

  1. Automatically applying a one-year pause, but allowing faculty to opt-out
  2. Granting a one-year pause on the tenure clock for faculty that opt-in
  3. Maintaining existing policies and offering faculty the ability to apply for an extension on an as-needed basis


One-year pause, opt-out

The most common solution that has emerged so far is an automatic one-year pause on the tenure clock for pre-tenure faculty, with the option for individuals to be reviewed on schedule if they choose. Some institutions have extended these policies to apply to non-tenure-track faculty contract renewals as well. Additionally, some institutions have determined that the incremental increase in salary for promotions will be retroactive to the semester that promotion would have occurred without the one-year delay.

Examples of these policies may be found on the webpages listed below:


One-year pause, opt-in

Another solution that has emerged is the availability of a one-year pause on an opt-in basis. Like the previous policy there will be no formal review conducted, but faculty members will have to actively express that they would like the pause to be applied.

Examples of these policies may be found on the webpages listed below:


Extensions as needed

The final solution in the mix so far is to simply retain existing promotion and tenure policies while allowing faculty to apply for probationary extensions on a case-by-case basis—utilizing provisions for extraordinary or unforeseen circumstances. Some institutions have articulated that extensions may be considered for these faculty even if they have already taken the currently designated maximum number of extensions.    

Examples of these policies may be found on the webpages listed below:


This collection of policies was compiled from responses to prompts on the APLU Faculty Success Professionals listserv, which is open to all institutions regardless of APLU affiliation. If you would like to be added to these discussions, please contact or with a note including your credentials and a request for participation. 

For additional examples of institutional responses to tenure clock change, this crowd-sourced document is another great resource. 


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