Paying for Tenure Letters?
posted by Lawrence Cunningham
Most schools don’t pay honorariums to outside scholars to write tenure letters (that vital component of a professor’s application for promotion and tenure), whether on internal promotions or about lateral recruits. At least that’s been my experience, based on writing about 25 of them since my own first tenure 15 years ago and requesting them on behalf of a couple of schools.
Instead, this task seems to be a service duty each tenured academic has to the broad academy as a whole. True, writers invariably receive a warm “thank you” note from the Dean at the requesting school and appreciation from the home Dean and Provost as part of their annual review of faculty contributions. There’s also the intrinsic reward of engaging deeply with a single scholar’s body of work and writing a report for an audience not necessarily expert in the particular field.
On the other hand, writing a thoughtful and fair tenure letter requires many hours of work, at least five and often ten or sometimes more. As a result, at least one school pays $250 for the service.
Should other schools pay money too or should that school stop spending money it need not spend? My vote is to save the money. If offered the honorarium, I favor asking the school to reallocate it to PILF (the Public Interest Law Foundation) to fund stipends for law students working in the public interest.
What do you think?