A guide for writing anti-racist tenure and promotion letters


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In a two-page tenure letter, senior faculty can make or break a career. This power has an outsized impact on Black academics and other scholars with marginalized identities, who are awarded tenure at lower rates than their white colleagues. We suggest that this difference in tenure rates is due to an implicit, overly narrow definition of academic excellence that does not recognize all the contributions that Black scholars make to their departments, institutions and academia in general. These unrecognized contributions include the (often invisible) burdens of mentoring and representation that these scholars bear disproportionately. Here we propose a set of practical steps for writing inclusive, anti-racist tenure letters, including what to do before writing the letter, what to include (and not include) in the letter itself, and what to do after writing the letter to further support the candidate seeking tenure. We are a group of mostly non-Black academics in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) based in the United States who are learning about and working toward Black liberation in academia; we hope these recommendations will help ongoing efforts to move toward an inclusive academia that appreciates and rewards diverse ways of doing, learning and knowing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere79892
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We gratefully acknowledge the creators and participants of the 2020, 2021 and 2022 Academics for Black Survival and Wellness trainings, particularly the teachings and inspirational anti-racist activism of Dr. Della Mosley, Dr. Carlton Green, and Adania Flemming. We look forward to furthering our learning at future A4BL trainings and encourage new participants to join us. This manuscript is the culmination of work by a working group that formed in the 2021 training. We thank Aditi Jayarajan and Dr. Caroline Storer for their recommendations and support in the initial stages of this project. We are also grateful to our reviewers and editors at eLife for their excellent suggestions for improving this manuscript. We acknowledge that the lands we inhabit were previously occupied by indigenous peoples who were, in many cases, forcibly removed, and that the physical academic spaces in which we work and from which we generated this collaborative product were built, in large part, using uncompensated and often forced labor of Black people.

Publisher Copyright:
© The A4BL Anti-racist Tenure Letter Working Group.

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