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Joint Appointments: Suggestions for Successful Implementation

A significant number of tenure system faculty have appointments in more than one academic unit. Joint appointments may occur in a variety of forms, including:

  • A continuing tenure system joint appointment,
  • An almost equal split between academic units,
  • A small fraction of time in one academic unit with another unit(s) as the majority shareholder,
  • For a specified period of time subject to renewal (or with no option for renewal),
  • An appointment between an academic unit and an administrative unit, or
  • An appointment on an adjunct basis without pay.

Fixed term faculty and academic staff also may be involved in joint appointments.

Given the increase in interdisciplinary and cross disciplinary scholarship, joint appointments are likely to increase in the future. Benefits to the university and faculty member include increased opportunities for collaboration and multi-disciplinary teaching, research and outreach assignments and activities.

While joint appointments offer a variety of advantages, they also pose challenges. The purpose of this document is to provide assistance to deans, chairpersons, directors and faculty members to help make joint appointments a success. This document includes recommended best practices for deans, department chairs and school directors who have jointly appointed faculty members.

Best Practices for Managing Joint Appointments  1

Tenure system faculty at Michigan State University can be appointed in two or more departments 2 , and two or more colleges. While joint appointments offer a variety of advantages, they also pose challenges. The following are recommended best practices for administrators managing jointly appointed faculty members

1. All details about the joint appointment should be written and shared with all parties. A Multiple Appointment Memorandum is required for all joint appointments. Any issues not covered by the Multiple Appointment Memorandum should be addressed in writing.

2. Unit administrators should work together on a plan of work that is mutually satisfactory to each department and the faculty member. It should be recognized that joint appointments work best when a faculty member’s expected research program serves the needs of each department. Unit administrators should agree on productivity expectations, the format for reporting annual accomplishments, how departmental accounting and other unit procedures are to be handled, etc. Duplication in reporting of information should be avoided or minimized and reporting deadlines coordinated.

3. Unit administrators should work together during the recruitment process to provide information about the startup package and, as relevant, spousal/partner support, including the source(s) of financial support. The units involved should clearly specify to what degree each unit will provide support e.g., basic staff support, supplies, computers and related IT support, professional development, travel, contract and grant support, indirect cost sharing, etc.

4. Unit administrators sharing a jointly appointed faculty member should meet together with the faculty member to clarify performance expectations, standards and criteria and as part of the annual performance review process. Special consideration should be given to managing expectations for governance/committee responsibilities and teaching so jointly appointed faculty are not overwhelmed with the demands of two or more departments.

5. Unit administrators sharing jointly-appointed faculty should consult with one another on market and merit salary adjustments, and coordinate nominations for market adjustments. Sufficient time for discussion and negotiation should be allowed. Deadlines for reappointment, promotion, and tenure actions should also be coordinated.

6. Unit administrators should clarify academic governance expectations e.g., voting and/or committee assignments may be based on unit rules that specify appointment thresholds for participation. University and college academic governance expectations and eligibility also should be clarified.

7. Unit committees involved in the annual evaluation, merit pay recommendation, and reappointment, promotion and tenure recommendations of jointly-appointed faculty members must be informed of the agreed upon expectations, standards, criteria, practices and procedures for individual cases. The committees must accept that documents may differ from unit procedures if those of the other unit are selected. Faculty should not be required to prepare two different set of documents to accommodate unit practices.

8. If a mentoring committee is the practice in one of the joint academic units, there should be a single mentoring committee with representatives from each department, including, if possible, at least one faculty member with joint appointment experience or a good understanding of what is involved in joint appointments. If individual mentoring arrangements exist in participating units, cross communication and collaboration between mentors should be arranged.

9. While jointly appointed faculty will generally have a single office in the lead unit, consideration should be given to providing space in the secondary unit(s), especially if the units are distant from one another. This may be a laboratory or shared office space.

10. When faculty are jointly appointed in two or more colleges, deadlines for salary recommendations and submission of reappointment, promotion and tenure documents may differ. Deans of colleges involved in joint appointments should consult with each other and reach mutually acceptable agreements regarding deadlines.

11. Jointly appointed faculty should know who to contact if issues arise and the joint appointment arrangements need to be reviewed and/or clarified. Options to explore renegotiation of unit assignments and the possibilities, if any, of terminating the joint appointment should be identified.

 


 

1This document is adapted from a statement prepared by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

2“Department” refers to any department, school or other academic unit in which faculty and academic staff are appointed, including appointments with and without pay.

 

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