Tenure and promotion letters

Every year from about May to July, I get requests to write tenure and promotion letters.  I am happy to do this service for no honorarium in many cases.  Many of the requests that I get, however, do not contain enough information for me to agree to write the letter.  If you are the chair of a department requesting a letter, here are some suggestions.

  1. Make the request in May.  By July, I will have often received five requests.
  2. Include a copy of the candidate’s CV.  I shouldn’t have to search for their record online.
  3. State in the request if there is an honorarium.  While the majority of universities do not pay, some do.  I will often write the letter for no pay, but it should be stated up front that there is no honorarium.  I fully understand if you don’t have the budget for it, but please be explicit.
  4. State whether or not the letter will be confidential.  Some states do not allow confidential letters.
  5. Give a deadline for the letter.
  6. At this stage, the guidelines for promotion and tenure are helpful, but they can be sent later with the materials.
  7. Most important: Make sure my research area matches fairly closely with the candidate’s.  It’s much easier for me to write a strong letter when there is a close match.