Joint Appointments

Policy number: 2.5

Policy section: Academic Affairs

Revised Date: December 16, 2019

1.  Policy Statement

It is the policy of the University to recognize and acknowledge that some prospective and current faculty members have research and teaching interests that are increasingly interdisciplinary and straddle traditional departmental and school boundaries. The University supports the use of joint appointments for these faculty members when appropriate.

2.  Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to create a flexible structure that allows for the creation of joint appointments. Some structure is necessary for administrative purposes (salary, cost-sharing of start-up packages, overhead recovery) and some is essential to protect the individual faculty member and the associated academic units (promotion and tenure, voting rights, office and laboratory space, administrative support, teaching assignments, graduate student allocation).

3.  Characteristics of a Joint Appointment

Each joint appointment will be governed by three documents: the traditional faculty contract, the Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”), and the policy described below. The MOU should provide a greater level of specificity where the policy leaves room for choices. It should be clear and transparent especially on the issues related to tenure and promotion. It should also protect both the faculty member and the academic units and provide the flexibility necessary for interdisciplinary work. 


Joint appointments refer to positions with the following features:

  1. Faculty efforts are distributed across several departments or schools, centers or programs with each unit providing a portion of the salary and benefits.
  2. Faculty members have research, teaching, and service responsibilities within each unit.
  3. Within each unit the faculty member has certain rights and privileges. These include, but are not be limited to, voting rights, travel funds, leaves, and curricular matters.


In all cases, a home (primary) unit must be designated and that unit must be an academic department except in schools that do not have academic departments. The other unit(s) will be referred throughout this document as secondary unit(s). It is essential to spell out in the MOU the precise details of the nature of the arrangement between the units. Arrangements are characterized by ratios that describe the salary and benefit contributions from and teaching load responsibilities to the respective units. Typical ratios might be 75%/25% for two academic units or 50%/25%/25% for three academic units with the home or primary unit having the largest contribution. A 50%/50% split between the primary and secondary units can be more problematic and involves special care in creating the corresponding MOU.


The nature of joint appointments is such that no policy will capture every detail and nuance of individual cases. This policy provides a framework on which to build flexible, rewarding, and fruitful joint appointments. Any substantive variations from this policy must be reviewed and approved by the participating units, the respective Dean(s), and the Provost.

4.  Procedures

Each joint appointment must be accompanied by a detailed MOU that specifies the home or primary unit and the expectations of each of the units with regard to teaching, research, and service, the allocation of salary and research support (including start-up funds), provision for office and laboratory space, graduate student allocation, annual review procedures, the tenure process, benefits, leave policies, allocation of research grant monies, and terms of appointment. Research and teaching expectations for tenure including publication expectations must be clearly and explicitly laid out. The MOU must adhere to the policy articulated below and must be signed by the faculty member, the heads of each unit, the Dean(s), and the Provost and a copy shall be provided to all parties. The effective termination date of a MOU should be no longer than the effective termination date of the faculty contract.

5.  Hiring

Hiring committees for joint appointments should reflect the units to which the faculty member will be attached. While input should be sought from the secondary unit(s) only the home unit votes on approving an offer. However, the MOU must be completed before any offer is sent and must be approved by all parties as discussed above. All faculty recruitment and appointment policies as discussed in University Policy 2.4, Faculty Recruitment and Appointments, also apply for joint appointments.

6.  Promotion and Tenure for Tenure-Line Faculty

In the case of promotion or promotion with tenure (hereafter these two cases are simply referred to by the one word promotion), the candidate must satisfy the research requirements of the home or primary academic unit and is not expected to satisfy the research requirements of the secondary unit(s).  Exceptions to this rule (see below) must be approved by the Dean(s) and Provost. Only the primary unit will have access to the systems necessary for processing payroll, purchasing, and external grants.  Promotion expectations and policies of the primary unit will be followed (including guidelines for the probationary period, third year review, and junior faculty research leaves) with the following special considerations:

  1. Progress toward promotion should be evaluated by the primary academic unit each year with input from the secondary unit(s). The results of this evaluation can be presented to the faculty member during the annual review meeting.
  2. The third-year review will be conducted by the primary unit. Classroom visits should be conducted by all units in which the candidate teaches with appropriate letters added to the dossier. A joint meeting of the participating unit(s) is encouraged to discuss the faculty member. Letters from Chairs/Directors of secondary units should be encouraged as part of the dossier and located in the Other Letters section of the dossier. A formal vote of the primary unit must be taken subject to the school’s voting policies. The primary academic unit may allow one voting member from each secondary unit but this must be specified in the MOU. The letter of the chair must include a summary of that meeting and may include a summary of the meeting of all units if such a meeting is held.
  3. Promotion follows the same procedure as third year review with several additions. At least six external reviewer letters must be included following the normal procedure (the candidate is asked for names to which are added names agreed upon by the primary unit). The selection of these reviewers should include input from the secondary unit(s). By mutual agreement between the primary and secondary unit(s) additional external reviewers may be added. If so, this must be specified in the MOU including the number. In this case some of these additional names should come from the candidate. These letters will also be included in the Outside Peer Evaluations section of the dossier. All external reviewers are subject to approval by the Dean(s). Secondary unit(s) and the candidate can always solicit additional letters. These letters will be included in the Other Letters section of the dossier and do not carry the same weight as letters from the external reviewers approved by the Dean(s). Secondary unit(s), as a courtesy, should notify the primary unit and the Dean ahead of time of the names of those asked to write these additional letters.
  4. Although tenure is granted in only the primary academic unit (and school/college) in which the appointment is held, the secondary unit(s) must agree to abide by the decision regarding promotion and tenure.
  5. The faculty member will have the right to request a change in the division of the appointment such that one unit becomes the site of his/her whole position, or there is a substantial shifting of responsibilities. If this request is granted during the probationary period, the division may result in a new tenure home (but not a new tenure clock without approval of the Dean and Provost), the policies of which must then apply. After the probationary period, tenure must be approved in accordance with the policies of the new home. Any change in the nature of the joint appointment must be endorsed by the Dean(s) and approved by the Provost. Changes must be reflected in a revised MOU. In the case of 50/50 appointments, both units should agree at the time the position is created to the necessary financial rearrangements such a change would require in the MOU.
  6. Any secondary unit will have the right to request a change in the division of the appointment.  The change must be approved by the Dean and approved by the Provost. If the request is granted the changes must be reflected in a revised MOU. In the case of 50/50 appointments, both units should agree at the time the position is created to the necessary financial rearrangements such a change would require in the MOU.
  7. For appointments made without tenure, a mentoring committee should be constituted which includes tenured faculty from each unit involved in the appointment. The committee will make an annual report to the heads of the units or center directors at the time the annual review meeting(s) is held.
  8. Tenure and rank decisions for joint appointments for faculty hired from outside SMU with tenure will follow University policy for outside non-joint (regular or standard) appointments.
  9. Exceptions to the principle of single-tenure home may be made for joint appointments with tenure only under the following special circumstances: (a) when someone is being recruited for a tenured position and dividing tenure across academic units is necessary for the recruitment effort; or (b) when dividing tenure is necessary to retain a tenured member of our faculty. In such cases, the option for joint tenure must be endorsed by the Dean and Provost, and tenure must be approved individually by each of the units in which the candidate is to be tenured following the appropriate standard procedures. For faculty members hired as Associate Professors with tenure, subsequent promotion to Full Professor must be approved independently by each unit and school simultaneously. Promotion to Full Professor is not granted unless approved by each unit and school. When joint tenure is awarded one unit must still be considered as primary or home. A MOU is required for all such appointments.

7.  Reviews and Renewals of Non-Tenure Track Faculty

The periodic review and renewal of non-tenure track faculty having joint appointments shall follow the normal procedures of the primary academic unit with the following modifications. The review shall be conducted by the primary unit. Each unit in which the faculty member teaches should arrange visits to the faculty member’s class(es) and letters describing those visits should be part of the dossier. The faculty member’s personal statement should include experiences in teaching in all units.

8.  Salary and Term of Appointment

Total annual salary and the amounts to be contributed by each unit will be agreed upon by the appropriate heads of the primary and secondary units and approved by the Dean(s) of the associated units, as well as by the Provost. Every jointly appointed faculty member will choose to receive the academic salary in installments over 10 or 12 months as required by the Payroll Schedule Election Form, which is determined each year through the primary academic unit. Annual raise allotments should be made by the academic units based on the ratio of the appointment. Chairs and/or Directors of each unit will confer with each other annually regarding salary recommendations but will make recommendations individually to the Dean(s). Every five years the Dean(s) will review the contribution of each unit to determine if the salary and raises reflect the nature of the joint appointment. If not, the Dean(s) can recommend a change in the division of the appointment.

The percentage of salary that must be covered by research grants will also be determined by each unit with respect to the portion of salary that it provides. How grant income is to be credited will be specified in the MOU.

9.  Indirect Costs

The facilities portion of indirect cost recovered will usually be credited to the School/College and unit that provides the laboratory space in which the research is being conducted. In some cases, other arrangements may be made. The administrative portion will be divided in accordance with the ratios.  Administration of the grant will be done through the primary academic unit. These arrangements must be spelled out in the MOU.

10.  Teaching Load

The total teaching load for the faculty member will be determined by prorating the teaching load that would be expected in each department or school/college. The primary/home unit will make teaching assignments (in terms of times) first, followed by the secondary units. In cases where the faculty member rotates his or her teaching load between two secondary units, the order must be stated in the MOU.

11.  Rights and Responsibilities

Voting rights and access to school-specific honors and awards will be specified in the MOU. For University-wide issues faculty members with joint appointments shall have one vote. Committee assignments will be done through consultation with the Chairs/Directors of the participating units. Special care should be taken to prevent the faculty member from being on too many committees. As in the case of raises, the Dean(s) should review committee assignments every five years to see that they accurately reflect the nature of the appointment and the MOU. Leaves should be taken in conjunction with the primary unit, but must receive approval of secondary units when teaching is involved.

12.  Procedures for Dispute Resolution

Grievances by a faculty member holding a joint appointment will follow the customary procedures established by the University. 

13.  Joint Appointment of a Continuing Faculty Member

The head of the secondary unit wishing to propose a joint appointment for an individual who is already serving as a member of the faculty in another (primary) unit should, after appropriate consultation with the faculty of the secondary unit, discuss the proposal with the head of the primary unit in which the faculty member’s original appointment is held. If, after consulting with the faculty of the primary unit, the head of the primary unit is in favor of the proposed joint appointment, then the two heads should create a Memorandum of Understanding in consultation with the Dean(s). As discussed above, the MOU should provide details about the determination of such matters as salary, retention, tenure, promotion, teaching loads, committee assignments, and voting privileges. It must be signed by the faculty member, the heads of each unit, the Dean(s), and the Provost and a copy shall be provided to all parties.

14.  Questions

Questions regarding this policy should be directed to the Office of the Provost.

Revised: December 16, 2019

Adopted: December 16, 2019