Definite term appointments

Definite-term (DT) appointments are a type of faculty appointment. While the most common of these among FAUW members is a definite-term lecturer (DTL), there are also definite-term professors (often spousal hires), and all research professor appointments are definite term. Most DTL contracts are for three years, but range from one to five years.

This page will explain what a definite-term contract entitles you to, and what it doesn’t. We also briefly cover how definite-term lecturers may progress to a continuing appointment.

What you need to know: Definite-term contracts

  • There’s no guarantee of renewal, and no automatic consideration for a continuing appointment.

  • You are entitled to six months’ notice about whether you’re being reappointed or not (for contracts less than one year long, you should get notice at the midpoint of your contract).
  • There is no limit on the number of definite term contracts for lecturers or non-regular faculty (e.g. research faculty).
  • Your role is often spelled out in two documents: a contract from your dean and a letter of offer from your chair. You can negotiate items in both of these documents before signing. Contracts can be vague in regards to duties and weightings; there is usually more detail on those in the letter of offer. (Slide 5 from our info session on definite-term contracts breaks down what’s covered in the contract vs offer letter.)
  • You’re entitled to have one term out of six as a non-teaching term. You still need to fulfill all of your teaching duties over those six terms, as specified in your contract, so think of your workload over two years, not one, when signing your contract.
  • Different contract lengths come with different eligibility for health and dental benefits. If your contract is exactly two years or longer, you’re entitled to full benefits. If your contract is at least one year but less than two, you have limited sick leave and are not eligible for dental or long-term disability benefits.

FAUW's advice

  • It’s okay to ask questions. Don’t sign a contract if there’s anything you don’t understand or if you think something is missing. Talk to AF&T if you need help.
  • Your reappointment can include consideration for continuing status in a given number of years.
  • Be sure to get anything you discuss with your dean and chair about your initial and subsequent contracts in writing.
  • Contracts are binding once you sign them! Before you sign:
    • Ask for clarification if you have questions.
    • Review your department and/or faculty performance review guidelines/addenda, especially anything about the standard workload.
    • Watch out for overload requests when negotiating your contract: make sure you’re getting adequate credit for online teaching, grad courses, and course preps.
    • Check if there are requirements for maintaining professional designations—some departments cover the cost of this, but not all.

Where to find information

Who to talk to

  • The Academic Freedom & Tenure Committee (AF&T), if you have questions about something in your contract, or you don’t receive adequate notice about whether or not you’re being reappointed.
  • Your chair, about the process and requirements for reappointment or a continuing appointment.

Questions to ask

Ask your chair or dean before signing a contract:

  • What is the standard workload for your rank in your department?
  • How are non-teaching terms arranged in your department? (Note that how your teaching is covered while you are on leave is not your responsibility.)
  • Are there specific duties or courses for which you’ll be responsible?

Applying for a continuing appointment

The current process for moving from a definite-term to continuing appointment varies across campus, but all departments have to at least follow these basic steps:

  1. Your chair (or whoever your direct supervisor is) makes a recommendation to reappoint you at a higher rank.
  2. Your chair and dean consult with the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee (DTPC) and Faculty Tenure and Promotion Committee (FTPC) to determine “suitability.”
  3. Your dean forwards their written approval and supporting documentation to the VP Academic & Provost.
  4. The Provost’s Office determines the funding for the position.
  5. The VPAP makes the final, binding decision.

Most departments essentially follow a pared-down version of the tenure process and candidates typically submit a package that forms the basis of discussions at DTPC and FTPC. There are clear issues with the current process, including a lack of transparency, especially around the criteria for assessing “suitability,” and the lack of any avenue for appeal.

The Faculty of Math has a clearly defined process for continuing lecturer appointments.