Toward a Concept of “Emeritus”

Each year the university confers the title “Emeritus” on qualified retired faculty and academic administrators who have been recommended through a department-based process.

What does it mean to be “professor emeritus”? “Emeritus” is rooted in Latin e (from) and meritus (deserve, earn). Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary gives these definitions of emeritus:

adj. 1. holding after retirement an honorary title corresponding to that held last during active service. 2. retired from an office or position <professor ~>

n. one retired from professional life but permitted to hold the rank of his last office as an honorary title.

Emeritus status is an honor bestowed by colleagues to show respect for a distinguished career. It says “even though you are no longer an official part of this organization, you have shown such merit that we claim you as a continuing part of our professional group; we gather glory from your reflected glory.”

Recommendations to departments:

  1. When a faculty member announces retirement, the department chairperson should try to acquire a resume covering the individual's career to keep in department files for future reference.
  2. Each department should have a process for consideration of retired (retiring) faculty for possible nomination for emeritus status. Some departments assign this to the departmental Evaluation Committee. The nomination comes at the initiative of the department; it is not an honor for which one applies.
  3. Documentation prepared by the department should be specific to enable a dean, provost, and committee members (university-wide faculty, administrators, students) to make informed decisions about recommending or not recommending the nominee. The minimum documentation should include a substantial narrative addressing how the individual's career achievements satisfy each of the established criteria, a resume, and evidence such as the summary of the last five-year evaluation or similar report. The criteria to be addressed are: (1) exceptional teaching, managerial or administrative performance, and at least two from the next three: (2) scholarly growth through research and publications, (3) active participation in departmental or administrative unit activities, and (4) active participation in university activities. These materials are open to inspection by all Senators before Senate action and are used by Public Relations in preparing news releases.
  4. Departments should anticipate a call for nominations from the pool of those faculty who have retired within the last two calendar years. The call is sent to chairs, deans, and vice presidents in early to mid-October each year and all materials are due in early November. The department need not wait until the call is received to prepare materials for review and vote in the department.

Senate Academic Committee
Submitted for information to Senate 12/3/96