End of Appointment

       Appointments as officers of research may end as a result of any of the following: a decision not to reappoint, resignation, retirement, layoff, or dismissal.

       Except in the case of dismissal for cause, officers of research are guaranteed appointments for the duration of their stated terms. In certain circumstances, the Provost may waive this policy for postdoctoral fellows. The University reserves the right to terminate the appointments of postdoctoral residency fellows if they cease to be enrolled in a training program at an affiliated hospital or institute or if the affiliation agreement between the University and the hospital or institute at which they are training ends. Similarly, the University may terminate postdoctoral research and clinical fellows if they lose their fellowships. In addition, these officers, in the manner of all other officers of research, may be dismissed for cause.

Notice of Nonrenewal

       Officers of research, with the exception of those appointed in all ranks as Lamont research professors, are entitled to a minimum of three months of notice that their appointment will not be renewed. In cases where it can be demonstrated that officers of research could not be given timely notice due to a sudden and unexpected loss of external funding, they are placed on a leave for lapse of funding (See Leaves section).

       Officers with one of the Lamont research professor titles are entitled to the same notice as members of the faculty with unmodified titles, (i.e., professor, associate professor, assistant professor, instructor, senior lecturer, lecturer, and associate, detailed in Officers of Instruction). In the first year of appointment, they must be informed at least four months in advance of the end of the stated term of appointment that their appointment will not be renewed. In their second year of appointment, they are entitled to six months of notice that their appointments will not be renewed beyond the end of their stated term. Thereafter, they must be given a minimum of 12 months of notice that their appointments will not be renewed beyond the end of their stated term.

       Principal investigators are responsible for informing officers of research in advance of a decision not to renew their appointments. Chairs, directors, and deans bear a similar responsibility in the case of officers of research in their units who are principal investigators.

       Notice of nonrenewal must be given in writing and must be clear and unambiguous. It may not be contingent upon any subsequent decision regarding the officer, such as the outcome of a major review at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Officers of research should not be repeatedly given letters of nonrenewal accompanied with short-term reappointments that are then renewed for another brief period. Letters of nonrenewal should be given to officers of research to signify the end of the appointment. However, such letters may be rescinded in the rare case that research funding is identified after the issuance of the letter of nonrenewal. The Provost may require a department, school, institute, or center to extend a research appointment if this obligation is not met.


       Officers of research who wish to resign are normally expected to give notice in writing at least three months before they intend to leave. In cases involving compelling personal need or to take advantage of unexpected career opportunities elsewhere, it may be appropriate for them to give a shorter period of notice of their resignation, but they should inform their principal investigator, chair, director, or dean of their intention to leave as early as possible.


       Consistent with current law, officers of research cannot be mandatorily retired. A full-time officer of research may voluntarily retire after reaching age 55, if they have 10 years of continuous full-time service, by writing, as appropriate, to their chair, director, dean, or executive vice president. Retirement ordinarily occurs at the end of the officer’s stated term of appointment, but may take effect at an earlier date, if sufficient notification is provided to allow for a smooth transition.

       Officers of research may explore the possibility of negotiating a retirement agreement by speaking with their chair, director, dean, or executive vice president. The agreement may include a phased transition for up to three years during which they provide only a portion of their pre-agreement responsibilities while receiving a full or partial salary and retaining the benefits of a full-time officer of research. The agreement could also include a final leave of absence with full or partial salary. Officers of research may have the University instruct the company holding their pension funds to allow them to annuitize a portion of their pension accumulation up to three years prior to retirement. All payments under a retirement agreement are subject to withholding for federal, state, and local taxes. The University also must withhold for FICA and Medicare.

       Such agreements must specify the date on which the officer agrees to retire. Agreements should also include a description of the officer’s remaining responsibilities prior to retirement. Until the actual date of retirement, the officer of research retains their title and continues to be entitled to all the benefits of a full-time officer of research, unless otherwise specified in the agreement, with the following exception: officers of research on phased retirement agreements lose the right to participate in the life insurance and long-term disability plans at any point when their salary falls below 50 percent of the full base salary.

       The Provost signs all retirement agreements on behalf of the University, with the exception of Arts and Sciences, where the letter is signed by the Executive Vice President.

       Officers of research may be appointed as part-time special research scientists/scholars if they continue to participate in an externally funded research project after retirement. They may also continue as principal investigators on grants and contracts, but only until the first grant renewal date after their retirement (see Principal Investigators). With the prior permission of the chair, director, dean, or executive vice president, and the authorization of the Provost’s representative, they may also submit new grant proposals. At the discretion of their chair, director, dean, or executive vice president, they may be provided with laboratory and office space if they are working on a funded project. This space may be different from the space they occupied prior to retirement.

       The names of retired officers of research are included in the University Directory. They are entitled to a University ID card and retain computer and library borrowing privileges. However, the computing privileges of retirees in the Irving Medical Center may be affected by regulatory changes designed to protect access to patient health information. Retirees may also use the University’s recreational facilities upon payment of a fee. If they held full-time appointments at retirement, they are entitled to certain benefits provided that they meet the age and service requirements established for those plans. If they reside in University housing at the time of retirement, their rights to continue to live in their University apartments are determined by the Columbia University Faculty Housing Policy. Retired officers can contact Columbia Human Resources or access retiree benefits information online.


       Officers of research, with certain exceptions, are eligible for severance once they have completed a sufficient number of years of continuous, full-time service. Full-time officers appointed in all ranks as Lamont research professor receive notice of nonrenewal and, therefore, are not eligible for a layoff allowance. Full-time postdoctoral research and clinical fellows do not receive severance since they are awarded a stipend rather than paid a salary. Part-time officers of research are not entitled to layoff allowances.

       Eligible full-time officers with less than five years’ service do not receive a severance when there is an interruption in salary, since the salaries of these officers, except for certain senior research scientists/scholars (see Compensation), are contingent on the availability of funding. They are placed on a leave for lapse of funding without salary and may continue to participate in the University’s medical, life insurance, and long-term disability plans, at no cost to themselves, until the end of the stated term of appointment.

       Once a professional officer of research or a staff officer of research has accumulated five continuous years of compensated, full-time, non-instructional service, the University will provide a severance when the individual’s association with the University ends as a result of a sudden and unexpected loss of funding. Such officers may elect to receive the allowance once their salary ceases, in which case their appointments are terminated immediately. Alternatively, they may take a leave for lapse of funding without salary and defer receiving the allowance until the completion of the leave. Officers of research who are 55 or older and have completed 10 years of continuous full-time service may retire rather than have their appointments terminated and still receive a severance.

       The amount of severance is graduated according to length of service. Officers who have completed five full years receive the equivalent of one month’s salary. That sum increases by a month’s salary for each additional year of service up to a maximum of six months’ salary for an officer with 10 or more years of service.

       Officers receiving a severance cease to hold an appointment at the University. If they are eligible to retire, they may participate in the University’s benefits programs for retired officers according to the provisions of the individual benefits plans. Other officers may continue their health coverage for themselves and their dependents for a limited period of time after the end of their appointments under the terms of federal law but cease to be eligible for other benefits. Officers who are laid off should consult with a counselor in the Benefits Service Center in the Office of Human Resources for further information on the continuation of benefits when leaving the University.

       An officer may be given a severance only once. Those who resume a compensated appointment at the University, whether full- or part-time, within 18 months of the receiving the severance are expected to return the full amount of the severance, less any taxes paid that they cannot recover.


       Dismissal for cause is permitted only when there is clear evidence of failure to perform professional responsibilities or personal misconduct. Officers of research may also be dismissed for a violation of the Rules of University Conduct concerning demonstrations, rallies, and picketing, following a separate set of procedures. Full-time compensated officers with five years or more of continuous full-time service in a non-instructional appointment who are dismissed for cause are not entitled to a severance.

       A principal investigator is expected to attempt to resolve problems with the performance or behavior of an officer of research before initiating any action to suspend or dismiss. When problems arise, the principal investigator should first contact their chair, director, dean, or executive vice president, or the Associate Provost for Academic Appointments (or Office of Faculty Affairs at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center) to discuss the situation. Based on these discussions, the principal investigator should meet with the officer to discuss the problems, ways of overcoming them, and a timeline for making improvements. If the officer’s performance or behavior does not improve within the timeline provided by the principal investigator, the officer should be given an oral warning and then a letter that clearly describes the problems, details the actions the officer must take, and warns that disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal, will be taken if the problems are not corrected within a specified period of time. Before taking any of these steps, the principal investigator should  contact the office of the dean, director, executive vice president, or Associate Provost for Academic Appointments (or Office of Faculty Affairs at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center). Chairs, directors, deans, or executive vice presidents have a similar obligation in dealing with performance or behavioral problems with officers of research who are principal investigators within their units.

       To ensure that officers of research are not subjected to arbitrary or discriminatory procedures, all terminations before the end of a stated term of appointment must be approved by the appropriate chair, director, dean, or executive vice president, and the Provost before the officer is notified, except in the case of postdoctoral residency fellows, as stated below. The Provost has delegated responsibility for reviewing requests to terminate for cause to the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs. An officer of research may grieve a decision of dismissal, following the procedures described below (see Grievance Procedures). Officers who elect that option normally may not be terminated until the investigation of their complaints is completed and usually continue to receive salary until the Provost determines whether the termination is justified. The Provost may make exceptions to these expectations.

       In most instances, disciplinary action against postdoctoral residency fellows is initiated by the hospitals or institutes at which they are training. Since those fellows may be terminated only after the procedures of the hospital or institute have been followed, it is neither necessary nor desirable to extend to them the protection of the University’s policies on termination and its grievance procedures. The University relies on the judgment of the hospital or institute in cases in which the disciplinary action or termination results from misconduct in the training program.


       An officer of research may be suspended but only with the prior permission of the Provost. During a suspension, the officer normally continues to receive full base salary. The Provost may make an exception to this practice, especially when the suspension is part of a disciplinary action taken against the officer.

Next Section: Grievance Procedures

Updated March 05, 2024