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COD -Thoughts and Suggestions Regarding Campus Promotions

                                                                                    August 28, 2013


To: Council of Deans

From: Campus Committee on Promotion and Tenure*


Subject: Thoughts and Suggestions Regarding Campus Promotions


*Narayana Aluru, Leon Dash, Mark David, Jeffrey Douglas, Charles Gammie, Marcelo Garcia, Frederick Hoxie (Chair), Janice Juraska, Joseph Mahoney, Bruce Michelson, Bruce Sherrick, Kimberly Shinew


During the 2012-2013 academic year our committee received approximately 120 promotion recommendations from college deans.  Charged by Provost Adesida to uphold the university’s standards of “excellence” in hiring and promotion, we spent many hours reviewing these cases.  In our deliberations we generally deferred to the specialized expertise of academic reviewers and executive officers but paid special attention to the extent to which the candidates fulfilled the expectations spelled out in Provost’s Communication 9: Promotion and Tenure.  Throughout the process we were impressed by the seriousness of the deans’ efforts in this area and the thoroughness with which they handled the complex review process.  Nevertheless, as we worked through the cases, we compiled a list of comments and suggestions we believe would help facilitate the review process in the coming year.  Here they are:


  1. Dossier Format
    1. With current technology it is relatively easy to check the accuracy of citations and the stature of academic journals. Please insure that all publication information is accurate.
    2. Many academic disciplines have unique traditions regarding co-authorship (first author listed first or last; lab director listed last, etc.)  Since these dossiers will be read by people from many fields, it is best to clarify the tradition in the candidate’s field with a brief note at the head of the publications section.
    3. Teaching evaluations are difficult to assess in fields where instruction does not occur in a classroom setting (e.g. art studios, librarianship, musical instruction). When “nontraditional” teaching is involved, please clarify criteria and evaluation methods as clearly as possible in the department’s evaluation of teaching.
  2. External Letters and EO Statements
    1. EO’s and Deans must respond to negative comments in external letters.  Committee members understand that even the strongest candidates may elicit some negative comments but they cannot evaluate a dossier adequately if a reviewer’s negative comments are left unaddressed.
    2.  NO candidate is perfect (though some come pretty close!) so it is far more useful for an EO statement to address weak points identified in the review than to repeat the praise of external evaluators and students.  A willingness to address weaknesses is especially important in the area of teaching.  Weak ICES scores or other issues should be discussed openly and EO’s should outline the unit’s plan for improving performance (additional observations, mentorships, etc.).
    3. At the department, school and college levels, EO’s must address negative votes.  The committee understands the rules of confidentiality and appreciates the unusual circumstances that sometimes arise in these deliberations, but it is essential that the EO share whatever information he or she can about the reasons for split votes.  Dossiers lacking a comment on negative votes are generally returned to the college.
    4. The EO letter is the last piece of most dossiers.  (The exception is in cases where there are negative votes at the college level. For those cases the dean’s letter is the last item.) For that reason, it is a vital part of the promotion package. This statement must be candid, concrete and balanced. 
    5. The EO letter should address all the nuances of the case.  In their statements, we urge both deans and EO’s to avoid defensiveness and complaint when discussing criticisms in external letters or questions raised by the review process.  The committee does not find it useful, for example,  to be told that “it is very hard to hire in this field,” or that reviewers did not fully appreciate the candidate’s innovative scholarship or that individuals teaching large lecture courses should not be expected to receive positive student evaluations.
    6. Nearly one in five cases we reviewed this year generated questions that were significant enough to warrant a letter back to the nominating dean requesting clarifying information.  The most useful responses contained new information rather than repetitions of statements in the original file.  For the sake of the candidates, it is crucial that the deans’ responses to these inquiries from the committee be direct, thorough and informative. While it has a particular and significant evaluative role, the committee considers itself part of a collaborative process.


  1. General Comments
    1. Much of the dossier format is quite simple: education, publications, teaching, etc. What makes a dossier informative and compelling, however, are the statements surrounding it—the departmental evaluations, the external letters and the EO statements.  Please appreciate that the campus committee reads dozens of files and is particularly alert to the tone, rigor and thoroughness of these statements.
    2. It is likely obvious, but bears repeating: weak cases will not succeed with the campus committee.  We are certainly not perfect, but we concentrate carefully on each case and the level of achievement in the overall pool is very strong and most impressive. Weak or marginal cases stand out. We ask EOs and deans to consider this fact before putting challenging cases forward.