Faculty of Humanities
Final Report of the Faculty Advisory Committee
During the 2007-2008 academic year, the Faculty Advisory Committee (hereafter FAC) considered nineteen cases: six applications for tenure (five at the rank of Assistant Professor, one at Associate Professor), ten applications for promotion to Associate Professor (including the five cases considered separately for tenure as Assistant Professor), and three applications for promotion to Professor. The FAC is pleased to note that in general the quality of the applicants’ scholarship in both tenure and promotion cases was judged a more important criterion than quantity by both the external referees and the departmental RPT Committees. The members of the FAC would like to thank the departmental RPT Committees for their care in presenting this year’s applications.
The FAC’s discussions of the nineteen individual applications gave rise to the following observations, which are meant to be of use to department chairs and committees and, in some cases, to applicants as well. It should be recorded here that the FAC followed the recently established practice in the Faculty of Humanities by voting on two separate occasions at least twenty-four hours apart only when it did not vote unanimously in favour of approving any given application for tenure or promotion. This practice of voting twice only on non-unanimous decisions was approved at a meeting of the Faculty of Humanities on 7 April 2006 in response to the recommendation made by the FAC in its Final Report for 2005-2006. The FAC recommends that this practice of voting be explicitly mandated in the document entitled “Faculty of Humanities: Reappointment, Tenure, and Promotion: Procedures and Practices” (section II.2: “The Faculty Advisory Committee”).
A. Observations and Recommendations Concerning the Framework Agreement
In its discussions, the FAC noted difficulties that arose from both Article 16.3.2 of the Framework Agreement (hereafter FA) and the explanation of this article provided to the referees in the template for the Chair’s letter entitled “Tenure/Promotion of Assistant Professor: Formal Letter.” In the opinion of the FAC both of these documents need to be revised for clarity taking into account the issues raised below. The FAC urges that the Dean, in the initial stages of the annual process of identifying applicants for tenure, explicitly address the FAC’s concerns on this matter with Chairs, particularly with incoming or acting Chairs.
The FAC also noted that some Chairs are still using outdated templates for their formal letters, since their letters asked the referees explicitly to state whether or not the applicant in question would receive tenure and/or promotion at the referees’ institutions. Departments should ensure that they are using the current form of the standardized letter.
1. According to FA 16.3.2, “The Departmental Committee shall determine whether a Faculty Member, who is being considered for tenure, has also attained the standards of a tenured Associate Professor, and, if so, the Committee shall recommend that the Faculty Member be granted tenure and be promoted to Associate Professor.” In the opinion of the FAC the intent of this article (as implied by the phrase “shall determine”) is to ensure that no applicant for tenure is inadvertently overlooked for promotion (through undervaluing her or his contributions, for example). The words “shall determine” therefore do require that the departmental RPT Committee ask the external referees to judge whether the applicant for tenure has also attained the necessary standards for promotion, but they do not mean that the application for tenure IS also an application for promotion, nor do they compel the departmental RPT Committee to take the matter to a formal vote.
2. Accordingly, the FAC urges that FA 16.3.2 be revised to clarify the above point and that the template used by the Chairs to instruct the referees in UVic’s procedures also be revised to reflect that clarification. It is essential that in their letters to referees department Chairs be explicit and clear that an application for tenure at the rank of Assistant Professor is an application for tenure at that rank and that the requirement that the referees likewise determine whether or not the candidate might also be promoted to Associate Professor does not mean that an application for tenure is necessarily an application for promotion. The FAC notes that many of the referees appeared to be confused about this step in UVic’s procedure for assessing applicants for tenure at the rank of Assistant Professor.
3. The two judgments required by FA 16.3.2 — whether the applicant has met the standards for tenure at the rank of Assistant Professor and whether the applicant might also have met the standards for promotion to Associate Professor — are to be made separately and sequentially. Should the referees deem an applicant for tenure also to have attained the standards for promotion to Associate Professor and should the departmental RPT Committee also make such a judgment in a formal vote, then the RPT Committee should either present to the FAC separate documentation for each step or make clear in their documentation whether and how the candidate has met the different standards for each step.
4. Given the above concerns, the FAC reiterates the recommendation made in last year's FAC report: “that a candidate has the right to request that evaluation proceed only to the tenure stage. Nothing in the Framework Agreement can be interpreted as compelling a candidate to submit to a promotion evaluation at a time which the candidate does not choose.” If applicants wish to be considered for both tenure and promotion, they may do so—explicitly.
5. The FAC also recommends that, for the benefit of all concerned, this effectively three-pronged approach to evaluation for tenure at the rank of Assistant Professor be explained in the document entitled “Faculty of Humanities: Reappointment, Tenure, and Promotion: Procedures and Practices” (section I.2). To reiterate, the three possible approaches are as follows: the RPT Committee shall determine whether applicant for tenure should also be evaluated for promotion to Associate Professor but not hold a formal vote on the question; the RPT Committee shall evaluate the applicant for promotion with a formal vote; or, if the applicant so requests, the RPT Committee shall evaluate the candidate for tenure only at the rank of Assistant Professor.
6. Nowhere in FA 23 (“Referees”) does it explicitly state what the external referees are asked to do beyond providing an “assessment of the [applicants’] scholarly achievement” (FA 23.1) and not all referees in their assessments state explicitly whether the criteria for tenure or promotion have been met (although the Chair’s letter should request such a statement). Particularly in cases where the referees seem not to be in agreement in their judgments, the lack of explicit recommendations for or against tenure or promotion leaves the FAC with the task of inferring what the assessors meant. Should any referee not provide an explicit recommendation for or against a particular application, the department Chair should contact the referee by mail or email and request clarification.
B. Observations and Recommendations for Chairs, Departmental RPT Committees, & Applicants for Tenure or Promotion
The FAC expects to see complete files in all applications for tenure or promotion and therefore makes the following observations and recommendations.
1. In the case of departmental recommendations against tenure or promotion, RPT Committees are requested to state explicitly their reasons for the decision.
2. The RPT Committee should ensure that each tenure or promotion file submitted for review provides the necessary information about the expertise of individual referees.
3. Referees’ letters that have not been received by the deadline are not part of the file and cannot be considered part of the case for tenure or promotion.
4. Chairs or RPT Committees are requested to inform the FAC about the relative disciplinary value of certain kinds of publication or scholarly activity, since this is not always readily apparent to non-specialists. The value of conference proceedings, for example, varies considerably in importance according to the discipline, as do field work and interim reports based thereon. In addition, a “substantial contribution” can be achieved in one discipline, for instance, by types of publication somewhat different from those in other disciplines. In such cases, it may be useful if the Chair’s letter to the referees invites the referees to comment explicitly on disciplinary standards, since only some referees draw attention to this matter.
5. By the same token, applicants for tenure or promotion should take responsibility for clearly describing their research in their Research Statement. It is particularly important to provide information on such matters as the quality of the publication venues and the relative weight in the profession of certain kinds of publication or of other scholarly activities (e.g., refereed articles, refereed conference proceedings, interim reports on large-scale projects or field work).
6. Further to the point number 4, the FAC discussed the problem that might arise when a multi-disciplinary department sets a uniform standard for tenure or promotion that does not take into account the variation in expectations among disciplines. A department that includes scholars in several disciplines may need to consider defining standards and expectations that respect different disciplinary traditions.
7. Departments should ensure that all required materials be included in the candidates’ official performance files (see FA 41.1.3).
8. Applicants for tenure or promotion should ensure not only that their CVs are up to date, but that all necessary information is given (e.g., page numbers in publications, dates of publication) and that it is presented clearly and systematically so that contributions in different genres are listed in their own separate categories.
9. The FAC normally sees complete and thorough Teaching Dossiers that represent the applicants’ teaching for the period under review, but reminds Chairs, RPT Committees, and applicants that at the very least the dossier should include material from the previous three years in accordance with the following University and Faculty policies. FA 41.1.4 specifies that the “official performance file shall be deemed to include . . . A Faculty Member’s Teaching Dossier,” while FA 13.1.2 stipulates that a member’s teaching be evaluated according to the Evaluation Policy of the Faculty. According to article III.2 of the Faculty of Humanities Faculty Evaluation Policy, members are required to submit each year a Teaching Dossier “covering the last three years of their teaching.”
10. The Chair and/or the RPT Committee should ensure that student and peer evaluations of applicants’ teaching are presented in a manner that can be clearly read and interpreted by those outside a given department.
Respectfully submitted to the Dean and the Faculty of Humanities,
Beatriz de Alba-Koch
Christine St. Peter